Frequently-Asked Questions and Safety Tips for Hunters
for Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Hunting home page  <--- Click here to return to the Hunting home page

If you have questions about hunting on the refuges, most answers can be found here on our website. Please read through all the information before contacting the refuge. 

*This webpage is specific for Sacramento, Delevan, Colusa and Sutter NWRs*.  Click here to find information about hunting at the Sacramento River NWR



Frequently-Asked Questions:

Are you new to hunting on the Complex? Click here to see a video our staff put together to help new hunters. Visit this Facebook Program for information.


Hunt Area Admission Questions:

Q: How do I apply to get a hunting spot?
A: see our Hunt Area Admissions page

Q: What kinds of Fees and Passes do I need to know about?
A: see our Permits and Regulations page

Q: How many people can be on a reservation/lottery?
A: see table on Hunt Area Admissions page

Q: What time do I need to be at the Check Station?
A: see table on Hunt Area Admissions page

Q: How late can I get there and still have my reservation be valid?
A: Sacramento and Delevan NWRs - reservations must be presented no later than 1 ½ hours before shoot time; Colusa/Sutter NWRs - reservations must be presented no later than 1 hour before shoot time

Q: What time is the Lottery?
A: Check stations open at 6:00 pm the night before the hunt day; Lottery entries are accepted between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm Tue, Fri, Sat; Lottery numbers are drawn and posted after 8:00 pm Tue, Fri, Sat. 

Q: Do I need to be present during the Lottery?
A: no

Q: Do all members of my hunting party need to be present to put in for the Lottery?
A: no - one person from your hunting party can put everyone into the lottery as long as he/she has everyone's hunting info (name, Go ID #s, vehicle license plate) 

Q: Can I put in for the Lottery at more than one refuge?
A: no - starting in 2022, hunters are permitted to enter only one lottery for one Type A wildlife area each Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. This includes refuges and state wildlife areas. Hunters are permitted to enter only one lottery whether you are personally entering the lottery or someone is putting your name in the lottery. If a hunter’s name appears on more than one lottery list, they will be removed and are subject to citation and a seasonal ban from National Wildlife Refuge hunting areas.

Q: When is the Lottery list purged? (purge: a point at which hunters who have a Lottery #, but are not present, are removed from the list)
A: A Lottery purge will be conducted the morning of the hunt at 8:00 a.m. by check station personnel.

Q: How low do I need to be on the lottery to get in to hunt?
A: You never know! Some days if you are #150 you can get on to hunt, but every day is different! The lottery purge eliminates many hunters providing more opportunities.

Q: Can I bring a non-hunter with me?
A: yes, up to 2 per adult hunter, but they will count towards your party total of 4 persons

Q: When do they stop hunter refills?
A: No entry permits are issued after 3:00 p.m.  


Junior/Youth Hunter Questions?

 Please visit the Junior/Youth Hunt page


Mobility-Impaired Hunter Questions?

 Please visit the Mobility-Impaired Hunting page


Pheasant Hunting Questions? 

Q: What is the best method for admissions (reservations, lottery, first-come, first-serve) if I only want to hunt pheasants?
A: To hunt pheasants you can not enter the hunt area until 8 a.m., lottery and first-come, first-serve are your best bet.

Q: What is your pheasant population like?
A: Overall, the pheasant population is down compared to 20+ years ago. The surveys conducted by staff biologists are approximately 1.1 pheasants per mile.

Q: Where can I hunt pheasants?
A: On Sacramento, Delevan, Colusa, and Sutter NWR, free-roam areas are open to pheasant hunting. You many not hunt pheasants in the assigned ponds nor blinds except for pheasant Monday. The Sacramento River NWR is a type-C area (no check stations and no type-A pass needed) and pheasants may be hunted there (see the specific Units map for hunting details).

Q: What passes do I need?
A: Hunters will need a type-A pass, license, and an upland game stamp.

Q: Can I hunt pheasants and waterfowl?
A: Yes as long as you check in with the check station first, are in free-roam, and have all the appropriate licenses and stamps.

Q: When is pheasant Monday and what are the rules?
A: Pheasant Monday is the first Monday after pheasant season opens. Sacramento, Delevan, and Colusa are open for pheasant Monday. Hunters may put in for the lottery on Sunday between 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. A lottery will be held on Sunday at 4 p.m. After the lottery is completed, first-come, first-serve numbers may be issued to late arrivals. These numbers will be added to the end of the lottery list. No reservations will be issued. Both the assigned hunting sites (ponds and blinds) and free-roam areas  will be open for hunting. The check station gates will open on Monday at 6:30 a.m. and will begin processing at 7 a.m. Hunting will begin at 8 a.m. No overnight stay is permitted (Sunday-Monday) and no parking along County Road 68. Colusa NWR check station will close early at 3 p.m. on Monday.


Other Common Questions: 

Q: How do I get in the lottery, "sweat-line" or make a reservation?
A: Visit the Hunt Area Admissions page for detailed information.

Q: What if I have questions about the Online License System or my waterfowl license?
A: Check the CDFW website for answers to common questions.

Q: What is the quota or how many people are allowed on the refuge?
A: See table on Hunt Area Admissions  page.        

Q: How many reservations are drawn?
See table on Hunt Area Admissions page.

Q: What blind, assigned pond, or free roam area should I hunt?      
A: Every day and every hunter is different! Each day brings different weather, different waterfowl, and different hunters with different skills and abilities. First, determine what refuge you want to hunt and what type of area is right for you (blind, assigned pond, or free roam). Next, check the hunt area habitat descriptions, then look up past hunt results on the Hunt Results section of the Sacramento NWR Complex Hunting Home Page. Detailed hunt results are posted at the check station. Go early to the check station and talk with other hunters and the check station staff. Check station staff are willing to help you find a great spot to hunt for the day.   

Q: What To Bring and Take Out
- Cover for the blinds and hunt sites becomes very sparse late in the season due to the high use. It is recommended that hunters bring and take out additional camo material. Note that when considering bringing in vegetation for cover, it is unlawful to bring nonnative plants (Arundo, bamboo, etc) on to a refuge (Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations 27.52).
- Tule stools are highly recommended to make it more comfortable and successful to hide in the vegetation in the free roam areas and around Delevan's hunt site islands.
- Decoys and calls should be used to bring birds into ideal shooting range. When setting out decoys, place the outer decoy at 40 yards from the blind. This will help you judge when to shoot and result in fewer cripples.
- A good dog will retrieve your game and lessen disturbance to birds and other hunters in the area.

Q: What do I need to know for my first time?
A: Be sure to have a valid license, Federal Duck Stamp signed, state duck stamp, HIP validation, and a hunting pass. Nothing is sold at the check stations. These can be purchased at local sporting good stores and other businesses. Federal Duck Stamps can be purchased at many sporting good stores, post offices, or at the Complex headquarters during business hours. Take a picture of your license plate to have it when you check in. (see Permits, Regulations and Shoot Times page)

Q: Do I need chest waders?
A: YES!! Water levels can vary in every pond. 

Q: Can I stay overnight in the parking lot?
A: Yes, hunters are permitted to stay in their personal vehicles or RVs in the check station parking lots overnight. No tents are permitted. No alcohol or open flames are permitted. All vehicles and RVs must be removed at the end of the hunt day.     

Q: Can I cook in the parking lot?
A: Yes but no open flames. Please use propane or natural gas with a cover. No fire pits and no charcoal. This prevents wildfires and people dumping hot charcoal.


Safety Tips:

Be Safe!!
Exercise caution when pursuing downed and crippled waterfowl. Irregularities in pond bottoms can make wading hazardous. A good dog will retrieve your game and lessen disturbance to birds in the area. While walking trails/levees use a flashlight to avoid tripping over hazards. Mountain lions are in the Sacramento Valley and are frequently seen on the Sacramento River NWR Units and one was spotted on Sutter NWR in 2012 and potential on Sacramento in 2017. Firearms must be unloaded while in the parking area and while being transported between parking areas, spaced hunting areas, and assigned ponds. Rattlesnakes are present on the Sacramento River NWR.

***Be aware of the locations of nearby hunters when shooting at crippled birds, especially across large areas of open water.

***Be a good sportsperson and respect the rights of other hunters afield. When entering or leaving the field, try to avoid flaring birds which are working another hunter's setup.

Our wildlife is a valuable resource. Laws and regulations are intended to protect them, while allowing for some consumptive use. Hunters are encouraged to report any violations they may encounter to a state or federal employee (see below).


Information for Dog Owners:

There are several uncommon, but potentially serious diseases that dogs may encounter in California wetlands through ingestion or open wounds.  Find out more....    


While driving:

1. Use CAUTION....slow down so you have time to read the small road signs and to make a safe turn.
2. Plan additional driving time when there is foggy or rainy weather.
3. Review the driving directions, location map, and GPS coordinates BEFORE you begin driving - PLAN AHEAD! Visit the Hunting Maps and Directions page


Report Accidents, Violations, and Incidents

Incidents involving injury or accident occurring on the refuge must be reported immediately to the check station (in person) or call the refuge headquarters. 
  • Call the visitor center phone number (open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.) (530)934-2801
  • Call to report any wildlife violations to CalTip 1-888-334-CalTip (1-888-334-2258) (leave message and an operator checks it frequently)
  • Text "847411" and write "CALTIP [your message]" to submit anonymous tips to state wildlife officers 
  • Call to report federal wildlife crimes 1-844-FWS-TIPS (1-844-397-8477)
  • Learn more


Report violations on the refuge headquarters by calling (530)934-2801 or in person to the staff at the check station. Report violations off refuge lands to CDFW at 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (1-888-334-2258).