Deer hunting in California isn’t a bright and shining example for the rest of the country. California’s strict regulations are getting stricter by the day. Their recent and complete ban on all lead in ammunition has nearly crippled the industry since tungsten is much more expensive.
Throw in the mountain lion hunting ban, which thinned the deer herds so much that hunter success rates plummeted, and the endless forest fires, make deer hunting look like a dead-end proposition anywhere in the state.
There is still some hope, however, and you can make a bad situation out of a worse one in some areas of the state still. This is especially true if you live close to the border with another state.
Deer Hunting California
Deer Hunting Season
One of the first examples of how badly mismanaged deer hunting in California has become, is the Approved 2022 Deer Seasons by Zone. There are roughly forty zones, each with its own starting and ending date for the season.
Many of the zones have the same exact dates, but for many, it’s just a confusing mess. Then there are stipulations to the stipulations. For instance, Block A has three additional stipulations concerning B, C, and D3 through D5 zones.
Then, D11 season dates are also valid for D13, D14, and D15. Where most states have two, three, or possibly four zones, California is not to be outdone. They nearly have an equal amount of zones to states in the US.
Without having to take up a 400-page novel to break down all of the deer hunting season dates for each zone and how some of these zones coincide with other zones, we’re going to generalize.
Archery season dates typically start in July and, depending on which zone you live in, run through the middle of September. For more specific dates and to figure out which zone you live in, refer to the above link.
General season start dates can be anywhere between early/mid-August to the middle of October. End dates run from anywhere between the end of September, to the end of November. If you’re confused, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Not only does California have all of these zones set up with a specific start and end date for deer hunting season, but they also have several tag quotas. For instance, if you live in zone X7b, there are 135 tags for the 2022 season. Once 135 hunters have been selected, that’s it. Better luck next year.
Best places to hunt deer in California
Fortunately, there are a few great places you can still hunt deer in California, assuming you can get your hands on a tag. California is undeniably beautiful, and there are more than 700 properties throughout the state that allow deer hunting.
Most people think of the beaches when they think of California. It’s easy to forget that the California coastline is only a tiny percentage of the state as a whole. California is enormous—the third-largest state in the country.
Sierra National Forest
The Sierra National Forest is located in the center of California and butts up against the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s open to a wide range of hunting, including bears and deer. It’s considered to be one of the more popular spots in California, both for sightseeing and hunting.
Bay Delta Region
In the western part of the state is the Bay Delta Region, which contains several popular deer hunting hotspots, including Alameda, Santa Cruz, and San Joaquin. Yolo county in particular is known for its large population of blacktail deer.
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge
This area was established by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was himself a prolific hunter. It’s also a massive waterfowl refuge. While the deer are populous throughout the region, you can only hunt them in one area of the refuge, itself a massive amount of land.
Northern California regions
Deer hunters have two options here—travel north into Oregon, where the hunting is far less restrictive, or enjoy what the eight counties at the top of the state have to offer. Colombian Blacktail and mule deer are very populous here.
How much is a license
While you have to have a hunting license to hunt deer (or hunt anything in California), you also have to have a tag when the season rolls around. Fortunately, a deer hunting license isn’t onerously expensive.
For everyone 16 years of age or over, a hunting license costs $54. If you are a non-resident of California, a hunting license will run you $188.74. For kids under the age of 16, Junior Hunting Licenses only cost $14.30, so enjoy that while it lasts.
Disabled veterans can get a hunting license for a mere $8.24. One-day hunting licenses for residents cost $25.92, and for non-residents, two-day licenses cost $54.
Rules and regulations
The rules and regulations for “mammal” hunting in the state of California is a 77-page manual you can skim through here. One of the most important things you need to know is that you have to purchase a deer tag, and only a limited number are available each season.
Some zones give away tags on request to resident hunters, while some zones conduct drawings. The rest of the rules and regulations are pages of thick, spaceless paragraphs on how deer should be taken, with each zone having its own policy.
Most of it concerns the boundaries of each zone and no specifics on how you have to aim to shoot a deer, though California will probably find a way to slip that in there at some point.
California is no longer the deer-hunting mecca that it was back in the 60s and 70s. For those who live in California, that may be for the better and what they want. For others, Texas seems like a pretty decent destination to set down permanent roots.
Thankfully, there are still some areas in California that are worth hunting, like the ones listed above. With the mountain lion hunting ban doing serious damage to deer populations in certain geographical areas, hunter success rates may not be any higher than 10%.
For the most part, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona should be pretty enticing to hunters that live near the border with these states.
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