2016 California Deer Hunting Zones Report, maps, and California Hunting Clubs
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Finding your Deer in California
California has lots of of deer across the state, the key to success is the basic feed, water and cover, but are just a portion of the facets involved in a hunt. You’ll also have to think about weather, elevation, type of deer, resident or migratory herds, hunting pressure, tactics, and gathering information.Use our hunting map and the info below to form your strategy.
In California, there are Rocky Mountain, California, Inyo and Southern mule deer, Colombian blacktail, and burro deer, and the DFG estimates that we have a total of more than 501,000 animals roaming the state.
Where to Hunt, Hunting Clubs, Private Ranches, and Public Lands
Hunting Clubs and Private Ranches generally offer the best odds of getting your buck, but you can do well on public lands if you approach the hunt with the right mentality. Private is better because the pressure is far less than public lands, but the smart hunter on public lands has just as good a shot, assuming he has done the homework, the scouting, and is willing to break free of the crowd.
We have some options for you below to find hunting clubs and private ranches.
Far too many hunters are lazy; they never see a buck, and complain that the hunting sucks. These are the guys that never venture 100 yards away from the road, fail to consider the ﬂood of variables, and basically don't put in the effort. The successful hunter on public land makes his own private situation, and comes home with the venison and rack.
If you’re serious about getting that buck, be prepared to escape the crowds. It’s not that tough; hiking a mile away from access roads will greatly improve your chances, but go even further and you’ll do even better. Hunters near the roads will spook the deer into the depths of the wilderness, increasing your odds if you’re the one way back in the woods.
Scout in advance, hunt deer trails early in the morning. Glass for beds in the heat of day, and watch the watering holes at dusk. Create your own private opportunity by working harder than the average hunter.
In the mountains, the deserts, and the coastal ranges of Southern California, you’ll ﬁnd mostly resident deer. Where you’ve seen the animals in the past is roughly where you’ll ﬁnd them today. Look around foothill reservoirs, riparian habitat along rivers, and near agricultural areas for these deer.
The animals will spend most of their lives within a few square miles. Learn where they bed, where they feed, and where they water, and you can return season after season for reasonable odds of a kill.
It's the higher and cooler elevations that have migratory deer; the Sierra Nevada Range, Cascade Range, Trinity and Marble Mountain areas are prime examples. The deer will move up and down the slopes with the season, feeding at the higher elevations in good weather, and migrating lower as snows drive them to forage further down the hills. Hunt the wrong range at a given time of year, and the only deer you’ll see will be in your mind’s eye.
"A" zone, includes the Trinity and Mendocino National Forests, and Cow Mountain. You‘ll ﬁnd good access in the higher elevations of C3, but poor ingress at the lower altitudes. C4 has good access to public lands in the eastern portion.
Then there are the X zones, and if you didn’t get a draw card, forget hunting here this year. You may want to apply for the draw next year though; hunter success in averages around 30 per cent for : X2 (Modoc National Forest) , X7a (Toiyabe National Forest) , and X12 (BLM land in Mono county.
It’s a combination of blacktail and muleys here. Access to X2, X7a, and X12 public lands is good. California mule deer and blacktail are the targets in zones D5 and D6. There’s good access to public lands, and a lot of hunters visit these areas. Most aren‘t very serious about the hunt, and the success ratios prove the point. Only 9 percent, generally, but these zones are easy to get to for residents of large city areas.
Hunters that ventured far ﬁlled most of the tags. Ventana Wildlife area is another part of the A zone, and has a 30 percent hunter success rate for past years. Both Ventana and the Los Padres National Forest offer the top public locations, but the area has large tracks of private parcels. Look for California muleys and blacktail. In Santa Barbara County, the Los Padres National Forest offers the same success rates as the rest of A zone, and with mostly private lands in the area, Los Padres is the place to hunt. San Gorgonio Wildlife Area is in the D zone, and while you may ﬁnd a few burro deer or southern mule deer, expect the vast majority of animals to be California mule deer. D14 saw a averages 10 percent success rate for hunters, and access to public lands is fair.
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