While Columbia blacktails are the most abundant deer species in California, the state has five other sub-species of mule deer, including Rocky Mountain, California, Inyo, Burro, and Southern muleys. Taken together, the Golden States has 450,000-500,000 deer found throughout all six bio-regions.
Last year the deer harvest picked up a little compared to recent years. Hunters harvested 32,954 animals, including 32,419 bucks and 535 does. The overall statewide hunter success was estimated to be 18.9 percent, the highest it has been since 2008.
This year conditions in California are very dry, and fire season started early. Major wildfires in many areas, including the Humbolt-Toiyabe, San Bernardino and Stanislaus National Forests have necessitated the closure of some public hunting lands.
Despite the severe drought and wildfires, deer hunters can expect decent hunting this fall.
“Deer populations are relatively stable, as are most habitat conditions and areas available to hunt,” said Mary Sommer, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Weather conditions during hunting season can make a difference in hunter success, especially in migratory herds.”
For example, early winter storms will cause deer to come together and move toward their winter ranges earlier than expected. Greater deer movement often translates into increased hunter harvest.
The passage of Senate Bill 1221 that prohibits the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats has resulted in changes in both the Fish and Game Code and Mammal Hunting Regulations. It is now illegal to use a dog to pursue deer during the archery seasons and when there is not an open deer season. Hunters may only use dogs during the general deer season.
Due to limited tag quotas, drawing an X Zone deer tag gives you your best shot at bagging a buck on public land. Zones to the East of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, from Inyo County to the Oregon border, offer some of the best public land hunting. The B Zones also have a lot to offer hunters, including plenty of public land and lots of deer.