As the Sept. 19 and Sept. 26 general deer hunting season openers approach, hunters across the state are gearing up to head out in search of deer in many of the most popular hunting areas. Deer seasons are already underway for archery and in zones A and B4.
Deer tags are still available for many of the state’s most popular zones. Hunting licenses and tags can be purchased online, at one of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) license sales offices or through one of CDFW’s many license sales agents. For more information on deer hunting zones and seasons, see the 2015 Big Game Hunting Digest. Specific zone maps and information are also available online.
The sale of hunting licenses and tags provides approximately $25 million every year to CDFW to fund research and management of California’s wildlife, including the enforcement of fish and wildlife laws, crucial habitat conservation, post-wildfire forest restoration and wildlife migration and population studies.
“We encourage hunters to have fun and be safe while exploring California’s wild places,” said CDFW Deer Program Coordinator Stuart Itoga. “We appreciate the role hunters play in conservation and management of the state’s wildlife.”
For the 2015 deer season, hunters need to be aware of two new regulations: Mandatory tag reporting and the use of nonlead ammunition on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves.
Starting this year, all deer tag holders must report to CDFW. Hunters that take a deer must report within 30 days of harvest or by Jan. 31, whichever occurs first. Hunters that received a tag but did not harvest a deer or did not hunt must also report by Jan. 31. Harvest reports may be submitted online or by U.S. mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. Beginning in 2017, anyone who fails to submit a report for the 2016 season will be charged a $20 non-reporting fee when applying for a 2017 deer tag.
Effective July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting on state wildlife areas and ecological reserves and for all bighorn sheep hunts. Lead ammunition may still be used on Bureau of Land Management (BLM), national forest and private lands.
Statewide, estimated deer population numbers are up slightly from 443,000 last year to 512,000 this year. Last year, approximately 22 percent of the state’s deer hunters harvested a deer.
Scouting an area prior to hunting and getting off the beaten path can be keys to hunter success, especially during this time of historic drought. CDFW recommends that hunters keep current on possible public land closures in zones they plan to hunt.
“California is in the fourth year drought and large wildfires have caused some forest closures,” Itoga said. “We expect wildfires could cause additional closures of public hunting lands this year. On a positive note, some of the areas burned will provide high-quality deer browse as regeneration occurs in future years. Improved nutrition could lead to healthier deer populations and enhanced opportunities for deer hunters in future seasons.”
Regional U.S. Forest Service and BLM offices provide helpful information regarding emergency closures of public hunting areas. Please visit CDFW’s website for zone-specific information and regional contacts.