Wildfire Scars, Wilderness Areas Hold Promise as California’s General Deer Season Opens Sept. 21 Across Much of the State

California’s general deer season dawns across much of the state Sept. 21, and hunters would do well to scout and hunt those areas scarred by wildfires two to five years ago.

“These wildfires often are devastating for us as people, but from a deer’s standpoint, they like young, new growth that comes in after a fire. That is some of the best habitat for deer,” said Nathan Graveline, big game supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Burn scars that are two to five years old provide the best combination of forage for deer and optimal hunting conditions. The open canopy that allows sunlight to reach the forest floor and generate the young, nutritious growth favored by deer, also helps hunters move more easily through the habitat and spot deer.

“It only takes about five or six years for the brush to come back to the point where you can’t see very well,” Graveline said. “And while the deer are still doing well in those areas, it just makes the hunting tougher.”

Hunters can check for past burns at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection incidents webpage. Information on any current or future wildfire-related closures is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/area-alerts.

Deer season is already underway in California’s A and B4 hunting zones along the coast, but the majority of general zones available to rifle hunters – B1-B3, B5, B6, C1-C4, D6 and D7 – open Saturday, Sept. 21.

A limited number of rifle hunters also get the first opportunities at mule deer along the eastern Sierra as the premium X9a, X9b and X12 zones in Inyo and Mono counties – tags available only through CDFW’s Big Game Drawing – open Sept. 21.

Several other popular deer hunting zones – D3-5 and D8-10 – open the following week, on Saturday, Sept. 28, as do the premium eastern Sierra hunt zones X8 and X10.

Hunters are reminded that nonlead ammunition is now required for hunting deer and taking wildlife anywhere in California with a firearm. Deer hunters are strongly encouraged to re-zero their rifles with nonlead ammunition before they go hunting.

Detailed information on California’s various deer zones, including season dates, descriptions and maps, is available at CDFW’s Deer Hunting webpage: www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

Biologists estimate California’s deer population at 459,450.

While resident mule deer and coastal black-tailed deer numbers are generally holding steady and increasing in some places – particularly in suburban and foothill areas and along the river corridors of the Central Valley – California’s migratory mule deer herds in the eastern part of the state are down as a result of increasing human activity, development, habitat deterioration and predation.

Eastern Sierra deer herds also have yet to fully recover from severe winter and spring weather in 2016 and 2017 that resulted in significant mortality of both fawns and adults.

With a limited deer population and increasing human recreation and activity in deer country in the fall, deer hunters are encouraged to explore new tactics and new country.

For hunters that need to or want to stick close to roads, Graveline suggests using pullouts to glass nearby slopes.

“Many hunters I talk to are moving too fast, whether on foot or in a vehicle,” Graveline said. “Slowing down and using your optics will greatly increase your odds of seeing deer.”

Backcountry hunting is gaining in popularity, particularly with improvements in clothing and equipment the last 10 to 15 years.

“Hunting the high country provides a great opportunity to experience incredible wilderness areas,” Graveline said.

Hunters are reminded that deer tag reporting is mandatory – even for hunters who are unsuccessful or those tag holders who don’t have a chance to hunt at all. CDFW has produced a video on how to properly complete, attach and report your deer tag.

Commission Announces New Executive Director

The California Fish and Game Commission announced today that Melissa Miller-Henson has been selected to serve as its executive director.

Ms. Miller-Henson has worked for the Commission for the last seven years as the program manager, deputy executive director and, over the last year, acting executive director.

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“We’re very pleased that Ms. Miller-Henson is willing to serve this historic Commission in a new capacity,” said Commission President Eric Sklar. “She has a passion for the work of the Commission and brings a forward-thinking, innovative and collaborative approach to the job. She has demonstrated skill in working with diverse groups of stakeholders to address complex issues that she will continue to apply to the benefit of the state.”

Prior to the Commission, Ms. Miller-Henson directed the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Project, managed the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative and served under five secretaries of the California Natural Resources Agency.

“We look forward to Ms. Miller-Henson’s continuing guidance at the dais,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham. “She has the trust of many stakeholders and understands the Commission’s vast authorities. She brings expertise in collaborative problem-solving and has a strong vision for the future of the Commission.”

Ms. Miller-Henson officially begins in her new capacity on September 10.

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Eric Sklar, President, California Fish and Game Commission

CDFW Seeks Information Related to Listing of Northern California Summer Steelhead

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to the proposed listing of Northern California Summer Steelhead as an endangered species.

Northern California Summer Steelhead occupy a relatively small geographic range in Humboldt and Mendocino counties that includes Redwood Creek and the Mad, Eel, Van Duzen and Mattole rivers. They fill a unique ecological niche, entering freshwater in the spring and early summer and then holding for many months in deep pools high up in the stream systems while waiting to spawn.

In September 2018, the Friends of the Eel River submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission requesting to list Northern California Summer Steelhead as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The petition described threats impacting the survival of the fish, specifically emphasizing habitat loss, alteration and degradation as a result of human impacts.

CDFW recommended that Northern California Summer Steelhead be advanced to candidacy for CESA listing and the Commission voted in favor of this recommendation on June 12, 2019. The official findings of this decision were published on June 28, 2019, which triggered the start of a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review intended to inform the Commission’s ultimate decision on whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding Northern California Summer Steelhead ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management measures, and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Vanessa Gusman
830 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by e-mail to Vanessa.Gusman@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by e-mail, please include “NC Summer Steelhead” in the subject heading.

All comments received by Sept. 22, 2019, will be evaluated prior to the submittal of CDFW’s final status review report to the Commission. Once CDFW submits the final status review report to the Commission, it will be placed on the agenda for discussion at the next available Commission meeting. Comments will also be made available to the public at that time.

Following receipt of CDFW’s status review report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendations.

The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for Northern California Summer Steelhead is available at https://fgc.ca.gov/cesa#ncss.

Media Contacts:
Vanessa Gusman, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-1921
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Pronghorn Season Set to Open in Northeastern California

Sagebrush flats, rolling hills, wide-open skies and crisp mornings characterize California’s general pronghorn antelope season, which opens Saturday, Aug. 24 in northeastern California.

While thousands apply for the opportunity each year, only a small group of Californians will get the chance to escape the late-summer heat gripping most of the state to hunt pronghorn the last week in August in the remote reaches of northeastern California.

Only 245 pronghorn tags are awarded through CDFW’s Big Game Drawing, and the season lasts just nine days, ending Sept. 1 in most of the six pronghorn hunt zones. Archery hunters got a jump on their rifle-toting counterparts with an early season that began Aug. 10 and ended Aug. 18.

While the odds of drawing a California pronghorn tag are long, the hunter success rate is high. Hunters reported taking 201 pronghorn in 2018. Hunter success across the six northeastern hunt zones and season dates in 2018 averaged about 86 percent for rifle hunters and about 48 percent for archery hunters.

The high success rates help explain why more than 18,000 hunters applied for a tag in 2018. Another 8,700-plus hunters applied for a preference point to improve their chances of drawing a pronghorn tag in future years. Only one pronghorn tag is awarded to a nonresident each year.

North America’s fastest land animal, pronghorn can reach speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour. Unlike deer and many other big-game animals, pronghorn prefer wide-open areas with little cover. They are usually found in flat to rolling open country, using their excellent eyesight and speed to maintain a safe distance from any perceived threats.

Once found throughout California’s Central Valley, pronghorn today are most numerous in northeastern California. Through their tags and application fees, hunters are funding important pronghorn research and management that includes a trapping and collaring program underway in Siskiyou County.

Successful hunters are asked to submit two front teeth from their pronghorn for age analysis. Successful tag reporting allows CDFW to better understand and manage pronghorn herds for continued population growth, expansion and hunting opportunity.

Over the decades, CDFW has made efforts to re-establish herds in suitable habitat across the state. Pronghorn today roam the Carrizo Plain grasslands in San Luis Obispo County as a result of the translocation of animals from Lassen County herds in the1980s.

CDFW biologists have seen recent evidence of pronghorn naturally expanding their range as well.

A small herd of pronghorn visits the Bodie Hills area of Mono County, spending much of the year in Nevada. Biologists believe some of these animals have origins back to Yellowstone National Park and translocation efforts decades ago by both Nevada and California wildlife agencies.

A herd that may have originated in Lassen County or perhaps Nevada may be colonizing parts of Sierra and Plumas counties. Research is currently in the planning stages to investigate these potential range expansions.

Media Contacts:
Kristin Denryter, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-9992
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County Closed to All Public Use Aug. 10-16 for Special Lottery Deer Hunt

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to remind the public that the Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County will be closed to all public use during the first week of the A Zone general deer season, Aug. 10-16, to accommodate a special lottery draw deer hunt.

Deer hunt permit holders will be the only ones allowed on the wildlife area during the first week of the A Zone deer season. No other public use is permitted. The area reopens to all users Saturday, Aug. 17.

The special lottery draw deer hunt was initiated for the first time this year to limit the number of hunters on the popular public hunting area for safety purposes and to improve the quality of the hunting experience for permit holders.

Only hunters whose names are listed on the hunt permit may participate in the hunt.  Anyone not listed specifically on the hunt permit, including non-hunters, helpers and assistants, will not be permitted on the wildlife area during the hunt period.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Conrad Jones, CDFW Bay-Delta Region, (707) 576-2836