California does not make our list as a must-apply-for state for big bucks. With that being said, we do recommend that all residents who are already buying a license apply for deer in The Golden State. Every year, out of the thousands of deer permits issued, there are a handful of giant bucks that come out of the state. If you are looking for a solid buck, you should stick to our top picks.
California is home to six different subspecies of mule deer. The Columbian blacktail deer is primarily found in northern California along the Oregon border and the coast. The California mule deer, which is the second most present deer species and is typically smaller in size, inhabit the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The Inyo mule deer are primarily found in southern and central California and are also typically smaller in size. The Burro or Desert mule deer are found along the Mexico and Arizona border and are second in size only to the Rocky Mountain mule deer, which are primarily found in the northeastern-most units and is primarily the deer species with the bulk of the highest scoring bucks. The newest edition is the Baja blacktail or Southern mule deer, which is primarily located in southwest California and is typically smaller in size. The reason for the explanation of different subspecies of mule deer in California is so that when hunters look at the typical size and score of above average bucks harvested, they will understand why they are smaller than most western states that are primarily populated with Rocky Mountain mule deer, the biggest of all the mule deer species.
If you have max points in California for mule deer and want the best chance at a trophy buck, you need to be looking at the Doyle, Anderson Flat, and Round Valley units. Weather is a huge factor in these units, especially Anderson Flat. You are really going to need weather for Doyle, Anderson Flat, and Round Valley to be good hunts. In the past, it has been warm and dry and hunters have struggled as it takes weather to push the deer into the traditional areas.
The Devil’s Garden hunts are still a good option, but they have been struggling to produce big deer like in years past, whether it be due to drought or lack of animals. G3, the Goodale unit, has really been struggling to produce the big bucks it was known for in the past. If you are willing to pick up a smoke pole and are a fan of putting your glass to work, it is hard to look past M3, Doyle. With bad weather, this is still a good hunt, but if it gets some weather, there will be some big deer to hit the dirt.
General Season - August 13 - November 27
Archery - July 9 - October 23
For specific dates and zones, check the regulations
California offers youth hunters a reduced-price license and has a few awesome deer hunts set aside. The two better youth hunts available are units J12, Round Valley, and J15, Anderson Flat. For unit J12, these are the best season dates on this unit. With season dates of December 3-18, this can be a great hunt. The other hunt, unit J15, Anderson Flat, is a good hunt with late season dates of November 26-December 4, which takes place during the same time as the G37 hunt, but it is a good hunt for a mature buck. Units J12 and J15 are going to be fairly weather dependent. Also note that Anderson Flat, J15, is not known for hunters being able to cover country with their glass.
We added a table called “Other Good Deer Hunts” to this deer section. This list of units is to give applicants below the max point pool an idea of what units are available to them and the harvest success within them. Most of these hunts are conducted in the X zones and are either archery or rifle. These X zone units are very similar in trophy quality and are reflective of other states’ general mule deer hunts as they issue a number of permits for archery and rifle seasons. X zones are primarily along the Nevada border, so there are always a handful of big bucks that come out of these units. Harvest success on some of these hunts can be misleading when you see 50%-60% harvest out of certain units as most of the bucks harvested are 2 and 3-points. Typically, the areas that have high harvest success coupled with a good percentage of 4-point buck harvest take 4 to 5+ points to draw.
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The California Deer application deadline is June 2, 2022
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|Adult Hunting License||$188.74|
|Junior Hunting License (under 16)||$14.30|
|Application Fee per Species (sheep, elk, and antelope)||$8.13|
|Deer Permit (refundable if unsuccessful)||$317|
|Bighorn Sheep Permit||$1,736.75|
|Wild Pig Permit (OTC)||$86.97|
|Bear Permit (OTC)||$334.05|
California Deer Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine