California on map
About hunting in California
California isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you think about hunting, and yet the Golden State features abundant hunting opportunities. California isn’t only about endless beaches and fields of the agricultural south, although even there a hunter can enjoy a great day afield. The north-western part of the state can boast of real wilderness areas, including Sequoia National Forest, Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Trinity Alps Wilderness, where you can find snow-covered peaks, dark spruce woods, and whitewater streams. Located on the Pacific flyway, California offers excellent waterfowl hunting, both on the rice fields of the agricultural part of the state and on the big reservoirs such as the Trinity and Shasta lakes. Turkey hunters will find their favorite birds in abundance, too, even though the original California wild turkeys went extinct well before European colonization, and the population is the result of relocation effort from the 1950s and 1960s. Another feral creature that offers exciting sport year round is the wild hog, and small game hunters have a good choice of California Valley quail, mourning and Eurasian dove, band-tailed pigeon, rabbits and squirrels. From a trophy hunter’s perspective, one of the most interesting game to hunt in California is the coastal black-tailed deer. While it’s smaller in both body and antlers than a typical white-tailed or mule deer, it’s recognized by trophy clubs as a separate entry. California has flourishing populations of predators, such as black bear, bobcat, coyote and mountain lion, but only the black bear and coyote are legal to hunt at the moment. The mountainous areas of California are home to considerable herds of Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk, and the plains in the south-west of the state hold a decent population of pronghorn. And the grand prize of hunting in California is the desert bighorn sheep that is recognized as a separate trophy category by the OVIS club, and counts toward a Great Slam. Most deer and bear tags are available over-the-counter, but all archery, muzzleloader, and rifle elk tags in California are limited draw only. So are pronghorn, bighorn sheep, as well as some deer tags. California has a preference point-based drawings system, and a person who does not intend to hunt this year should enter a special drawing so as to accumulate points. The Golden State has a complicated array of hunting seasons and regulations, based on different wildlife management zones and areas, which is impossible to summarize quickly. Full information is available at the California Game and Fish website https://wildlife.ca.gov, but one regulation that needs to be mentioned is that starting from 2019, hunters in California must use non-lead ammunition only; you can’t even have with you lead ammo suitable for the firearm(s) you are carrying when hunting in California.
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