Tips on Hunting in California

October 28, 2021 4 min read

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According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), over 1.1 million acres of public land and wildlife habitats are available for hunters to enjoy. There are numerous opportunities to hunt in the Golden State, with seasons for deer, elk, wild hog, waterfowl, bear, pronghorns, bighorn sheep and many other game animals. If you live in California or plan to visit the state for hunting, follow these tips to make the best of hunting season.

1. Get Your License and Tags

As with most other states, hunting without a license is typically illegal in California. The only exceptions are varmints such as rabbits, rats, skunks, raccoons, crows, magpies and other small, non-game animals. Although anyone in the United States (and even foreigners) aged 16 or older can get a hunting license in California, there are two license categories: resident and non-resident. You are a California resident if you’ve lived more than nine consecutive months in the state and don’t intend to stay there temporarily. Active-duty military personnel stationed in California also count as residents.

To obtain a hunting license, you must pass a state-approved hunter’s education course and obtain proof of completion. Once you complete the course, you mayapply for a license online or at your local CDFW office. Depending on the species, hunters in California may be required to purchase the appropriate hunting tags before harvesting. There are limits on certain tags; for example, deer hunters may buy no more than two deer tags per license year. Additionally, hunters must alsosubmit harvest data to the CDFW for each tag purchased, even if they did not hunt that year or failed to harvest any animals.

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2. Learn How the Drought Affects Hunting

According to the United States Drought Monitor, several states, including California, are officially in a state of drought. As of November 2021,over 83% of the state’s land area is in drought level D3 (extreme drought). While it’s not illegal to hunt in California during the drought, it has significant effects on the local wildlife population and your chances of success.

Drought conditions mean most of the day will be very hot and dry. The best way to beat the heat and avoid dehydration is tohunt from a well-shaded deer blind, such as the Shadow Hunter Marksman. Pack extra water and equip your blind ahead of time with coolers for the best results.

Droughts affect every element of a hunting habitat: Food plots are rarer, water is scarce and local wildlife will be more inclined to conserve energy and avoid unnecessary movements. Scout your area well and learn thebest spots for placing portable hunting blinds, and you will tag your deer in no time.

3. Pick the Right Ammo

Although you can purchase a wide array of brands and projectile types, they aren’t all suitable for hunting. Some may even be outright illegal to use for hunting in California. Since July 1, 2019,all lead ammunition has been banned for hunting in the Golden State, regardless of the species hunted. Lead ammunition comprises pistol, rifle and shotgun cartridges containing any quantity of lead in the bullets, shot or slugs.

The CDFW maintains a list ofapproved non-lead ammunition for hunters to use as a reference point when shopping for ammo. Non-lead pistol and rifle ammunition typically bear mentions such as “lead-free” or “100% copper.” Non-lead shotgun ammunition may be referred to as non-toxic, employing metals such as steel, bismuth or tungsten, similar to the ammunition legal for waterfowl hunting.

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4. Learn the Zones

Most hunters in California choose to hunt on public land. Although multiple organizations own public land in California (Bureau of Land Management, national parks, national forests, Department of Defense), hunting on public land in California is regulated by the CDFW and the state’s hunting zone system.

The three most popular game animals in California are deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. Although they can be found in various areas and habitats across the state, you are only allowed to hunt in designated hunt zones. Each species has its own hunt zones. For example, you canhunt deer across the entire state, but if you’re looking for pronghorns, onlysix hunt zones are available, all located in the state’s northeast corner. Learning the hunt zones and staying within these borders is essential to avoid breaking the law.

Gear Up for Success with Shadow Hunter Blinds

At Shadow Hunter Blinds, our mission is to design, engineer and provide hunters with the highest-quality hunting blinds on the market. Our products are 100% designed and manufactured in the United States, suitable for hunters of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds. Whether you hunt elk in California, deer in Kentucky or hogs in Texas, there are Shadow Hunter Blinds suitable for you. For more information on our products, browse our catalog or contact us today.