Deer hunting seasons open this Saturday across Southern California
By JIM MATTHEWS
Deer hunting seasons across most Southern California deer hunting zones kicks of next Saturday (Oct. 14), and prospects for hunting in the region are improved after a wet winter produced good forage for the deer. This will lead to good antler growth in the bucks and good production of young. A moderately wet winter the year before also led to better deer production in 2016, meaning there will be more bucks in the population for this fall, especially yearling bucks which make up the bulk of the harvest.
Deer hunting zones that open Oct. 14, include D11, D13, and D15, which are managed as a single zone with a tag for any of those zones also valid in the other two, along with D14, D16, and D17. Tags are still available for D11, D13, D15, and the D16 zones, but D14 was sold out in August and D17 was filled in the drawing in June.
Of the remaining Southern California zones, D19 opened yesterday (Oct. 7) and D12 opens on Nov. 4.
BEAR HUNTING: Hunting season for black bears also opens Oct. 14 in those area open to bear hunting. Bear hunting is allowed only some some of the Southern California zones, including D11 and D14, but the open areas also include D10, and all of the deer zones on the west side of the Sierra Nevada north of D10. A portion of the southern A-zone also opens to bear hunting next Saturday. Hunters should check with regulations on open bear hunting areas.
Bear tags are sold in unlimited numbers, but the season will close when and if the quota is met (it has not been met since hunting bears with hounds was banned), and the statewide bear population has been growing steadily even during the drought the past few years.
QUAIL AND CHUKAR: The general upland bird hunting season for quail and chukar opens in two weeks on Oct. 21, and the outlook for bird hunters is much improved over the past six hunting seasons. The wet winter led to good bird production in most areas, but bird numbers were so suppressed in much of the southern half of the state that there are still areas where bird populations will only be fair for this fall.
Much of the western half of the Mojave Desert falls into that just fair category, especially for chukar which continue to be seen in just fair numbers throughout the region from Barstow to Lucerne Valley and east into the Tehachapi region. The foothill canyon of the southern Sierra Nevada range is better than the desert region, but number there can best be described as aveage. By far the best area will be the eastern Mojave, especially the mid-elevations of the Mojave National Preserve, which had decent production the spring of 2016 and then excellent production this spring. With a good population of holdover birds breeding, there is a bumper crop of quail and chukar this year. This will be the best hunting season for quail and chukar in the east Mojave since 2010, our last big bird year.
(There will be a more comprehensive forecast for the quail and chukar opener next weekend.)
WATERFOWL OPENER: Concurrently with quail season, this year’s waterfowl hunting season for the Southern California zone opens Oct. 21.
Most waterfowl hunting in this region takes place on a handful of public hunting areas on state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges. Permits to hunt on specified shoot days are issued though the Department of Fish and Wildlife via a drawing, and there are waiting lines at these areas for unclaimed permits and for refills once hunters leave.
Waterfowl numbers throughout the Pacific Flyway continue to at or near modern record population numbers (except pintail), foreboding another good waterfowl hunting year.
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.]