Why a Summer Deer Season?

Question: Why does California’s deer archery-only season start in the middle of the summer right when it’s already so blazing hot? (Jamie W., Anaheim)

Answer: This is a very good question and there are actually a number of reasons why the archery seasons begin so early in California.

First, the setting of deer seasons in California is a balance between providing adequate hunting opportunity and a harvest that will not have a negative effect on the buck segment of the herd (low buck ratios). Therefore, general (rifle) hunting seasons are set to end prior to the peak of the rut (breeding season) when bucks are more vulnerable to harvest.

The rut in California’s Deer Zones differ by their location (e.g., A Zone rut occurs in late September and the B Zones peak rut begins in early/mid November. This balance provides the maximum hunting opportunity (hunters in the field) with a reasonable expectation of killing a deer. Once the general seasons are set, the archery season is then established prior to the beginning of the rifle season. By regulation (Fish and Game Code Section 4370), the archery deer season must end three days prior to the opening of the general season. Thus, if you look at the calendar you can begin to see why the archery season begins in the summer.

Another variable biologists consider when establishing the beginning of the archery season is the age of the fawns. DFG strives to begin the archery season at a point where fawns are old enough to not be negatively affected by disturbance.

As an example, let’s look at the A Zone. The general rifle seasons for A Zone begin on the second Saturday of August (Aug. 9, 2008) for 44 days ending before the peak of the rut. DFG has determined that fawns are old enough to withstand disturbance by the beginning of July because they are born in late spring. Therefore, the archery season begins the second Saturday in July (July 12, 2008) and extends for 23 days (Aug. 3, 2003). This season framework accommodates the biology of the deer, hunter opportunity and the law requiring a three day separation between seasons.

Another factor that has also influenced the timing of the deer seasons in general is hunter preference. A number of years ago, DFG proposed shifting the A Zone season later where the weather would be cooler. This proposal was summarily rejected by the local hunting organization in A Zone because they wanted to maintain the tradition and they liked the ability to hunt early in A Zone and then later in other zones. (Thanks go to our DFG staff in the Deer Management Program for their assistance with this one!)

Rules for Pier Fishing
Question: While fishing from a public pier without a fishing license, am I allowed to go down onto the beach to land a big fish that I hooked on the pier? (Pete T., via email)

Answer: A fishing license is required when fishing everywhere except for a public pier. Even if you hooked the fish on the pier and only came down onto the beach to land the fish, you would need a valid license to avoid a potential citation. Purchasing an annual fishing license will make this a non-issue; or you may want to buy a pier net to help you land bigger fish from the pier.

Can a Hunter Carry a Firearm While Bow Hunting?
Question: Is it true that California was thinking about letting a hunter carry a firearm while bow hunting? I will be hunting in an area that is loaded with bear and would be a lot more comfortable with my 41 mag. along on the trip. Why is this law even on the books since it’s easy to see if an animal was shot with an arrow or a firearm? Thanks. (Ron, via email)

Answer: No firearm may be possessed by a bowhunter in the field during archery-only season. In addition, according to Monterey Lt. Don Kelly, contrary to your assumption, it is not completely uncommon to find unscrupulous bowhunters during archery-only seasons who have actually shot their deer with small caliber firearms (i.e. .22 caliber) but then say afterwards that the animals were shot while bowhunting.

Where Can You Use Bluegill as Bait?
I understand you can use bluegill for bait in certain places but is it okay to use them everywhere?

Answer: No. According to Assistant Chief Mike McBride, bluegill can be used as bait in the waters of the Colorado River District. Bluegill can also be used in limited and specifically listed areas of the South Central District if lawfully taken and used in the waters where taken (refer to California Code of Regulations section 4.20). However, bluegill cannot be used for bait in the Southern District, North Central District and the North Coast District.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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