All California Deer Hunting Seasons, Laws and 190 Locations for Public and Private Hunts

California deer huntbing seasons, laws, and locations.
Seasons, laws, and locations.

Here, we fetch up topics for all California deer hunting seasons, laws, and locations. In addition to general firearm and archery seasons, we retrieve them for specific deer, firearms, people, and places–like bucks, shotguns, juniors, and wilderness. We locate rules, regulations, and procedures, and bring them back without all the legal mumbo jumbo. Finally, we drop links to supporting authority, as well as custom maps, images, definitions, and practically everything else for success. Warning shot!! The contents of this page is not legal advice, but our lawyer is here to help.

Topics

    1. Species
    2. License
    3. Shooting hours
    4. Methods of Take
    5. Locations
    6. Permits
    7. Purchase and sale
    8. Regulations
    9. Seasons
    10. Tags
    11. Tips
    12. Violations
    13. Forum and Blogs

Species of Deer You Can Hunt

In this section, we fetch up game and nongame species for California deer hunting seasons, and drop links to supporting laws. We also retrieve a map showing where you can typically find them.

Game Deer

California deer hunting seasons map by species
Species Map for California deer hunting seasons.

California deer hunting seasons are only for game deer of the genus Odocoileus, which we list below. (Also, see FGC § 395014 CCR § 350, and the distribution maps to the right.)

Species of Game Deer

California Deer Hunting Seasons and California Deer Hunting Laws.
California Deer Hunting Seasons for Mule Deer.
  1. Burro deer
  2. Columbian black-tailed deer
  3. California mule deer
  4. Columbian black-tailed deer
  5. Inyo mule deer
  6. Rocky Mountain black-tailed deer
  7. Rocky Mountain mule deer
  8. Southern mule deer

Nongame Deer

In general, the regulations allow hunting for species of nongame deer, but only the ones we list below. Also, see 14 CCR § 475(c).

Species of Nongame Deer

California deer hunting seasons for nongame deer, e.g. sika deer.
Nongame California deer hunting seasons.
    1. Axis deer
    2. Fallow deer
    3. Sambar deer
    4. Sika Deer

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Hunting License Requirements

Before hunting during the California deer hunting seasons, the regulations require hunters to pre-purchase a California hunting license and deer tag for the particular zone or hunt. Warning shot!! Hunters must have them both in immediate possession while hunting. Follow the links for purchasing and fees, including reduced fees for disabled veterans and recovering service members. Also, see 14 CCR § 700(b).

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Permit Requirements

In general, regulations do not require permits to hunt during California deer hunting seasons. They do, however, require permits for “additional hunts,” landowners preventing property damage, and on military reservations.

Additional Hunts

Besides general season “zone hunts,” there are “additional hunts” for specific deer, firearms, people and places–like bucks, shotguns, juniors, and military bases. For “additional hunts” on private land, regulations require hunters to carry a written permit, signed by the landowner. The permit can specify where and when to check in and hunt. Also, see 14 CCR § 360(c) and (c)(44).

Depredation Permits

Deer can cause serious damage to people and property, including crops, domestic animals, and livestock. In general, landowners, tenants, and/or their agents and employees can kill or trap deer to protect people and property. For more, see our page for Depredation Permits.

Military Base Reservations

Besides general season “zone hunts,” there are “additional hunts” for specific deer, firearms, people and places–like bucksshotgunsjuniors, and military bases. For “additional hunts” on military reservations, regulations require hunters to carry a written permit, signed by the landowner. The permit can specify where and when to check in and hunt. Also, see 14 CCR § 360(c) and (c)(44).

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General Shooting Hours

In general, you can only hunt big game from one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise until one-half (1/2) hour after sunset. Warning shot!!! Check for any local restrictions. Also, see 14 CCR § 352.

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Methods of Take and Restrictions

In general, regulations prohibit deer hunting except with “authorized methods of take.” In this section, we fetch up methods relating to ammo, bait, bow and arrows, Condor Range, computer assist-remotes, crossbows, dogs, harassment, lights, muzzleloaders, nongame deerpistols & revolvers, rifles, shotguns and vehicles. Warning shot!!! If you wound a deer when hunting, you must make every reasonable effort to find and kill it immediately. Once you kill it, you must take it into possession and it becomes part of your daily bag limit and possession limit. Also, see 14 CCR § 251.5 and 14 CCR § 353(a)(a).

Ammunition

Since July 1, 2015, the regulations require nonlead centerfire ammunition when hunting deer in the Condor Range with pistols and rifles. By no late than July 1, 2019, the regulations will ban lead when hunting any wildlife with a firearm capable of shooting it.  Meanwhile, the regulations ban lead when hunting wildlife with a firearm at any ecological reserve or wildlife area, or with a depredation permit. For more, see our summary page of the lead ban, as well as FGC § 3004.5(c) and 14 CCR § 250.1(d)(1)(A).

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Bait

It’s illegal to knowingly feed big game mammals, including deer. See 14 CCR § 251.3.

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Bow and Arrows

In general, the regulations allow bow and arrows as a method for hunting big game, including deer. Warning shot!!! Link to our summary for California Archery Laws, which relates to tags, blades, casting distance, lights, disabilities, use of dogs, etc. Also, see 14 CCR § 353(a) and 14 CCR § 354(c).

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California Condor Range

California deer hunting seasons in the Condor Range.
California deer hunting seasons in the Condor Range.

When hunting big game in the California Condor Range with pistols and rifles, the regulations require non-lead centerfire ammo. For more info, see California Condor Range Hunting.  Also, see FGC § 3004.5 and 14 CCR § 353.

Computer-Assist Remotes

It is illegal in California to hunt any mammal, including deer, with any computer-assisted or remotely controlled device. The same is true for any computer equipment, Internet site, web-based system, software, telemetry device, or other technology. Also, see 14 CCR § 251 and 14 CCR § 251.9.

Crossbows

Crossbows
California deer hunting seasons for crossbows.

In general, the regulations allow crossbows as a method for hunting deer, but only during the regular season. There is an exception for disabled hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit. Also, see 14 CCR § 353(e).

Dogs

Hunting dogs for California deer hunting seasons.
Hound Dogs for California deer hunting seasons.

California regulations prohibit use of dogs for hunting deer during the deer archery season. The same is true for the bear archery season. Hunting dogs are also illegal for chasing big game during the closed season for that mammal, including deer. When the regulations allow hunting dogs, they prohibit more than one (a) dog per hunter in the area where the general deer season is open. For more info, see FGC § 3960(b) and our page for hunting dog laws, including hunting and training. In the meantime, here are a few more rules to keep in mind.

Baited Areas

The regulations prophet use of hunting dogs, when the chase begins within 400 yards of a baited area.

Depredation Permits

Deer can cause serious property damage to people and property. If so, landowners and tenants might be able to kill them with the assistance of hunting dogs, but only with a depredation permit from the CDFW.

Dog Control Zones

In general, the regulations allow hunting dogs for most mammals. In “dog control zones,” however, they prohibit them from the opening day of the general deer season through the first Friday in April. Outside of those zones, they allow them year-round during open seasons. Warning shot!!! There may be additional restrictions at the place where you are hunting. For example, see “Ecological Reserves” below. Click here for a summary of restrictions for hunting deer within California dog control zones.

Ecological Reserves

In general, it’s illegal to use hunting dogs on ecological reserves. The only exception is with specific authorization. Also, see FGC § 3960(b).

Game Refuge

In general, it’s illegal to use hunting dogs on any Game Refuge. The only exception is with specific authorization. See FGC § 3960(b).

Violations

If you break a hunting dog regulation, the CDFW can potentially capture or kill your dog. Also, see FGC § 3960 and 14 CCR § 265(a)(1), (2) and (4).

Harassment

It is illegal to harass, herd, or drive any game mammal, including deer. What that means is that you cannot intentionally disrupt normal behavior patterns  like breeding, feeding and sheltering). Also, see 14 CCR § 251.1.

Lights

In general, the regulations prohibit “artificial lights” to hunt any game mammal, including deer. The only possible exception is to private landowners and property with a depredation permit. Also, see 14 CCR § 250, 14 CCR § 263, and 14 CCR § 353.

Muzzleloaders

Muzzleloaders for Californai deer hunting seasons.
Muzzleloader California deer hunting seasons.

In general, the regulations allow muzzleloading rifles and muzzleloading shotguns as methods for hunting big game, including deer. Warning shots!!! However, see California Muzzleloader Seasons for restrictions relating to ammo, caliber, sites, transportation and tags.* Also, see 14 CCR § 353(a), (f), (g), (j) and (k).

* Regulation Proposal: here’s a proposal that would make it illegal to hunt big game with certain kinds of ammo:

(1) A softnose or expanding projectile is a bullet designed to increase from its original diameter, commonly referred to as “mushrooming”, and retain a significant part of its original weight upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal.
(2) Projectiles commonly referred to as “frangible” bullets, designed to disintegrate upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal are not softnose or expanding projectiles.

Nongame Deer

Nongame deer may only be taken using the same methods as game deer in the section. Also, see FGC § 475(c) applying restrictions for taking big game in FGC § 353.

Pistols & Revolvers

In general, the regulations allow pistols and revolvers as methods for hunting big game, including deer. However, they restrict ammo to only centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles.* See Ammo and Condor Range above, and 14 CCR § 353(c).

* Regulation Proposal: here’s a proposal that would make it illegal to hunt big game with certain kinds of ammo:

(1) A softnose or expanding projectile is a bullet designed to increase from its original diameter, commonly referred to as “mushrooming”, and retain a significant part of its original weight upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal.
(2) Projectiles commonly referred to as “frangible” bullets, designed to disintegrate upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal are not softnose or expanding projectiles.

Rifles

In general, the regulations allow rifles as a method for hunting big game, including deer. However, they restrict ammo to only centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles.* Warning shot!!! See Ammo and Condor Range above, as well as 14 CCR § 353(a).

* Regulation Proposal: here’s a proposal that would make it illegal to hunt big game with certain kinds of ammo:

(1) A softnose or expanding projectile is a bullet designed to increase from its original diameter, commonly referred to as “mushrooming”, and retain a significant part of its original weight upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal.
(2) Projectiles commonly referred to as “frangible” bullets, designed to disintegrate upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal are not softnose or expanding projectiles.

Shotguns

In general, the regulations allow shotguns as a method for hunting deer. However, there are restrictions relating to amoo and shell capacity.

Shells

In general, the regulations allow shotgun shells with slugs for hunting, but not buckshot. Warning shot!!! If a county ordinance prohibits slugs, they might allow buckshot, sizes “0” or “00.” see Ammo and Condor Range above, as well as 14 CCR § 353(b).

Shell Capacity

The regulations restrict the shotgun shell capacity to three (3) shells, firing single slugs. If it requires a plug to reduce the capacity, the club must be incapable of removal without taking the shotgun apart. Also, see 14 CCR § 353(b).

Vehicles

Aircraft

The regulations prohibit use of aircraft (a) during any big game hunting season or within 48 hours of the opening and closing of the season. The rule applies to any aircraft capable of flight. It also applies to earth-orbiting imaging devices. Finally, it applies to hot-air and unpowered aircraft. Warning shot!!! Flying slowly at low altitude, hovering, circling, and repeatedly flying over is evidence of a violation. Also, see 14 CCR § 251.

Vehicles Under Power

In general, the regulations prohibit use any motor vehicle to pursue, drive, herd, take, or kill any mammal, including deer (e.g. motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat, and snowmobile). There is a limited exception for when (1) the motor is shut off or the sails are furled, (2) all forward progress has ceased, and (3) it’s drifting, beached, moored, resting at anchor, or is being propelled by paddle, oar, or pole.

There are also exceptions relating to private property damage, depredation permits, and mobility impaired hunters with a Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License. Also, see our pages for disabled huntersnavigable water, and 14 CCR § 251.

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Seasons for Game and Nongame Deer

In this section, you’ll find California deer hunting seasons for designated species of game deer and nongame deer.

Game Deer

For California deer hunting seasons for game species, follow the links below:

Nongame Deer

California deer hunting seasons for nongame species runs concurrently with General Deer SeasonsAlso, see FGC § 472(b).

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Locations

Link to our page for 190 public hunting locations, which we separate by geographical region and public agency. There, we also provide links to our pages with hunter-friendly summaries of area-specific rules and procedures.

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Regulations

California hunting regulations require knowledge of and compliance with all of the regulations. For deer hunting, many regulations apply because they are applicable to all wildlife, mammals, game, game mammals, or big game. In addition, there are general deer hunting regulations with area-specific exceptions. See our page with major deer hunting laws, as well as CDFW’s California Deer Hunting Guide.

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Tags

Link to our page for deer tags, which includes hunter-friendly summaries of rules relating to tag applications, drawings, point systems, tagging procedures, reporting requirements, and more.

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Purchase and Sale of Deer

California deer hunting seasons and sale of deer meat, antlers, skins and other parts
Buying and selling from California deer hunting seasons.

In general, the regulations prohibit the purchase and sale of wild game, including deer, as well as deer meat, antlers, skins, and other parts. For a hunter-friendly summary of those rules, as well as exceptions, click here.

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Violations

Violations and penalties for California deer hunting seasons.
Violations and penalties for California deer hunting seasons.

The regulations prohibit the take of trophy buck outside of the California deer hunting seasons. For violations, potential penalties include a find of between $5,000 and $40,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year in the county jail. The rule also applies to hunting without a valid hunting license or tag, as well as trophy elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep.  Also, see FGC § 12013.3.

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Tips

Here, we fetch up tips for the California deer hunting seasons, including how to deal with deer infected with chronic wasting disease, fire alerts, and links to publications from other sources.

Chronic Wasting Disease

Click here for California deer hunting videos, regulations, and brochures from the CDFW about chronic wasting disease.

Fire Alerts

Click here for fire alerts that may affect hunting opportunities.

Publications

    1. California Big Game Hunting Digest
    2. Deer Management Program
    3. California Deer Hunting Guide (California deer species, habitat, populations, hunting equipment, gear, clothing, shooting tips, field dressing, maps, statistics, and recipes)

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Forum & Blogs

To participate in our California deer hunting seasons forum, leave a comment or question in the reply below. Also, see our blog page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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While we try to fetch up all California deer hunting seasons, laws and locations, we might miss a few or make a typo. If so, please leave a comment or question in the reply box below.

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