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Outdoors Q&A: Why Does Deer Season Start in the Summer?

Read on for answers to that question and more about California regulations on hunting and fishing.

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

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Carrie Wilson
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 before 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. For example, A Zone rut occurs in late September, and the B Zone peak rut begins in early to mid-November. This balance provides the maximum hunting opportunity with a reasonable expectation of killing a deer. Once the general seasons are set, the archery season is established before the beginning of the rifle season. By regulation, the archery deer season must end three days before 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. The Department of Fish & Game strives to begin the archery season at a point where fawns are old enough not to 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) 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) and extends for 23 days (Aug. 3). This season framework accommodates the biology of the deer, hunter opportunity and the law requiring a three-day separation between seasons.

Another factor that also has 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 so the weather would be cooler. The proposal was rejected by the local hunting organization in A Zone because it wanted to maintain the tradition and it liked the ability to hunt early in A Zone and later in other zones.

Question: While fishing from a public pier without a fishing license, am I allowed to go onto the beach to land a big fish that I hooked on the pier? (Pete T., via e-mail)

Answer: A fishing license is required when fishing everywhere except from a public pier. Even if you hooked the fish on the pier and came down onto the beach only to land the fish, you would need a valid license to avoid a potential citation. Purchasing an annual fishing license would make this a nonissue. Otherwise, you could buy a pier net to help land bigger fish.

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-magnum 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? (Ron, via e-mail)

Answer: No firearm may be possessed by a bow hunter in the field during archery-only season. In addition, according to Monterey Lt. Don Kelly, it is not uncommon to find unscrupulous bow hunters during archery-only seasons who shot their deer with small-caliber firearms but say afterward that the animals were shot while bow hunting.

Question: I understand you can use bluegill for bait in certain places, but is it OK 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 also can 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.

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Her DFG-related question-and-answer column appears weekly at www.dfg.ca.gov/QandA/. She can be reached at [email protected]

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