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Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Now is the time to check out your shotgun!

Zone A deer hunting concerns
Extremely hot summertime weather has been in control of most all California since early July and the outlook for opening weekend of the Zone A deer season, on Aug. 11, calls for more hot weather. Daytime temps inland after sunrise will rise to over 100 degrees in some parts of the coastal range, while hunting ranches and forest property closer to the ocean will see some dampness and perhaps some early morning fog.

Western Outdoor News checked in with Andrew Madsen, Information Officer for the Los Padres National Forest, (805) 968-6640, to get a last-minute update on the fire level across the vast Los Padres National Forest.

Fire season has gotten off to a rip roaring start this year. Right now, we are at a level three stage on fire watch. There is no target shooting allowed within the forest, but hunting is still okay. Fires are restricted to fire rings in established campgrounds. Most of the roads are still open providing access to hunting areas, but some trails are closed around the Big Sur area. Fires to the north and east are being focused on with some of our crews working those fires that are currently out of control,” stated Madsen.

ARROWED HIS ZONE A BLACKTAIL — Chris Dodge from Torrance hunted the early season archery Zone A deer season with master guide Chad Wiebe of Oak Stone Outfitters and killed this dandy blacktail buck that was still in velvet. PHOTO COURTESY OF CENTRAL COAST TAXIDERMY

There is good news coming in from outfitters who are booking clients to hunt Zone A deer. One of the largest outfitters in the state, Bitterwater Outfitters, (805) 619-4521, based out of Paso Robles under the leadership of master guide Clayton Grant, is looking forward to an exceptional Zone A deer season.

Grant filed the following report with WON, “Looks like it’s going to be a spectacular Zone A deer season. We have three new ranches added to our vast hunting leases that have never been hunted by the general public, in addition we will still be hunting big ranches that have produced some nice blacktail bucks for the past few years. We’ve been seeing a lot of bucks while out hog hunting, and we expect unmatched hunting for this year and seasons ahead.”

WON has hunted with master guide Chad Wiebe, owner of Oak Stone Outfitters, (805) 472-220, on a number of hunts seeing a lot of nice blacktail bucks on his leased hunting ranches. Wiebe checked in with this forecast for his Zone A deer report.

“During the 3 or 4 years of draught there was very little in fawn crop carryover. Over the last three years we have seen a huge increase in two- and three-year class deer. Our scouting has showed more mature bucks than we saw last year due to more rain. The late rains of March helped out with better antler growth and we are now noticing more mass and longer tines on bucks, which is directly related to the quality of feed during the antler growth period,” said Wiebe.

WIDE COASTAL MULE DEER — Matt Ward hunted with Anderson Taxidermy and Guide Service along the coastal range near Atascadero and harvested this very wide 6-year old buck.

Don Anderson, another top guide for the coastal ranges who owns Anderson Taxidermy and Guide Service, Inc., (805) 466-3249, based out of Atascadero, sent in the following to Western Outdoor News.

“I would expect that this year’s Zone A’s deer season will be above average compared to the last five years. This past season we had below average rainfall, which will affect antler growth for this season. There was a good carryover of mature bucks form last season and during my pre-season scouting trips on to private ranches we have leased, I have spotted some nice trophy class animals,” stated Anderson.

Anderson went on to add, “If a hunter is going to hunt public land, I would recommend that they pack into the more remote areas to find the larger bucks because of all of the hunting pressure on forest land. If you plan to hunt on private land or with a guide, your chance of success will improve greatly by hunting with someone that has a quality game management program in place.

Deer hunters that are successful in harvesting a buck need to make sure that animal is skinned and hung in the shade quickly, or even better, take the cleaned deer to the nearest butcher and get it refrigerated as soon as possible. Hunters booking with hunting guides can have the deer hung in one of the cold boxes that are on-site at ranch headquarters. Venison can spoil fast in the heat and this summer the blow flies are out big time, so make sure your cleaned animal is placed in a breathable deer bag.

The Zone A 2018 tag quota for deer stands at 65,000 tags for A Zones north and south. Last season, in the southern zone (south 110), the total number of bucks reported killed was 2319 bucks, of which 64 percent were forked horn bucks. The cost of a resident deer tag is $31.89.

Non-toxic bullets are now required for all big game hunting in California. Thankfully companies like Barnes, Hornaday, Nosler, Federal, Winchester and Remington have stepped up with non-toxic bullets and rifle ammo. This new lead-free ammo is pretty pricey, but the cost of 20 rounds of rifle ammo is coming down as better manufacturing and product development is helping to bring prices down.

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