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Where to go Hunting in California
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Where to go Hunting in California

It’s time you completed the off-road camping destination list with as many hunting spots as possible.

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4 min read

September 25, 2021

Looking for the key to a successful hunting trip in California? We’ll give you a hint—it’s best enjoyed in places where the vistas take your breath away. You can thank California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife for the opportunity. Managing over one million beautifully landscaped acres with more than 711 properties, the diverse animal population is waiting for your discovery. Deer, waterfowl, pheasants, bears, pigs, and small mammals are all legal to hunt in the Golden State; you just have to make sure you’re pursuing in the right place. And we’re here to help you find those spots; it’s time you completed the off-road camping destination list with as many hunting spots as possible.

California isn’t just beaches and movie stars. Because of the great weather throughout the year, it’s an awesome place to spend time outdoors.

The Dos and Don'ts of Hunting in California 

If you’re thinking of going hunting in California but would rather skip the citation to appear in court, you better do your homework before hitting the road. Every year, countless enthusiasts find their wallets significantly lightened by a lawsuit because they went after an off-limit dove or duck; often without even knowing it. To save you from all the legal trouble, we’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts when hunting in the Golden State:

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  • Do: Follow the basic rules. Before you decide on a location, make sure that you have in your required license as well as any required stamps or tags.
  • Don’t: Load your gun until you have reached land specifically designated for hunting purposes.
  • Do: Double-check if the land you're choosing is open to hunting. Get a good map and check the firearms regulations. If you're hunting in an area owned by the government, check their website or ask ranger station staff if the land is indeed open to hunting.
  • Don’t: Shoot anytime before or after the designated hunting hours.
  • Do: Only obtain and use guns and ammunition legally recognized for hunting.
  • Don't: Borrow someone else's tag or license; this is unlawful activity.
  • Do: Familiarize yourself with the regulations regarding artificial lighting and night vision devices.
  • Don't: Shoot from inside your vehicle, sailboat, powerboat, airplane, or even from across the road.
While hunting for rabbits, pigs, and dove is allowed in Los Angeles County, by far the most popular hunt is for deer.

Bird Hunting Regulations to Remember 

Before you get to hunting, here are a few things to keep in mind about California’s bird hunting regulations:

  • Shooting times for doves specifically are half an hour before sunrise to sunset.
  • Any and every hunter (even junior hunting license holders) must have their license on them at all times.
  • Permission from the landowner is required before hunting on private land.
  • Shooting within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling is illegal.
  • Hunting within 200 yards of a wildlife watering place is also illegal.
You'll encounter black-tailed deer, wild turkey, gray squirrel, dove, pigeon, black bear, raccoon, and mountain lion at Cache Creek Wildlife Area.

Hunting in Northern California 

Cache Creek Wildlife Area 

Looking for the best public deer hunting spots in California? Look no further than the Cache Creek Wilderness Area, situated only about 25 miles west of the town of Williams. Spanning for approximately 2,300 acres, the mostly steep area consists of mostly oak, making for a scenic backdrop no matter the season. Besides deer, the area allows the pursuit of elk, black bears, wild pigs, rabbits, quail, pigeons, wild turkeys, and on occasion, doves.

Jackson Demonstration State Forest

An outdoor lover’s paradise renowned for its wildlife and fishing opportunities, Jackson Demonstration State Forest is prized for being one of the top places to go turkey hunting in California; that is if season permits. At roughly 50,000 acres, it’s the Golden State’s largest state forest, encompassing portions of the Noyo and Big River watersheds. And if you want to spot the forest from miles away, your best bet is going to be looking out for towering redwoods and Douglas firs.

The Mendocino National Forest is located in the Coastal Mountain Range in northwestern California and comprises 913,306 acres.

Mendocino National Forest

Nestled just outside of Willows, Mendocino National Forest is the only forest in the Golden State which isn’t intersected by a highway or a paved road. The entire 913,000 or so acres are a wooded nature's playground, remaining a rugged wonderland. And while all public land in the forest is open for hunting enthusiasts, it's the Lower Nye and the Grizzly Flat Dispersed Campgrounds that specifically cater to the sport. You're likely to find bears, deer, pronghorn, elk, bighorn sheep, and a few of the top hog hunting opportunities in California. 

Hunting in Southern California 

The Angeles National Forest covers a total of 700,176 acres, protecting large areas of the San Gabriel Mountains and Sierra Pelona Mountains.

The Angeles National Forest

Serving as a backdrop to California's largest urban centers, the Angeles National Forest boasts roughly 700,000 acres of open space. The forest also covers the gorgeous San Gabriel Mountain range and has specific hunting areas open year-long. When general deer season commences, you're free to hunt mule, whitetail, sika, fallow, axis, blacktail, and sambar (just to name a few). Just make sure to purchase the necessary deer tags and a hunting license, and from there on out, you’re all set.

P.S. If you have spare time on your hands, we highly recommend cruising to the nearby Vasquez Rocks and try your hand at bouldering before you head out.

San Gabriel Canyon

All the way from the snow-covered peak of Mt. San Antonio, San Gabriel Canyon drains a watershed of more than 600 square miles. The undeveloped areas around the river create corridors of wetlands for wildlife and fish, providing primo opportunities for duck hunting in California. Recently, there has been a fair influx of ducks and geese into most Southern California spots—that’s not something that happens often, so you’d better take advantage of the situation. Quail are also plentiful in certain areas, but they’re generally scattered in heavy brush and are slightly harder to find.

Prominent species include the southwestern willow flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, and Gila woodpecker at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve.

Palo Verde Ecological Reserve

The Palo Verde Ecological Reserve stretches for approximately 1,900 acres. The area is generally flat and easy to navigate, with sandbar cottonwood-willow and mesquite riparian dotting your way along the eastern ridge of the river. If you’re after the best dove hunting in Southern California, then the reserve is probably your best bet—mourning, white-winged, spotted, and ringed turtle doves are known to flutter about the area. And best of all, almost all the designated hunting spots have been planted with food crops to attract and hold the doves. 

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