The great thing about the state of California is that it gives hunters plenty of opportunities to chase deer throughout the year. In fact, here you will find some of the earliest deer seasons in the entire country. But with so many different seasons and times of the day to hunt, how do you know what times are the best to hunt deer? Let’s look at the different seasons and which ones might best suit you and your hunting style.
Best Early Season Deer Hunting
As we mentioned, California is unique and offers some insanely early archery and rifle deer seasons when compared to other states. The early season is generally considered to be August and September, but in California, hunters can start in July. One of the greatest benefits of the early season is getting the first crack at the deer before the major hunting pressure hits, so the animals are usually less skittish.
The early season also allows you to scout during the summer and start hunting deer that are still in their summer habits. Because of these predictable habits and the fact that the deer haven’t been hunted yet, a hunter with a lot of time to scout can take advantage of the early season to kill big bucks. During this time of year, bucks like to stick to the regular habits that they have been using since the last hunting season ended the year before.
Unfortunately, hunting in the early season also means that you have to deal with the hot temperatures. This warmer weather causes the deer to be much less active than usual. Because of this, the best times of day to hunt in the early season are the early mornings and late evenings. For dedicated hunters, you can try hunting during the middle of the day by focusing on cool, shaded areas but be prepared for the extreme heat and come prepared.
Mid-Season Hunting in California
The mid-season is generally described as the month of October and some of November (depending on the region of the state). Across other states in the West, the mid-season is usually the most popular time of year to hunt and when most of the deer tags are issued. Unlike the early season, the mid-season has cooler temperatures that will keep the deer on their feet for long periods of time during the day. These weather conditions can vary a little, but in general, you don’t have to deal with extreme heat or extreme cold.
During the mid-season, deer move off from their summer habits and can be much more difficult to locate and kill. There can also be a lot more hunting pressure, adding to the challenge of finding the deer. If you can overcome these challenges, however, you can still kill plenty of deer during the mid-season months. Bucks can also be grouped together in bachelor groups during this time of year, giving you an opportunity to find multiple bucks in the same area.
The best times of day that you will want to focus on are still the early mornings and late afternoons, but the deer will be out feeding and moving much longer during the mornings and earlier in the afternoons. During the middle of the day, deer might get up every few hours to stretch their legs and feed. This makes staying out all day a good idea to give yourself the best chance at success, although you will most likely see the majority of the deer during the mornings and evenings.
California’s Late Season Deer Hunting
The late season varies depending on the area of the state you are in, but is usually classified as the months of November and December. The late season is popular among hunters because the weather is the coldest, making it perfect for deer hunting. The deer are also rutting, so their attention is usually focused elsewhere and it makes it a little easier to find and get close to them. The rut, paired with colder weather, keeps the deer active all day long and makes them the easiest to find this time of the year.
There are a few potential downsides to hunting the late season, however. First, late season tags are usually in high demand and a lot harder to draw. You might not be able to acquire a late season tag as easily as an early season or mid-season tag. Second, the late season will bring cold weather. While this is great for the deer, this can make hunting conditions a little challenging. If you are ok with battling the cold and potential snow, the late season can provide excellent hunting opportunities and a unique experience to hunt deer that are in rutting stages.
As far as the best times of the day to hunt during the late season, there really isn’t a bad time of day to be out in the woods. Deer will be active all day long (especially during a cold front) and are in bigger groups, making them easier to spot. If there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground, it will make the deer stand out even more. Just make sure you come prepared for the colder weather with all of the equipment and clothing that you will need. But if you spend your entire day out in the woods, you are sure to find plenty of deer during this time of year!
Final Thoughts – Best Times to Hunt Deer
As you can see, there are plenty of great times to hunt deer in California. But which one is the best? That really comes down to personal preference. Each season has its own set of pros and cons, as well its own unique challenges. But no matter what season you might decide to hunt, you can rest assured that you are in for a great experience because of the beautiful California scenery and amazing deer herds!