Blacktail Deer in field

Hunting Blacktail Deer in California

Often shunned and probed, various strong opinions surround hunting as a sport. While a handful of groups continue to question the ethics in killing animals for no reason, the amazing economic, ecological, and environmental impact of hunting blacktail deer in California goes beyond aiming, pulling the trigger, and collecting your prize kill after. Extremely cautious and no doubt a difficult hunt, a blacktail deer can leave you empty-handed and frustrated for years which makes achieving your goal even more special. Home to stunning woodlands and a bustling population of fauna, let’s scope in for a closer look at Blacktail Deer Hunting in California.

Blacktail Deer Facts and Habitat

Gentle yet exceedingly jumpy and restive, the blacktail deer is native to the western part of North America where they thrive around the edges of lush forests. Typically spotted in areas with an abundance of vegetation and grass which these awesome creatures feed on, this deer species uses their excellent sense of smell and hearing to keep themselves safe and away from their predators. Aloof and reserved, these tame and easygoing animals tend to avoid areas that lack hiding spots, particularly during severe weather conditions as they prefer a more comfortable and less stressful environment.

A medium-sized deer that favors being active from dusk till dawn, its antlers follow a pattern much like that of a mule’s which grows from a firm spike into a distinct double-fork shape. As bucks commonly drop their antlers between January and March, they are more likely to feed on ferns and lichens that grow on trees, perhaps to address their lack of a tool for defense. Re-growing their antlers back beginning in April through August, they switch to feeding on grasses, blackberries, and apples that are found in meadows when their sense of security and confidence may have grown back with their majestic horns.

Commonly seen occupying the woodlands in the Pacific Northwest of North America, several species of the blacktail deer also favor parts of Northern California, Western Oregon, and Washington, as well as British Columbia and both southeast and southcentral Alaska.

Want more facts about deer? We have you covered with an article dedicated to the truth about deer that every hunter should know.

Hunting The Blacktail Deer

Regarded as one of the most challenging deer to hunt in North America, the nocturnal and solitary nature of the blacktail, particularly during the hunting season, proves that catching or shooting down one with a rifle or bow hunting is never a walk in the park. As success rates of blacktail hunts remain low, here are a few tips on how a strong and rewarding California blacktail deer hunting trip should be launched.


Scouting Blacktail Deer

Regardless of hunting strategy, scouting ahead of hunting season is one of the best ways to boost your chances of success. Gathering basic information like where to and where not to go gives you a slight advantage over already delicate and demanding prey. While tools such as trail cameras can help bolster hunting success, scouting the area, particularly at dusk or dawn, offers you an idea of the blacktail’s activity.

When scouting deer it’s important to use optics in order to keep your distance. Buying quality binoculars or a spotting scope will increase your ability to stalk and learn about the deer. Seeing what they are feeding on or what vegetation they are bedding in can go a long way when the season opens.

Scouting Tips for Blacktail Deer

  1. Scout before the season opener
  2. Scout all day long
  3. Learn to track
  4. Set trail cameras
  5. Watch weather conditions

Deer Hunting Preparation

No doubt, there is nothing worse than getting all pumped and ready to stalk your prey only to have to head back because you are not well-suited for the hunt. Making sure that you are wearing the gear

that is suitable for the expected weather will help keep you warm, dry, and equipped to take down a buck. Bear in mind that wearing footwear of good quality, with the perfect fit, and one that is both durable and comfortable will give you the support you will need to keep going.

If it’s been a while since you have used your rifle, you should make sure your hunting scope is still dialed in and the gun is operating smoothly. If you don’t have a scope and don’t want to spend a lot of money on one, there are a few Bushnell scopes on a budget that won’t break the bank.

It’s also important to make sure you are following the sates deer hunting regulations. Visit the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife to review any and all rules and regs.

Tree Stands for Blacktail Deer

Providing hunters with more convenience better than crouching down in the brush for hours, tree stands allow you to get up high into the trees to find where the blacktails are and to see the spots where the most deer activity occurs without them knowing. Often resulting in better success, it enables a hunter to get a more superior vantage point of the deer while remaining hidden, instead of sitting low trying extremely hard not to make noise and drive the prey away.

Perfectly-Timed Hunt

Naturally, blacktails have a knack for oncoming stormy weather. While heavy rain can help drown out your footsteps through forested areas, deer lie low to avoid the wet cold weather. Often showing a lot of activity just before a storm arrives and right after it passes, expert hunters opt to time their hunt as soon as these remarkable creatures emerge from the woods to warm up and dry themselves. California is unique in regards to the best time to hunt deer and you can find more information on that here.

Locate Watering Holes

Exceedingly sensitive and smart, blacktails would often withdraw back into the woods before the sun gets extremely hot. Coming out sometime to refresh themselves from the heat, they would cautiously troop down to a spot near where they bed down only when they feel that their surroundings are safe. Staying put regardless of their thirst, especially in high-pressure areas, it is best to stick around remote spots and wait until the deer is in its most vulnerable state.

Stay Still

Less experienced hunters would often drive on forest roads and hunt for blacktails hoping to spot one that leisurely stands in a clearing. Although such a strategy could be rewarding at times, it also drives the deer away as they are known to reel from high-pressure areas, making an all-day wait worthwhile. By letting other hunters push the deer to you instead of the other way around, simply hunkering down and concealing yourself from the prey can surprisingly be beneficial.

Clever and frustratingly tricky, the blacktail is an exceptional game to hunt. Along with its instinctive ability to come out moments before sunset and hide back in the forest just as the sun rises, hunters of this elusive deer employ tactics such as scouting in advance, using weather conditions as leverage, as well as holing up in ground blind or tree stand to enjoy blacktail deer hunting success.

Bonus Deer Hunting Tips

Want more deer hunting tips? We have another article dedicated to the Top 10 Deer Hunting Tips in order to help avid outdoor hunting enthusiasts have more success.


Boasting its diverse wildlife, California is hands down a hunter’s paradise. As game populations in this part of North America are constantly dynamic, putting these foolproof tips to use when you go deer hunting in CA, you can tell everyone back home about a successful blacktail deer adventure instead of the one that got away.