Hunting in California is not nearly as productive as in many other states. If you really want to stand a good chance of killing a deer or bear, you’d be far better off to drive to Colorado, Utah or Wyoming. My roots are here; I was raised here and learned to fish and hunt here. For better or worse, California is home, and that’s where I’ll do most of my hunting and fishing. I enjoy the entire hunting experience, from preseason scouting trips to the smells of coffee and campfire smoke.
I enjoy studying the habits of the deer. There are two main kinds of deer in California: blacktails and mule deer. Blacktails are darker in color than mulies and smaller in size. Blacktails are usually found in the forests west of the Sierra Nevada crest, while mule deer range through the open sage and aspen country on the east side of the Sierra. The dividing line between the two species is quite precise. Mulies like the open range broken by aspen groves, while blacktail like the protection of the thicker forests.
Because of the different habitat preferences, you must adapt your techniques and your gear to the game you seek. Many hunters will swear that the ideal rifle for blacktails is a lever-action saddle gun with traditional iron sights in 30-30 caliber. The ideal mule deer rifle, however, is almost certainly a bolt action in a larger caliber equipped with a scope for long-range shots out to 300 yards and beyond. My favorite rifle is a 7 by 57 millimeter bolt-action Mauser that is neither as fast handling as the little saddle gun nor as far reaching as the bigger caliber magnums. Like most compromises, it is adequate for both but perfect for neither.
Even though the hunting may be better in the Rockies and I’m handicapped by my compromise rifle, I’ll be out there again this fall, savoring the smell of the coffee and the warmth of the campfire as I listen to the coyotes sing and swap lies with hunting companions about hunts long past. Hunting season is here, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Until next week, tight lines.
• Don Moyer, author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press, began writing Tight Lines more than three decades ago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.