Briefly Noted: Redding, California
By Gary Lewis
Most hunters think of Oregon or Washington when they think of blacktail deer, but from the ocean beaches inland to I-5 and beyond, California is home to large numbers of Odocoileus hemionus columbianus and mule deer/blacktail hybrids.
California is divided into five main deer management zones. The pure coastal deer is found in the A-Zone complex, west of Highway 101 from Ventura County up to Mendocino County and into the B-Zone hunts through the middle of Trinity County.
Further inland, the hunter may find a pure blacktail, but as mule deer and blacktails mix, east of I-5, the deer get bigger and show different physical characteristics than the coastal deer.
According to Craig Stowers, Deer Program Coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Game, B-Zone hunts in northwestern California offer the most opportunity. "If you are hunting for blacktails and/or you just want to go hunting, concentrate on the B-Zone complex. There is lots of public ground with good access and tags can be purchased over the counter for the B-Zone complex," Stowers said.
The B-5 season runs September 19 through October 25. Bag limit is one buck, forked horn or better.
A large percentage of the best blacktail habitat is on private property, which acts as a reservoir for public land deer.
"We watch them all year," Parrey Cremeans said. "We hunt both deer and pigs on our properties and we see the bucks grow during turkey season."
Outfitter Parrey Cremeans, Tel. 530-515-5682, hunts in Shasta and Tehama counties in the B-Zone and the C-Zone.
"Our B-Zone bucks run anywhere from 115- to 145-inch Boone and Crockett," Cremeans said. "Most of the bucks are in the mid-120s to low-130s."
West of I-5, the ground rises up toward the coastal mountains. It is semi-open and oak-encrusted with conifers at higher elevation. Acorns, ceanothus and other browse and grasses are the main food sources for deer and hogs.
With Cremeans, hunts are spot-and-stalk or conducted near waterholes. Vehicles (4x4 pickups or ATVs) are used to move from location to location and for retrieval of game. According to Cremeans, hunters may expect to see between three and seven bucks per day.
Cremeans leases hunting rights to several ranches. Two B-Zone ranches west of Red Bluff: 5300 acres and 9600 acres. In the C-Zone, east of Redding, Cremeans has the rights to a 6500-acre ranch.
A trophy hunter himself, Cremeans tagged a big C-Zone buck two years ago that scored 198-4/8 inches (C-Zone deer don't qualify for B&C because they might have some genetic mule deer influence).
Elevations range between 500 and 1100 feet above sea level. Later in the season, when snows blanket the high country, other deer may migrate in.
Hunters stay in hotels in Red Bluff or Redding and are responsible for their own breakfasts and dinners. Lunches, snacks and drinks are provided on the hunt.
Three of us hunted for feral hogs with Cremeans on an early summer spot-and-stalk on the C-Zone property. This land was situated on both banks of a large year-round creek that was the best water source in miles.
We observed blacktail deer, elk and dozens of hogs each day. We passed up opportunities on big boars on the first evening. Cremeans encouraged us to take only males and leave the sows alone. Two of us filled our tags with 200-pounders and the third passed up a bigger animal for a smaller boar.
A five-day B-Zone deer hunt with Parrey Cremeans costs $2500 per person. A C-Zone deer hunt costs up to $3200 per person. To plan a C-Zone hunt for next year, call Cremeans in March. A two-day hog hunt costs $700. Wild pigs may be hunted year-round.
A California nonresident hunting license is $143.35. A non-resident deer tag costs $242.80. A nonresident wild pig tag costs $66.15. Nonresidents must purchase licenses at CADFG offices. Schedule the travel day to coincide with business hours. There is a CADFG district office in Redding.
California's big game regulations are on the web.Gary Lewison