Tag Archives: Norcal

Your Deer Are Here

Where and How to Hunt for Bucks as Seasons Get Cranking in September

By Bill Adelman 

With several deer hunting seasons in full swing in California, options are many for hunters, assuming one will fit our personal needs.

Not many of us own or have access to a 20,000-acre ranch in the B Zone (most of the North Coast from the border to the Bay Area) that is crawling with deer, hogs, coyotes, cats, game birds and snakes. Option two is to join an established annual dues hunting club that offers access to hunts behind locked gates (reservations for all hunts required). You generally have good property to hunt, though you’re entirely on your own.

Our hog hunt neer Hollister - 084Number three might be a guided hunt, of which there are a few options. A fully outfitted hunt offers full-time guides, generally two to one, unless you kick in a few extra bucks to hunt one on one with Our trip to Washington to Deer hunta guide. They provide lodging, food, transportation, spot and stalk, blinds, in-field care, skinning, and in some cases even a walk-in cold box to hang your game. These are really the cat’s meow.

Some of the diverse topography you’re bound to encounter in Northern California. A good GPS will come in handy as well if hunting near private land. (BILL ADELMAN)

Some of the diverse topography you’re bound to encounter in Northern California. A good GPS will come in handy as well if hunting near private land. (BILL ADELMAN)

Other choices are semi-outfitted hunts, where the program offers private land, lodging, cooking facilities and direction to use the best methods, but you’re on your own from here on out. So first and foremost, bring a sharp knife.

A fourth possible choice might be the access-fee hunt, where you’re entirely on your own from setting up camp, scouting in your own vehicle and going at it blind unless you’ve been there before. Even though it appears we have ample opportunity to deer hunt, with the first season, archery, opening about the first weekend in July up to the final opening, about the first few days of October, opportunities are still extremely limited. You must decide and apply. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife website is much easier to decipher than it used to be and well worth checking out for particulars.
FAMILIARITY RULES
Knowing the lay of the land is necessary, and venturing out of state to hunt an access ranch is a daunting task. The same applies to California. There are many prebook questions that must be answered to your satisfaction. Four of us took this chance in 2010, venturing to Wyoming with deer and antelope tags in our luggage. We had to arrive prior to opening day, attend a seminar regarding the rules and regulations of the property, and tour the main sections of the ranch with the hunt coordinator and his son. Their prehunt requirements were well laid out and ranchers were available every day to rely on for advice.

Our hunt was five days in the field, and every tag we had was punched. We headquartered 11 miles from the ranch at a campground in Kaycee, Wyo., where there was a cooler available for our bagged carcasses. Everything we learned there was imperative information for here in California.
GOING PUBLIC
Back home brings us to the final option: hunting on public land. For most of us who started out on public land, this brings back positive memories of past successes and a few hairy situations. For me, it was introducing my then 10-year-old son to the new snows just at the edge of a pine forest while awaiting the migration – then getting our vehicle stuck. Of course this was before the days of the state’s zones.

Public hunts are available on CDFW land, state wildlife areas, ecological reserves, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management ground. Research is necessary. There’s also the SHARE program, PLM tags, and special hunts for juniors.

The terrain might dictate any physical limitations as well as expected harvest figures, which are available from the CDFW website and broken down by zone. Travel distance is another consideration.

Before the zone days my son and I used to travel to the backcountry of Plumas County for weekend hunts, leaving after school on a Friday. A six-hour drive was rewarded with outstanding country and successful hunts. It’s still good, but you must draw for it.

Later on, at a friend’s suggestion we hunted public land in Mendocino County. We settled in on an area called Poison Rock, just north of a defunct Eel River ranger station. All of the ridges to the north of the dirt access road were closed to all vehicular traffic – thus the hunting was fairly good. It’s still a huntable area but much busier, especially with road hunters. There’s a bunch of land available if you’ll walk just a little.

When hunting close to private land, as in Trinity or Lassen Counties, a boundary line defined by a GPS is critical. Remember that trespassing without permission is against the law, and there’s a gray area between trespass and wanton waste. Public land abounds the further south you venture, but the success rates rapidly diminish and the hills get steeper. Right up the central California corridor, opportunities present themselves on both sides of I-5. We used to take off about a month prior to opening day and just drive, hitting huntable ground and making our own maps.

Glassing for deer on a steep incline can be improved if you have a shooting stick to steady your binos on. (BILL ADELMAN)

Glassing for deer on a steep incline can be improved if you have a shooting stick to steady your binos on. (BILL ADELMAN)

LIVE WELL IN CAMP
We’ve located our ideal campsite, so what’s next? As you age, it becomes apparent that comfort is just as important as any other feature of the trip. Sleep on the ground just once more in a tent? You can’t be serious. This desire prompted our first four-wheel-drive truck and a mini 18-foot travel trailer that seemed like a five-star hotel at the time.

We then added a 500-watt generator, an enclosed portable shower and a screen tent. Just as a mention, after arriving at your hunting location, this is not the time to sight-in five weapons and raise Cain in the campground. Public ground allows one to camp almost anywhere they wish, so don’t be surprised when you venture out opening morning – 4 miles from your chosen hunt area – to find six camps that were set up the previous night.

Try to stay hidden rather than stop right on the top of a ridge to glass for 30 minutes. Glassing for 30 minutes is the right approach, just not skylighted. If you carry a shooting stick, it can be used to steady your binos, as well as to shoot from.

When shooting on a stick, lean it towards you with the leg away from your body. This is far more stationary than leaning forward. Slowly check out the shady spots not only across the canyon but below you as well.

If you were able to reach these areas in the dark and used a green headlamp rather than a white light, sit for a spell and look. If cover is scarce, why not try a lightweight blind like the ones a turkey hunter uses?

Deer pick up movement far more quickly than they do a stationary hunter. The wind direction is critical, and when you have the option of watching a western slope in the morning, give it plenty of time. Spotting the glint of a buck’s antlers as soon as the sun hits them is far easier than picking them up in a darkened area.

If you are on a private-land hunt, consider a pop-up blind that’s properly placed and camouflaged. Chances are it will remain unmolested in your absence.

Whether it’s an out-of-state hunt or a trip to the foothills or mountains near your home, when it all comes together it can be a memorable fall experience to take a buck home. (BILL ADELMAN) NORCAL

Whether it’s an out-of-state hunt or a trip to the foothills or mountains near your home, when it all comes together it can be a memorable fall experience to take a buck home. (BILL ADELMAN)

Since blacktail and granite bucks are not as predictable as whitetail, blind location should be in a general area where you feel confident that deer will be moving, such as at a pinch point. In our early zones and many later areas, it will be hot. If everything comes together, deer will move to water midmorning to midafternoon, as well as unbed to feed. Setting up in a forested area with the sun at your back where possible limits your shooting lanes, but that’s where the deer will be.

If approaching an open meadow, rather than just trek right through the middle, why not circle the edges inside the trees and stop to glass every 20 to 30 yards? The pattern here is obvious.

Going slow and having good optics are key, but patience is the largest key. When your camp holds three or four hunters, midmorning pushes will produce in blacktail country.

The shooters should be out of sight and the pushers with the sun at their backs should be slow and quiet. The
deer will know you’re coming well in advance of your movements and might not be running full tilt as they fly by your posted sitters.

It’s that time of year again for California hunters in search of a nice buck. Where to hunt is one of your ?rst factors to consider, so do your research and you might be rewarded with a freezer full of meat. (BILL ADELMAN)

It’s that time of year again for California hunters in search of a nice buck. Where to hunt is one of your first factors to consider, so do your research and you might be rewarded with a freezer full of meat. (BILL ADELMAN)

One last bit of advice: When you hear one of your hunters say, “deer down,” the entire hunt should terminate and full focus be placed on taking care of the animal.

Good luck this season. CS
Editor’s note: For season-opening dates, check out our Outdoor Calendar on page 33 and get more complete deer zone schedules at wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Deer.

New Spin On Classic Lure

Field Testing Shows Rooster Tail Minnow Catches Multiple Species
By Scott Haugen

I dropped my rod tip toward the river and stripped out some line. I watched as my spinner quickly sank, sunlight bouncing off its bright, chrome body. Then I pulled the rod from side to side, eager to see the action of the blade.

The first time the author used the new Rooster Tail Minnow, he landed and released over 30 smallmouth bass on it in less than two hours. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

The first time the author used the new Rooster Tail Minnow, he landed and released over 30 smallmouth bass on it in less than two hours. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

It took little speed to set the blade in motion, and soon an impressive swath of light reflected to the sides of the spinner. As I prepared to pull the spinner from the water and make my first cast with it, a smallmouth bass shot out from behind a rock and followed the lure. I kept the spinner in the water, now drawing figure eights with it, like I’d done before to entice pike and coho salmon to bite. Soon more smallmouth followed it – then one hit.

The spinner I was using for the first time was the new Rooster Tail Minnow. By day’s end, I’d catch and release over 50 smallmouth, most having fallen to the Rooster Tail. The biggest smallie of the day was caught on this spinner, and just like that, I was eager to try this presentation elsewhere.

A GENERATIONAL LURE
The original Rooster Tail was crafted in the late 1940s and has established itself as one of the best all-around fish-catching spinners ever. I’ve caught a lot of fish in a lot of places over the years on that lure, and so after a summer and fall of fishing the Rooster Tail Minnow, I was even more impressed with the new product.

On my first smallmouth fishing experience with this spinner, river conditions were crystal clear. The same was true during summer fishing trips for rainbow trout in rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds. During these clear-water fishing trips, I was impressed by the interest fish showed in the highly reflective spinner. What impressed me more was how long the fish would follow the spinner and then attack it.

The details of the molded body – combined with the large eye – make for a very realistic, enticing simulation of a baitfish. Most of the time, when fish follow a spinner for any great distance, they pull away; it’s not so with the Rooster Tail Minnow. After following the lure and studying its details, fish hit this spinner more often than others I fished, including the original Rooster Tail.
CAUGHT ON FILM
Underwater video camera work helped me study the reaction of fish when they see this lure.

With the Rooster Tail Minnow’s intricate body details, there’s no doubt it was specifically designed to fish best in clear water. But as summer conditions led to algae blooms and moss growth, I was eager to try the new spinner in murkier environments.

The very first cast I made into an algae-infested pond resulted in a fat crappie. The next two casts also produced fine-sized crappie. In the course of an hour, I’d land bluegill and largemouth bass on the chartreuse-colored Rooster Tail Minnow.

As fall river conditions shifted from clear to turbid, I hit the water in search of rainbows and the spinner produced. Perhaps the most impressive display of effectiveness came last November. I fished a small lake that was shallow and muddy due to recent rains. In 18 inches of visibility, I hooked and landed a limit of five trout while standing on the bank – three on the silver/red Rooster Tail minnow, and two on the chartreuse one.

Even with the low visibility, the dime-bright body and spinner blade cast a halo of light that caught the attention of fish. Not only did this light-casting property impress me, the number of species that hit the lure did, too.
NEW LURE, NEW FISH

Even in turbid, dark waters, the author was impressed with how rainbow trout struck the new spinner in both river and lake settings. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

Even in turbid, dark waters, the author was impressed with how rainbow trout struck the new spinner in both river and lake settings. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

Having been an avid angler for 45 years, it never ceases to amaze me, the new innovations continually created to catch fish. The Rooster Tail Minnow is a fine example of ingenuity. I’m excited about this new lure, not only for my future fishing adventures but to see how it performs for fellow anglers around the country on multiple species.

As is the case with all fishing, when it comes to trying something new, give it a chance. Take your favorite standby lures but give the new stuff a chance to work before resorting to what you have confidence in. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the importance of trying new gear and thinking outside the box is key to becoming a better angler. CS
Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, 300 Tips To More Salmon & Steelhead, send a check for $29.95 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or visit scotthaugen.com.