Deer Hunting in San Diego County
If you are looking to bow hunt deer this year in San Diego there are a few things that you should know before you head out into the woods. With this year’s archery season already under way if you haven’t purchased your A22 tag yet, your going to be limited to hunting for a buck only as the A22 premium deer tag is sold out. The tag you will want to purchase now is the AO, Archery Only tag, which will allow you to hunt the archery season and general season dates.
Archery season for zone D16 opened on the first Saturday in September (9/3/2016) and extended for 23 consecutive days (9/26/2016). D16 general season opened on the fourth Saturday in October (10/22/2016) and extends for 30 consecutive days (11/20/2016). The AO tag will allow you to harvest one buck forked horn or better. So, if you only have your AO tag you only have 3 days left to hunt deer in zone D16! Otherwise with an A22 tag you can hunt all the way until December 31st.
The CA Department of Fish and Wildlife states that a legal buck must have at least one fork in the upper two thirds of the antler. The general rule of thumb for determining if the fork is large enough is if you could hang a ring on the bifurcation. If the buck has a spike on one side and a fork on the other, it is still legal to shoot.
While bowhunting Mule deer in Southern California can be a challenge, it is certainly not without beauty and rewards. Zone D16 spans an incredibly diverse array of terrain from alpine forest and meadows at 6,000 ft which drop dramatically into the rocky desert floor, to river canyons, lakes, and thick sagebrush lowlands. There are plenty of people that get their deer every year on public land in D16, but you better believe that they work hard for it and spend time scouting in the off season. You are allowed to hunt for deer (during legal hunting seasons and daylight hours) in any national forest, or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Be sure to know the boundaries of where you are hunting! ON X Maps is a great application which tells you exactly where public and private land boundaries are which can give you the edge to hunting those difficult to find honey holes. Right now if you sign up for a family membership to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers ($35) you receive a free year subscription to ON X maps ($35 value).
Truly all you need is a properly set up bow and arrow equipped with a razor sharp broadhead and lots of practice to harvest a deer. However, there are a few items that will significantly increase your chances of harvesting a deer while keeping you safe at the same time. Here is a short list of what we consider to be the core essentials to bowhunting mule deer in San Diego: (Staff picks listed in Blue!)
- A well tuned bow (make sure you tune for broadheads!)
*Mathews Halon series or the Hoyt Defiant series
- Properly spined and weight-matched arrows
*Victory Elite Series
- Razor Sharp Broadheads
*Grim Reaper broadheads
*Styrka S9 10×40
- Range Finder
*Nikon Arrow ID
- Camouflage (you need layers and not cotton. 40 degree temp swings are common in San Diego)
*Sitka Open Country system
- GPS or Topo map
*ON X Hunt Maps
- Sharp knife set for skinning/boning etc.
- Scent Control
*Dead Down Wind
- Game bags
*Koola Buck Antimicrobial bags
- Day pack
*Badlands Superday Pack or Sitka Flash 20
- First Aid/Survival kit
- PRACTICE (with good form)! PATIENCE (99.9% of hunting is not shooting)! PERSEVERANCE!
A Glendel Buck target is a great way to practice where to aim for the vitals on a deer. It also has a removable core that can be shot with broadheads and has four different sides to choose depending on the shot angle (ie quartering away, treestand, broadside etc.)
If you’re looking for a great portable target to shoot on the road or at home, Morrell makes a great line of bag targets for field points only. 365 Archery also offers a great portable target with a six-sided removable core which can be shot with broadheads and field points.
Remember, bow hunting is an incredibly challenging pursuit which requires immense practice, commitment, and self control. Make sure that your equipment is properly tuned to shoot broadheads and that you only shoot at animals within your effective range. As bowhunters we must be ethical stewards of the environment and the wildlife we pursue!