As a resident hunter or nonresident hunter, you’ll find yourself chasing some of the best game in the world. California is sure to take one of your top spots as a world-class hunting stage. With its natural beauty and sizeable game populations, the state holds endless opportunities for hunters of all stripes.
California has taken drastic steps to preserve these natural wonders such as Yosemite, the Redwood Forest, and much more.
Part of this preservation is the strict restrictions on elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and premium deer hunts.
With such heavy restrictions, how can you grab your gear and pursue the most amazing game?
From each little rabbit to large bear and elk, strict regulations are placed on when, where, and how we can hunt, and specific bag limits for the day or season.
Changes from year to year at first glance appear to be a hassle.
But why do we do it?
As hunters, we are part of a big game of population control.
In the early days of the U.S., predators and the natural food chains kept nature populations healthy. If small game began growing in population, predators would reduce the populations. If predatory populations grew out of control, they would overeat prey leading to a lack of food sources, therefore reducing population.
This equilibrium constantly played back and forth.
As man settled throughout the U.S., we decided predators were too risky for humans and began hunting them off rapidly. With a lack of predators, other game populations skyrocket.
With game populations rising, natural feeds run short, crops and gardens become destroyed, and overpopulation causes a heightened risk for starvation and diseases. It’s calculated that humans have destroyed or affected more than 97% of the world's ecosystems, putting wildlife in competition for food and territory.
This issue worsened further with the invention and widespread use of cars because increased populations pushed herds towards populated areas and roadways. This caused an increase in road accidents.
As hunters, we fill in for the absent predators to reduce populations and maintain a healthy balance between humans and nature. Every year, game numbers are closely monitored to determine the upcoming season’s bag limits.
It’s time to get your gear together and prepare for the season.
It’s important to plan your hunting season way ahead of time. This can’t be stressed enough. This will allow you the time you need to purchase your license, stamps, and tags you need.
From waterfowl to eastern whitetail deer, in some regions, populations continue to outweigh hunter demand.
When game populations remain high, the Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife will present and allow more tags per season.
Some game tags are available over the counter or sold at your local hunting supplies and fishing stores, where hunting licenses are available.
Over-the-counter tags usually have a set price.
Stamps are common for waterfowl and play a major role in conservation. Ninety-eight percent of waterfowl stamps sold each year are used by the National Wildlife Refuge Services to preserve and protect waterfowl throughout the U.S. The wildlife stamps are required for all hunters pursuing duck and geese but can be purchased by anyone.
Anyone who purchases a waterfowl stamp will have access to all National Wildlife Refuges for the year, allowing you to see some of the country’s most beautiful, preserved nature.
On Sight Drawings
Public state and national lands, such as national parks, are some of the most well-preserved nature across the country. Each year, some of these public lands open for hunting.
Onsight drawings can be an enjoyable, fun evening that could get you chosen for grand hunts.
How do they work?
Show up early to a day's draw. Each draw is usually limited, giving you limited chances to win. You will need to show your ID or hunting license to be eligible for most hunt drawings, paying a small fee.
These drawings are great for keeping participation numbers down and keeping your chances higher.
Why spend your days driving from drawing to drawing when you have access at your fingertips?
Online drawings have grown in popularity in recent years, making them a great option for hunters of all experience levels. With such a simple platform, it comes with little surprise that these drawings are packed full.
You no longer need to travel to a drawing. Instead, you can enter a drawing online for the north region of the state and the south region of the state, depending on where you want to go.
California Big Game Drawings
Major National and State land preservations have protected some of the most amazing lands in the United States.
These protected lands have created some of the largest, most unique trophy games along the West Coast.
But when buying into California’s various auctions, it’s important to read the fine print. Some drawings are for land only, while others are all-inclusive.
Over-the-Counter in California
Like most states, the Division of Wildlife regulates population and wildlife standards through strict hunting regulations. A hunter can purchase big game tags over the counter when purchasing your hunting license.
Once you have your game tags, you have to search and fight for huntable land.
Competing for public hunting lands can be stressful, and a simple wandering hunter or passerby could be enough to ruin your big game hunt.
Land drawings winners receive access for a certain period of time to hunt on a piece of land.
In some cases, this could be just one day where you can enter the land before early sunset, while others give the hunter a piece of land for an extended period of time, giving the hunter a chance to track, understand, and hunt for the trophy game.
Before buying your chance at a land drawing, it’s important to research and understand the hunt.
The cost of the drawing may be just the beginning. Some drawings require a small buy-in to be part of the drawing, and upon winning, a large sum of cash is required to accept the hunt. Other drawings only require an initial payment. It’s important you understand what you’re paying for.
While some hunts require applications and a range of possibilities to win, lottery-style game drawings give each hunter the same opportunity to wind. These simple to sign up, drawn raffles are a great way to potentially win your way onto great hunting land.
Lotteries are usually either mail-in or online applications.
Do you prefer to hunt in a group? With your friends? With your family?
California group hunts allow you to go out on large group hunts. During the drawings, the group's points are accumulated and averaged. As a hunter, you’re only able to apply for a drawing once.
While most drawings allow you to gain the right to hunt certain lands, all-inclusive hunts provide you with everything you need.
Depending on this hunt, you may be supplied with lodging, food, transportation, and so much more. It’s important to read and understand your potential hunt.
Trophy Hunt Drawings
While standard game drawings are fun, California’s trophy drawings give you a chance at some of the biggest deer, elk, and pronghorn in the nation.
The likelihood of being drawn for these amazing hunts is slim to none, with tens of thousands of applicants per year for just a few spots.
With such low odds, how can you get drawn?
Each year you apply for but aren’t drawn for the big game trophy hunts, you receive “points” towards future raffles. These points increase your probability of being drawn in the years to come.
It can take a hunter years of applying for big game hunts before being accepted, every year nearing closer to your possibilities of being drawn.
First, a drawing will be made with a focus on the points system. This puts the previous hunter at the top of the list, giving them the best chance possible.
Next, the high points hunters are mixed with the standard hunter. The points still withhold preference.
Finally, all hunters are placed into a random drawing where no one holds an advantage.
Get Drawn, Get Going
Drawings and lotteries give you the opportunity to hunt on new land and chase new game you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
The drawings may take time, but the hunts are usually deemed some of the world’s most spectacular and rewarding.
With recent years and the population of hunters skyrocketing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that drawing and hunting seasons are struggling to keep up with the changes to game populations and hunting habits.
Drawings similar to these California drawings are common throughout the US, from marshlands to deer hunts. This can be the best opportunity for new game.