Deer Hunting in California
DEER TAGS AND GENERAL INFORMATION
In addition to a valid California hunting license, deer tags are also required and must be in possession when taking deer. Hunters may obtain two deer tags per license year. Applicants for deer tags must be at least 12 years of age on or before July 1, of the license year for which they are applying or at the time of application if they are applying after July 1. A First-Deer Tag Drawing Application or First-Deer Tag must be purchased before or at the same time as a Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application (Junior Hunters only) or Second-Deer Tag.
License and Tag Privileges Can Be Revoked
It is illegal to purchase more than one First-Deer Tag Drawing Application/First-Deer Tag and one Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application/Second-Deer Tag in the same license year. Persons convicted of a deer violation during the 2016/2017 license year may not apply for deer tags in 2017/2018.
The Fish and Game Code provides that the Fish and Game Commission shall revoke the hunting privileges of any person who is convicted of three violations of the state’s hunting laws or regulations within any five-year period. (FGC 12155, CCR T-14 745.5).
DEER TAG INFORMATION
Applicants may purchase deer tags or apply in the annual Big Game Drawing at any CDFW license sales office, license agent, online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales or by telephone sales at (800) 565-1458. Allow 15 days to receive license items purchased online or by telephone.
Premium deer tags are issued by drawing. Restricted and unrestricted deer tags are issued upon request until the tag quota for the hunt is filled.
HUNT TAG DESCRIPTIONS
A, B, and D Zone Hunt Tags
These tags allow hunting during the archery season with archery equipment only and during the general season with a muzzleloading or centerfire rifle, shotgun, authorized pistol or revolver, crossbow, or bow. Tags are valid for a specific zone of issuance except:
- A zone tag is valid in both A North and A South;
- B Zone Deer Tags are valid in any B zone;
- D3-5 Deer Tags are valid in zones D3, D4, and D5; and
- D11, D13, or D15 tags may be used in any of these three zones.
C Zone Hunt Tag
A C zone tag is valid in zones C1, C2, C3, and C4 during the general season only, using a muzzleloading or centerfire rifle, shotgun, authorized pistol or revolver, crossbow, or bow. To hunt with archery equipment only during the archery season in any C zone you must apply in the Big Game Drawing for an A1 Area-Specific Archery Hunt tag.
X Zone Hunt Tags
These tags allow hunting during the general season only, in a specific zone using a muzzleloading or centerfire rifle, shotgun, authorized pistol or revolver, crossbow, or bow.
Archery-Only (AO) Hunt Tag
The AO (Archery-Only) tag allows hunting with archery equipment only during the archery and general seasons in A, B, or D zones and Hunt G10 (military only). To hunt during an X zone archery season, you must have an Area-Specific Archery Hunt tag for the appropriate zone. You may not possess a firearm or crossbow when hunting under the authority of an Archery-Only deer tag except as otherwise provided.
Apprentice Hunt Tags
Applicants must be less than 18 years of age as of July 1, of the license year for which they are applying, and must possess a valid 2017/2018 California Junior Hunting License. See page 33 for more information on Apprentice Deer Hunts. Junior hunters receiving Apprentice Deer Hunt tags must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older while hunting.
Area-Specific Archery Hunt Tags
These tags allow archery hunting in designated areas throughout the state, including X zones.
Military Lands Hunts
G8, J10 and A33 (Additional Hunt Deer Tags), are held on military installations and offer limited number of tags for the public. Tags are issued through the CDFW’s Big Game Drawing.
Additional Military Lands Hunts, G7 (Beale Air Force Base Either-Sex Hunt), G10 (Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Base Either Sex Hunt), and G11 (Vandenberg Air Force Base Either-Sex Hunt) are for military personnel only. Military personnel must contact the base directly for information on application procedures. Hunters interested in the G7 hunt tag may contact the Beale AFB Natural Resources Office at (530) 634-2645. For information on the G10 hunt tag contact the Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Base at (760) 725-3360 and for the G11 hunt tag, contact the Vandenberg Conservation Law Enforcement Office at (805) 606-6804.
Deer Tag Exchanges
Premium deer tags cannot be exchanged. Non-Premium deer tags may be exchanged if all of the following conditions are met:
- The earliest season (either archery or general) for the tag being exchanged has not yet opened;
- The tag quota for the tag being exchanged has not filled;
- Tags are still available for the zone being requested; and
- The exchange fee of $10.04 for the exchange tag accompanies your request.
Deer tag exchanges are only processed at CDFW license sales offices (CCR T14-708.4).
Deer Tag Refunds
Deer tag fees are nonrefundable. Deer Tag Drawing Application fees are nonrefundable once the deer tag application has been entered into the Big Game Drawing or a deer tag has been issued regardless of closures of any zone or hunt due to fire, weather or other natural disasters. (CCR T14-708.2)
Female deer, fawns of either sex other than spotted fawns, and male deer with an unbranched antler on one or both sides which is not more than three inches in length (CCR T14-351(b)).
Antlerless deer, or legal bucks that have two or more points in the upper two-thirds of either antler (CCR T14-351(c)).
A male deer having a branched antler on either side with the branch in the upper two-thirds of the antler. Eyeguards or other bony projections on the lower one-third of the antler shall not be considered as points or branches (CCR T14-351(a)).
Spike Buck Deer
A male deer with unbranched antlers on both sides which are more than 3 inches in length (FGC 204(d)).
DEER TAG CLASSIFICATIONS
Deer tags are issued for a specific hunt. Each hunt has a tag quota — the total number of tags that can be issued. Deer hunts are categorized into three different classifications (premium, restricted and unrestricted) based on the prior year’s demand for the tag. Hunt classification determines tag issuance method and other rules as follows:
Premium Deer Hunts are any hunt where the quota filled on or before the first business day after July 1, of the previous year. Hunters may only obtain one premium hunt tag per license year. To apply for a premium deer hunt tag, hunters must apply in the Big Game Drawing using a First-Deer Tag Drawing Application. Except junior hunters who may also apply for premium Apprentice Hunts using a Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application.
Premium Deer Tags for 2017 are:
- General Zone Hunts: C, D6, D9, D12, and D17;
- X Zone Hunts: X1, X2, X3A, X3B, X4, X5A, X5B, X6A, X6B, X7A, X7B, X8, X9A, X9B, X9C, X10 and X12;
- General Method Hunts: G1, G3, G6, G8, G12, G13, G19, G21, G37, G38 and G39;
- Muzzleloader Hunts: M3, M4, M5, M6, M7, M8, M9, M11, MA1 and MA3;
- Area-Specific Archery Hunts: A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, A11, A12, A13, A14, A15, A16, A17, A20, A21, A24, A25, A26, A27, A30, A31 and A33;
- Apprentice Hunts: J1, J3, J4, J8, J9, J10, J11, J12, J13, J14, J15, J16, J17, J18, J19, J20 and J21.
Restricted Deer Hunts are any hunt that filled on or before the first business day after August 1 of the previous year. Restricted deer hunt tags may be issued upon the purchase of a First-Deer Tag. Second-Deer Tag applicants may also obtain a restricted deer hunt tag at any time, if you do not have a pending drawing application, have not been issued a premium deer hunt tag or restricted deer hunt tag as a First-Deer Tag. Restricted tags are issued upon request until the tag quota for the hunt is filled.
Restricted Deer Tags for 2017 are:
- Area-Specific Archery Hunt: A22.
- General Hunt Zones: D16.
Unrestricted Deer Hunts are any hunt that did not fill on or before the first business day after August 1, in the previous year. Unrestricted deer hunt tags are issued upon the purchase of either a First-Deer Tag or Second-Deer Tag.
Unrestricted Deer Tags for 2017 are:
- Archery Only Hunt: AO
- General Hunt Zones: A, B, D3-5, D7, D8, D10, D11, D13, D14, D15 and D19;
- Area-Specific Archery Hunts: A18, A19 (in 2016, A18 and A19 were restricted tags) and A32.
FIRST DEER TAG DRAWING APPLICATION
A First-Deer Tag Drawing Application may only be used to apply for the following hunts:
- First Choice — Premium Deer Hunts or PD (Point Deer) — The preference point code may be used as the first choice to obtain a preference point without competing in the first choice round of the drawing.
- Second and Third Choice — Second and third hunt choices are optional and may be a premium deer, restricted deer or unrestricted deer hunt tag.
SECOND DEER TAG DRAWING APPLICATION
A Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application may only be used by junior hunters to apply for Apprentice Hunts, and only if they have not applied for Apprentice Deer Hunts on their First-Deer Tag Drawing Application.
Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application hunt choices are limited as follows:
- First Choice — Must be an Apprentice Deer Hunt or PD (Point Deer) — The preference point code may be used as the first choice to obtain a preference point without competing in the first choice round of the drawing.
- Second and Third Choice — Second and third choice hunts are optional and may be another Apprentice Deer Hunt or unrestricted deer hunt tag. Junior hunters may select a restricted deer hunt as their second or third tag choice only if they were issued an unrestricted deer tag as their First-Deer Tag or not pending a First-Deer Tag Drawing Application.
FIRST DEER TAG
A First-Deer Tag may be used to obtain the following:
- Restricted Deer Hunt Tags
- Unrestricted Deer Hunt Tags
- Leftover Premium Deer Hunt Tags issued on July 2, 2017 (July 2nd, is a Sunday, CDFW License Sales offices will be closed)
If any premium deer hunt tags remain after the Big Game Drawing, First-Deer Tag applicants may apply for any leftover premium deer hunt tags starting at 8:00 a.m. on July 2, 2017. In 2016, D9 was left over from the drawing.
SECOND DEER TAG
A Second-Deer Tag may be used to obtain the following:
- Unrestricted Deer Hunt Tags
- Restricted Deer Hunt Tags
- Leftover Premium Deer Hunt Tags issued on August 2, 2017.
Second-Deer Tag applicants may obtain any restricted deer hunt tag at any time if they do not have a pending First-Deer Tag Drawing Application or have not been issued a premium or restricted deer tag as a First-Deer Tag.
Starting at 8:00 am on August 2, 2017 all Second-Deer Tag applicants may apply for any remaining deer tag regardless if you have been issued a premium or restricted deer tag already.