Having hunted the M9 hunt twice, I have a general feel for this hunt. I’ve not killed a buck on the M9 trips, but I’ve seen and photographed a bunch of deer. Maybe I should have shot at one or two of them, but I chose not to.
Here’s an update for 2019. Looks like the weather is going to be warm and clear during at least the first half of the season, which closes on November 10. It appears to me that the deer leave the northeastern portion of the X2 zone about this time of the year. However, it is unclear to me if the larger bucks wait and migrate as the heavier winter storms hit.
I’ve not found the largest X2 bucks in the areas with the most does on my two hunts. I know there are larger bucks because I’ve seen them during summer trips to the area northeast of Crowder Flat.
During the 2017 early archery season, I saw numerous bucks larger that I’ve found during the M9 hunt. And, the general rifle hunt pressures those big bucks so they stick to heavy cover.
Therefore, I’d suggest that a trophy hunter (I mean looking for something like a 26+ inch buck with all the goodies), should hunt the area inside the M9 boundary just west of Crowder Flat to intercept the largest bucks if and when they move. That’s just a suggestion and I wouldn’t spend my entire hunt working that angle.
This 2016 M3 buck is by far my biggest California buck. I’d call a buck like him a genuine shooter buck. But, some people would pass him up. He’s 28 inches wide and 18 inches tall.
If you’re willing to go home empty handed because you didn’t find that trophy, I’d not hunt where the does are because that’s where most of the hunters will be. There’s plenty of habitat in the northern half of the M9 zone where the big bucks can stay safe and if you hunt them you won’t be seeing a lot of deer, but you may find a loner buck that fulfills your dream.
If you’re not a trophy hunter or you’ve never killed a 4×4 mule deer, but you’d like to be successful on a nice buck (something like a 20-22 inch 4×4), I’d hunt the area with the most does. That would be the southern end of the M9 zone in timbered areas between Mowitz Road and Deer Hill. And, that doesn’t mean you can’t kill a monster in that area.
That southern area is where I’ve seen the largest concentration of deer, including many medium sized bucks. Here are some of them:
This was the best buck I saw during the M9 hunt in 2018, but not good enough. I figured he was close, but the decision wasn’t hard. He came by on the next to last day of the hunt, following a doe. Keep in mind that I had an Open Zone tag so I could continue to hunt after the M9 hunt was over. If I’d had only an M9 tag, he would have been a shooter.
This guy was competing with other similar bucks (M9).
This 4×4 crossed the road in front of me. I’d say he’s a little over 20 inches wide.
Probably a shooter if he’d been on the other side of Mowitz Road.
Just my opinion, but it is based upon experience