Open Zone Tag, Too Much of a Good Thing?

California has some great hunts. They are great for several reasons. First of all they have some giant bucks. But, they also have very limited hunting pressure. Where are these places? They are everywhere, but they have very limited access.

In each of these units, wide antlered 4×4 mule deer bucks are killed each season.

That’s a big part of why they are so good. There are basically four ways to get an opportunity to participate in these hunts. Perseverance is one. If you are able to spend a lifetime waiting and applying, you may get drawn for one of these great hunts.


This is my largest mule deer buck from California, taken with bow and arrow in zone X12.

Or, if you are willing to purchase lottery tickets for a drawing for one of these tags, you may be successful.

If you become a California Hunter Safety instructor, you will get an opportunity to draw for one of these tags within that group of volunteers.

Or, if you are willing to pay a significant sum of money at auction, you may be able to purchase one of the tags that will allow you to participate in one of these hunts.

IMG_1470 Rich and buck

I’ve never killed a truly large buck. But, the Bob Marshall buck pictured above is one that I’m proud of. It would be quite exciting to bag a large California buck.

I personally participated in two of the above-described methods for obtaining an Open Zone Tag, but after doing so for many years, I finally grew impatient and decided that there was very little chance that I might obtain a tag in that manner and therefore I concluded that purchase of a tag at auction was my only option – the other option would be to grow old regretting.

Now, an Open Zone Deer Tag is in my possession. But what next? There are about a dozen hunts that are very exclusive and attractive that I can participate in as long as I haven’t filled the tag.

One advantage I have is that I am willing and able to hunt with several types of deer-hunting equipment. Archery has been my number one choice for hunting over the years. More recently, I’ve begun to hunt with a muzzle loading rifle and a high powered rifle.

These later options are very productive, however, hunting with archery equipment is still a viable option as some of the archery seasons are very limited and provide for a significant success rate.

Although I haven’t finalized my plans, I do plan to hunt a couple of the most productive archery units during August. Two of them may well be X5b and X2. X5b is located in eastern Lassen County and X2 is located between Alturas and the Oregon border.

It will be tempting to spend a few days in some of my old haunts where I haven’t been able to draw a tag for years.

There are several muzzle loading hunts that have high success on big bucks. Among them are the Doyle Muzzle loading hunt in zone X6 and the Devil’s Garden Muzzle Loading hunt in X2.

As for rifle hunting, the Anderson Flat Hunt, the Round Valley Hunt and the Goodale Rifle Hunt are exceptional. The good news is that they are all options. The bad news is that I can’t be everywhere at once.









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