When I found out I was high bidder on a 2016 Open Zone deer tag, I was ecstatic.
All the places I’d been hoping to hunt were now available to me. But, the tag is only good for one buck. One needs a plan when there are so many opportunities.
I was familiar with a few of the best special hunts, but places like Devil’s Garden, X5B, X5A, Goodale Buck hunt and Round Valley were mysteries. There was no money left to pay guides as I’d already spent my budget.
One attractive aspect of these hunts is that they all take place 100% on public lands and access is excellent.
There is a treasure trove of information available from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. I began to carefully dissect the Big Game Booklet from past seasons. I needed to figure out where to spend my now precious time. There were plenty of special hunts, but most of them took place in November and December. I could only be in one place at a time.
I decided to rate the top ten hunting opportunities (for me) and evaluate them closely. I compared success rate, convenience, percentage of trophy buck and season dates, among other things. Emphasis was placed on the percentage of four point or greater bucks taken in previous years. Since I’m comfortable hunting with archery, rifle or muzzleloader, method of take was irrelevant. Here’s what I concluded.
How I originally ranked the hunts from top to bottom.
1. G-37 Anderson Flat Buck Hunt (D6)
2. G-39 Round Valley Late Season Buck Hunt (X9A)
3. M-9 Devil’s Garden Muzzleloading Rifle Buck Hunt.
4. M5 Eastern Lassen Muzzleloading Buck Hunt (X5B)
5. G3 Goodale Buck Hunt (x9B)
6. M3 Doyle Muzzleloading Rifle Buck Hunt. (X6B)
7. M4 Horse Lake Muzzleloading Rifle Buck Hunt (X5A).
8. M8 Bass Hill Muzzleloading Rifle Buck Hunt (x6A)
9. M-11 Northwestern California Muzzleloading Rifle Buck Hunt.
10. A-26 Bass Hill Archery Buck Hunt
This was my original line up. From the point that I formed this list onward, these hunts were my focus. However a few of these hunts had more to offer than I initially realized.
The priority of hunts would change over time as I became more familiar with the hunting locations and gathered information from many sources. I’d only hunted one of the places listed – Anderson Flat.
I hunted Anderson Flat when I drew a special hunt archery tag, without success, during the 1990’s. I still had a few of the maps from that hunt and I knew a little about the area. What made Anderson Flat so attractive was that it is close enough to home that I could do a day hunt or overnight if I wanted to.
And, Anderson Flat had several seasons. I could hunt that area during archery, rifle, special archery and special rifle seasons. If I hunted nowhere else, I could hunt from August to December.