California public land hunting...


New member
Dec 23, 2014
North Idaho
...I was looking at a map of Montana today, and was surprised how little public land there is. Not that 25 millions acres isn't a lot, but given the size of the state, and its reputation for hunting, for some reason I was expecting more.

This got me to wondering how public lands are distributed by state. I was kind of surprised that California ranks 3rd in the contiguous US, with 20.8 million acres of National Forest (second only to Alaska), and 15.2 million acres of BLM (5th in the contiguous US). California also has 14 million acres of designated Wilderness (over 10 million more than Idaho which is the next below California with 4M).

Given that much of California has a mild climate, and with so much public land, one would thing that California must have some very healthy game populations and that the hunting must certainly be good? Why is it that you never here anything about it? They have sheep and goats, elk and deer, even moose. I'm guessing they must have good waterfowl and some upland game birds as well?

What's the story? I see hunters with California license plates here all the time, but I never hear of any one going to hunt in California, putting in for drawings there, etc.? Seems like it should have all the makings to be a hunting destination?


Well-known member
Apr 6, 2013
Sage Brush to Corn Fields
Everything other than blacktails and hogs are on a very limited basis. Even elk is pretty much a once in a lifetime thing. The better muley units like X5A/X5B and X3A/X3B can take 10+ points to draw and do not even come close to the quality of mule deer hunts I can get every other year in Colorado. Most of the hogs are on private land, and the rifle seasons for blacktails start in July and end well before the rut. You can get 2 B zone tags for rifle blacktails over the counter, but much of California's coastal deer country is hot, dry, and full of rattlesnakes, poison oak, bees, and ticks during the rifle season. The only big game opportunity I ever enjoyed in the 9 years I live there was our annual trip to the Trinities for deer. We packed in 9 miles and 3000 feet up, the weather was cooler up there, and a few times we even got snow. It was a ton of work for small deer, but the country was beautiful and we always got into them.

I ultimately left because we were starting a family and I wanted better access to quality big game opportunities, elk mainly. There is a healthy population of deer in CA, but the country and timing of the seasons can make them difficult to harvest.

On a side note, CA has excellent fishing and waterfowl hunting.
Oct 7, 2014
I think things you have to factor would be population (hunting or otherwise) vs public land acreage and some sort of multiplier for productivity of the land in forage per acre to get a better idea of whats going on.