Texas boy needs some help-Cali A zone blacktails

LIWolverine

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Hi all. I’m going to Avila Beach, Cali in mid August 2018 and I plan to take my rifle or bow with me to try my hand at Blacktails. I will be going almost every other year for the foreseeable future to visit in laws so I plan on getting around some and figuring this out so I can hunt some while I’m there. Wife already knows I’ll be in the hills when we go lol. Being from SE Texas I have no idea how to hunt blacktails. I’ve read almost every Cali post I can find here and elsewhere. I can’t seem to find much info about the area I’ll be going- Los Padre/Santa Lucia Wilderness. Most of what I read about is up north. This trip will, more than anything, be a scouting mission for the following years to come but if I see a deer I want to be ready.

Would a body get up high to glass or find trails between hills? Find water and watch it as long as I can? Would I hunt them most the same way as whitetails? Find funnels, thick brushy areas, etc. I may take a camera or two with me and set them out the first day and leave them until we leave. I don’t want anyone to give away spots. Just would like some direction. I do not expect or want to hunt from the road. I would like to get off in it for a few hours in the mornings or evenings while we are there. I really appreciate any info y’all can give me. I can’t wait to see what all I learn out there this coming year and hope to have some success in the coming years.


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ReddingArcher

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I dont have any experience with that area down there but do hunt blacktails up in the b zones every year. The best advice I can give you is be glassing as the sun comes up watching brushy areas where bucks like to bed and be watching those same areas in the last few minutes of light too. Afternoons can be a good time too when bucks may be going to water. It may be a little cooler there being closer to the ocean than I hunt so that may be helpful, temps are regularly 100+ up here where I hunt. I'm not positive on the area down there but you may have to use lead free ammo in that area.
 
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LIWolverine

LIWolverine

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I dont have any experience with that area down there but do hunt blacktails up in the b zones every year. The best advice I can give you is be glassing as the sun comes up watching brushy areas where bucks like to bed and be watching those same areas in the last few minutes of light too. Afternoons can be a good time too when bucks may be going to water. It may be a little cooler there being closer to the ocean than I hunt so that may be helpful, temps are regularly 100+ up here where I hunt. I'm not positive on the area down there but you may have to use lead free ammo in that area.
Thank you for all of that info. The lead ban is definitely something I’ve never dealt with so I’ll have to figure that part out. Last time we were there in July it was highs in the 80’s so VERY pleasant compared to here in TX that time of year.


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Jd259

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Hey man I live about 20 minutes from Avila and hunt this country hard every year and it is hands down the toughest huntin you’ll probably ever do. There’s not a lot of public land and what is public is mostly 6-8’ brush there’s not a lot of deer more lions than anything but they are out there and you can kill them I usually seem to make it happen some how or another my best advice is study onX maps and find the public ground that looks good and hunt near the edges of the private/public and get ready for he heat our rifle season starts the second week in August and if your not in the coast it’s gunna be 100+ every day more than likely. Don’t know exactly when your comin but the best time to hunt them here is the last week of season usually the last week in September cuz the weather usually cools down and the rut is just starting to kick off if we’re lucky shoot me a pm if ya want some more specific info or have some spots in mind.
 
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You will have to drive at least an hour to get to any decent spots and it's always way hotter the further you get from the beach. Nice thing is you will be driving away from the swarms of people headed to the ocean to cool off.

Coming from a guy who taught himself to hunt in this area I would suggest taking up surfing. Or spend all the fuel money you will burn through on some ocean fishing trips.
Public land A Zone is absolute hell !
But when you finally do fill a tag it is truly rewarding. The small forks most of these bucks have do not showcase the trophy they truly are.
 

choovhntr

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I hunt A-zone blacktails every year during both archery and rifle seasons. I'm further north than where you are headed but pretty similar terrain. My favorite part of the season is first two weeks of archery and the last week of rifle. The bucks here pretty much go nocturnal once they shed their velvet and the bachelor groups break up (usually around the first week of August). They will return later in season when the rut starts. Peak of the rut is usually a week or two after season, but you will see some activity the last week. As others have stated, It is HOT during that time of year so be prepared. These bucks love the thick brush and will stay in it most of the day. A lot of guys do pushes through the stuff in order to get them up and out of it while having shooters positioned on ridges. The further inland you go, typically the less brush you will find and more rolling country with oaks. Later in the season, the acorns drop and the deer will be feeding on them. Glass the edges of canyons under the oak trees at prime hours. If you happen to be hunting while a weather front comes in (rain, not fog), HUNT IT! It usually only happens one or two days during the season, but it is probably the best time to see deer and they will be moving around all day during one of these episodes. Hope this info is useful and good luck with the hunt. Feel free to PM me if you have any other questions.
 
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I've been trying to teach myself to hunt in this area and its been tough. I can only say learn to identify poison oak and check yourself for ticks.
 

eLightfoot

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a lot of people don't like to hear this, but If you are hunting ca public land, you should be prepared to shoot both longer range and shoot running deer. Early morning glassing of prime spots will turn up deer but they will soon disappear into brush or go over a ridge. If you bushwhack during the day through those prime spots chances are you are going to jump a buck, and if you get an opportunity its gona be a second or two.
 
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LIWolverine

LIWolverine

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I've been trying to teach myself to hunt in this area and its been tough. I can only say learn to identify poison oak and check yourself for ticks.
a lot of people don't like to hear this, but If you are hunting ca public land, you should be prepared to shoot both longer range and shoot running deer. Early morning glassing of prime spots will turn up deer but they will soon disappear into brush or go over a ridge. If you bushwhack during the day through those prime spots chances are you are going to jump a buck, and if you get an opportunity its gona be a second or two.
Thanks guys. I’ll do all of that. Not sure now if I’ll have time but I’m definitely taking my stuff to see if I can turn a deer up.


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Azone

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I know this is an old thread but I am curious as to how your experience played out. It really can be draining at times trying to find a decent buck on public ground out here let alone trying to get it on the ground. Great advice given already and I would not be too picky on size out here. To most guys out here on public land a 20 inch wide or better forked horn is the buck of their lifetime. Every now and then someone kills a absolute giant (for A zone public land standards) that may go 22 to 24 wide and have 3 or 4 points on each side, but seeing those let alone killing one that big are about like hitting the lotto. Deer numbers are in the dumps right now out here and I dont ever recall seeing as many coyotes and so much lion tracks and lion kills. To top it off black bear numbers are on the rebound also. The drought we are coming out of was horrible and had an extreme impact on everything out here. 2 to 3 out of every 10 does I saw this year had a fawn where as 7 to 8 years ago that number would have been over double that. It's gonna be really tough for the next few years in my opinion, but if you put in the effort anything is possible. If you want area specific info for future hunts shoot me a PM.
 

Kado

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Azone, did I pick a bad time to learn how to hunt? I’m getting my hunter safety course done soon and was talking to a family friend about hunting deer here (Ventura County area A zone). He said I picked the wrong state to hunt in. This guy had killed MANY bucks in this area and is basically a hunting legend.
From what I’ve read in this thread, it seems I may be even further handicapped than I thought (as far as knowing anything about hunting). Are there any blacktail books you’d recommend I read?
 
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I’ve never seen a book about hunting in Ca but
Blacktail Trophy Tactics II by Boyd Iverson, Paperback | Barnes & Noble(R)
Is worth a read. He reminded me of things I’d learned but needs to relearn and he’s got a lot of good pointers.

I can’t speak for so cal but, the best solutions to tight nasty brush country that we’ve come up with is mans best friend. If you’ve got a dog that’s reasonably obedient and has just about any kind of prey drive it start working with it. Or if you like dogs but don’t have one...
 

Kado

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That is very interesting about the dogs. Thank you for the book teccommendation. I know SoCal blacktails are not exactly like black tails from up north, but I think that book is definitely worth a read. As I said before, I literally have zero knowledge, so I’m trying to build a foundation
 

kickemall

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I’ve never seen a book about hunting in Ca but
Blacktail Trophy Tactics II by Boyd Iverson, Paperback | Barnes & Noble(R)
Is worth a read. He reminded me of things I’d learned but needs to relearn and he’s got a lot of good pointers.

I can’t speak for so cal but, the best solutions to tight nasty brush country that we’ve come up with is mans best friend. If you’ve got a dog that’s reasonably obedient and has just about any kind of prey drive it start working with it. Or if you like dogs but don’t have one...

Spot on advice about dogs.
 
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The best thing about having to figure it out the hard way is you won’t have to weed through info/tips/tricks that don’t apply to your specific hunting conditions.
The dogs are fun and frustrating, it’s a lot easier to use the dogs if you hunt with other people. I spend a lot of time in the brush with the dogs but that’s where the action is and I’m the youngest in your group so dog boy I shall be. But ideally you want them to run through brush below you while you have shooters on ridges. You thought you were having fun looking for info on the deer of this state, try looking for training info for deer dogs.
 

Azone

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Kado,

There is never a wrong time to start hunting, but hunting on public ground out here is tough plain and simple. My advice would be if you have a private place to get in on dont pass it up, try to hook up with someone or some people that would be willing to show you the ropes for the first year or two then go and try your own hand after you have a better understanding of what works and what doesn't. If you go the public route find a area that you like and start spending as much time in there as you can, all year, not just two weeks before the season. If you want to learn an area you need to know what those deer are doing and when they are doing it. Late winter gives you a better chance of seeing bucks that normally would be nocturnal in August and September. Spending time in the spring watching bucks growing out there horns is the best way to judge an area for the upcoming season. One thing to remember though is bucks are where you find them, and by that I mean just because the country looks beautiful and you think there should be a 4x4 behind every tree it is not always the case. Nasty ass patches of brush and poison oak will be your friend, if you dont get poison oak too bad you would be surprised what you can kick up walking through that stuff. If you are not seeing fresh sign move on to another area until you are seeing bucks or at least fresh buck tracks on the ground. The best thing to do is just start going and keep track of what works and what doesn't.
To the guys mentioning hunting with dogs that sure does bring back some great memories of watching terriers and bucks go at it in the brush. There is no better tool for tracking cripples either than a good terrier. Some people may frown on the use of dogs but they are a handy asset to have out here on the coast.

Kado, good luck to you and happy hunting!
 
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@Kado
I live in and hunt Ventura County, I will echo what other people have said (@Azone), A-Zone south on public land is very tough hunting but if you can kill a deer here... you can kill one anywhere in the world.
Best tips would be as others have said, dedicate a lot of time to scouting and learning the country before season. There are deer here and to be rewarded with one you will have to invest a lot of effort. It is, and will be, very rewarding when you punch your tag.
To increase your success rate: Hunt the Burns both old and new
Have a good quality pair of Binoculars mounted on a tripod and glass... glass...glass
Have a good quality rangefinder so you know the distance when you get your shot opportunity
Have a rifle which can accurately shoot to 400yds and practice with it often in field positions (Ojai Valley Gun Club and Piru Rifle Range have steel out to 600+yds)
Enjoy the scenery and the experience, you will get 1-3 opportunities on mature bucks in the entire season (smaller bucks you may have more chances on or you may not depends on your scouting)
Ventura County Hunters Barbeque is usually the last Sunday in March in Piru and will give you a chance to see many local bucks and meet other local hunters
 
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LIWolverine

LIWolverine

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I know this is an old thread but I am curious as to how your experience played out. It really can be draining at times trying to find a decent buck on public ground out here let alone trying to get it on the ground. Great advice given already and I would not be too picky on size out here. To most guys out here on public land a 20 inch wide or better forked horn is the buck of their lifetime. Every now and then someone kills a absolute giant (for A zone public land standards) that may go 22 to 24 wide and have 3 or 4 points on each side, but seeing those let alone killing one that big are about like hitting the lotto. Deer numbers are in the dumps right now out here and I dont ever recall seeing as many coyotes and so much lion tracks and lion kills. To top it off black bear numbers are on the rebound also. The drought we are coming out of was horrible and had an extreme impact on everything out here. 2 to 3 out of every 10 does I saw this year had a fawn where as 7 to 8 years ago that number would have been over double that. It's gonna be really tough for the next few years in my opinion, but if you put in the effort anything is possible. If you want area specific info for future hunts shoot me a PM.
Had no idea this thread was still going. Sorry to get back to you so late. I had to cancel our trip this year because of a move and career change. I will still be trying to make it happen the next time we head out there. Having in laws that live there is sort of helpful but not REALLY helpful since they don’t hunt much if hardly ever. I’m really hoping to pull it off next trip and at least see what all I can see. It’s a gorgeous state and I love visiting. Throwing some hunting into the mix on trips would just make it all that much mo betta.


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I can’t speak for so cal but, the best solutions to tight nasty brush country that we’ve come up with is mans best friend. If you’ve got a dog that’s reasonably obedient and has just about any kind of prey drive it start working with it. Or if you like dogs but don’t have one...
I am 99% sure it is illegal to have any type of dog in the field while hunting big game in CA.
 
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You could be correct but if you are it’s new this year. It’s always been 1 dog per hunter. You used to be able to run them for practice until April then a couple years ago they decided you could only train while season was open.
 
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