PLACERVILLE, Calif. Weather will play a major role for those hunters with D3, D4 or D5 deer tags. Last year, storms hit early and hunters bagged 2,273 bucks. Nevada County was the top producer in D3 zone, with 180 bucks.
In the D4 zone, it was Placer County with 175 bucks, and El Dorado County led the D5 zone with 564 bucks.
One D3-5 tag is good for all three zones. Season opens Sept. 24 and runs through Oct. 30.
The good news is that many hunters found success hunting on public land.
The Plumas and Tahoe national forests provide the best hunting opportunities in D3. Some huge bucks come out of the Bucks Lake area. Little Grass Valley Reservoir is also a good choice.
Also try north of Downieville. If early storms hit, the national forest lands north of Lake Oroville can offer excellent hunting, too.
The Lakes Basin Campground, located near Gold Lake, offers excellent hunting opportunities. There is a trail from the campground to the summit of Mt. Elwell that passes by Long Lake and Bear Lake.
In past years, hunters have taken some monster bucks in this area.
Early in the season, the bucks will hold near the summit of Mt. Elwell, but with the first storm they will start to migrate down toward Gold Lake. This is all backcountry, and you'll have to either hike in or head in on horseback.
D4 zone hunters will find the best hunting in the southern section of the Tahoe and El Dorado National Forests.
The hills above the Rubicon River are a good choice for the final week of the season. Be aware of the state game refuge, which is off-limits to hunters.
D5 zone is probably the best of the three. The El Dorado National Forest, near Ice House Reservoir, offers excellent late-season hunting. Just east of Georgetown there's also good hunting.
The stretch from Kybruz to Meyers is a good choice early in the season. The only downside is that, because of its proximity to Sacramento, the hunting pressure can be high.
Alpine County produced only 105 bucks last year, but hunters took 100 of them on public land, in the Stanislaus National Forest.
The terrain in the D3-5 zones varies from 7,000-foot high pine forest mountains to low-elevation oak woodlands. Early in the season, deer will be in the high country, where you'll find the most success if you don't mind hiking.
However, at the first hint of rain and snow, the deer will migrate to their wintering grounds. If a major storm hits before the season closes, there will be deer on the move everywhere.
Often, the older bucks will be the last to migrate. It's not unusual for them to travel more than 30 miles in one night. If that happens, hunt the lower elevations.
Maps of all three zones can be obtained from ranger stations in the respective national forests.
Lassen National Forest in Susanville (530-257-2151)
Plumas National Forest in Quincy (530-283-2050)
Tahoe National Forest in Nevada City (530-265-4531)
Eldorado National Forest in Placerville (530-622-5061)
Stanislaus National Forest in Sonora (209-532-3671).
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