2022 Tag Strategies for California and Oregon
Well, it’s that time of year when we have to decide if we are going to attempt to burn up our accumulated preference points or just hold tight and wait till next year and only apply for a point this year.
There are a lot of good arguments to just sit tight, put in for a preference point and be happy with a General Tag like an A, B or C Tag or even an AO tag. The obvious upcoming fire season in the west is one concern but then again, when is it not a concern. But unfortunately, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has learned that they can now shut down entire national forests due to “Fire Danger” and with little resistance from the public. Don’t get me wrong, I live right near the Carr Fire (within a mile) and was evacuated 3 different times that year for various other fires, so I think it’s a necessary tool, I just want it used appropriately and not just as an Anti-Hunting tool.
So, if you apply for a tag and burn up points, you may be looking at a forest closure so keep that in mind. Now for the really tough news! Gas Prices are OUT OF CONTROL! When will it stop? No one seems to know but it’s going to be a tough year financially for everyone and so I feel like a lot of people may be planning hunts closer to home.
On the positive side the last few years have led to a huge increase in the local deer herds in the big B Zone. Most the private timber property on Northern California that allows hunting, like Sierra Pacific was closed off due to the fire danger during all of archery season and most of rifle season. If you know B Zone, you know that there are huge amounts of private timber land checkerboarded through the national forests and BLM lands and this really caused access problems for hunters. What ended up happening is the deer within this private land didn’t get hunted, well legally hunted anyway (trust me they were still getting hunted just not openly) and they began to hide within these huge blocks of private land. The Positive News is that this led to a carryover of bucks and during the last weeks of B Zone I was seeing a forky almost every night and a couple of decent bucks and even had a group of 6 forked horns run right through our position and we were able to fill two tags within seconds of each other.
With that said it was still a weird and difficult year for us. The year before was about the same and so this year I was left confused until I remembered that you only live once so why not just put in for what you want and if you get the tag, you get the tag, if you don’t you don’t. Unfortunately next year could also be a terrible year for fires and gas prices could be even higher, I hope not but to look at it realistically they probably will be higher.
So my Tag Strategy for California and Oregon is to put in for what I want and make it a tag that is worth the Points if I Draw and worth the Gas if I Draw and maybe save on expenses somewhere else. Maybe camp more often and do more hiking as opposed to driving around and eat out of the ice chest instead of swinging into a restaurant for lunch.
I decided on Deer to apply as a party with my wife and we put in for X3A, C and B and as always, we put in for B tags for our second tags. We also applied separately for a Siskiyou Bull tag and Likely Tables Antelope tag but those are a real Pipe Dreams for us points wise, but you never know.
The way I apply for deer tags I figure I will always be able to get a Blacktail tag somewhere in California every year, so I apply for that on my second tag but on my first tag choice I always apply for a Mule Deer tag, that’s an X Zone tag or one of the D tags. There are some Mule deer in the C Zones, but they are actually a hybrid Mule deer Blacktail so that’s usually my second choice on my First deer tag. I stay out of A Zone anymore just because it’s too far for me to travel and I don’t like hunting deer in July and August when its 110 degrees!
This year I decided to take an easy buck close to the road. Allow me to make a suggestion, never take your wife's brand-new GMC Yukon deer hunting without her permission! And if you do, don't tell her that you put a stinky deer in the back and don't take a photo that can be used against you!!!! No need to say more
I applied for the Murders Creek 146 Rifle tag, I have hunted this zone before and it was a really unbelievable hunt, lots of bucks the terrain was forgiving but if you really wanted a tough hunt that was there for you as well. Then as second choice the Murders Creek Bow tag 146R and the Silvies Bow Tag 172R.
For those of you who have been applying in California for one of the coveted X Zone tags you may want to add Oregon to your list. It’s a total crap shoot for a Mule Deer Rifle tag but your draw odds are so much better than California it’s somewhat baffling that we (and I include myself in this statement) even mess with applying in California. You can draw a good Mule Deer Rifle tag or Bow Tag every year in Oregon if you are willing to do the research and not reach for the stars on every application.
I hope everyone has a really good year in 2022 and remember to stop and just enjoy the hunt, even if it turns out to be one tough hunt, enjoy the hunt, enjoy the moment and you will feel better for it. Every now and then life will throw you a change-up and frankly there were people who hunted last year, that will never hunt again,,,, just something to think about.
UPDATE: August 8, 2022
"The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go astray" (John Steinbeck) Well that's what happened to me this year, I didnt draw any good tags in California or Oregon so its B Zone deer hunting for me this year and with the price of gas I am okay with that. Best luck to everyone, Ken.