California Deer Hunting Season 2023-2024

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Are you ready for hunting season in California this year? With its vast and diverse landscape, you are in for a wild adventure as you target species like Mule deer and Black-tailed deer. Before hunting season begins, you must ensure that you have purchased the correct licenses and that your weapons meet the regulations given by the state of California. Below you will find some basic info needed to be ready for deer hunting season:

Season Dates 

The dates below are the general dates for each season. You can look at the California E-Regulations Page to get specific info on the dates per unit.

SeasonSeason OpenSeason Close
Bow/ ArcheryMid-JulyMid-September

Licensing & Draw License Fees

When it comes to purchasing a license or tag, you will have some extra fees that come along with them. Take a look at the list below to ensure you buy the correct license:

Resident Hunting License$58.58Age 16 and up
Non-Resident Hunting License$204.69Age 16 and up
Junior Hunting License$15.38For residents and non-residents 16 and up
One-Day Non-Resident License$28.08Nonresidents can obtain this license to hunt resident and migratory game birds exclusively at Licensed Game Bird Clubs. The license requires an Upland Game Bird Validation while hunting at Licensed Domesticated Migratory Game Bird Shooting Areas also demands a Federal Duck Stamp and California Duck Validation.
Two-Day Non-Resident License$58.58The Two-Day Nonresident Hunting License, effective from 2023-2024, permits nonresidents aged 16 or older to hunt resident and migratory game birds, resident small game mammals, wild pigs, nongame mammals, and furbearers for two consecutive days. Certain species may necessitate extra validations and tags. Please note that this license does NOT cover deer, bear, elk, pronghorn antelope, or bighorn sheep hunting.
Disabled Veteran Reduced Fee Hunting License$9.01 at CDFW offices, $9.46 from agentsThis license is open to honorably discharged disabled veterans, both residents, and non-residents, with a service-connected disability rating of 50 percent or higher.
Recovering Service Member Reduced Fee Hunting License$9.01 at CDFW offices, $9.46 from agentsThis is open to any service member recovering from a severe injury or illness related to their military service. It applies to members of the armed forces, including the National Guard and Reserve, who are undergoing medical treatment, therapy, or recuperation on an outpatient basis.
Duplicate Hunting License$12.96Available for all licenses.

What Weapons can you Hunt Deer Within California?


ShotgunsMust be a minimum of 20 gauge. Loaded with single slugs. Barrel must be a minimum of 18 inches long. The minimum overall length must be 26 inches.
Centerfire rifle 0.24 Caliber and up with a magnum load or centerfire cartridge.
Handguns43 caliber and down with a barrel no longer than four and a half inches. 

Bow and Arrow:

ArrowsArrows must be 24 inches in length.
BroadheadsBroadheads can be fixed with two blades and must be ⅞ inches wide at their widest point.
Bow characteristicsLongBow minimum draw weight for hunting deer is 40 lbs and a draw length of 28’. Recurve Bows’ minimum draw weight is 40 lbs. 


Crossbow draw weightCrossbows have a minimum draw weight of 125 lbs and must be mechanically safe. Draw length must be a minimum of 14 inches.
Arrows/ boltsThe arrow/ bolt must be at least 16 inches, excluding the broad head.
BroadheadsIt must be ⅞ inches at the widest point. 

Muzzleloading Rifle:

Powderblack powder or black powder substitute only.
CaliberA single barrel of .40 caliber or greater.
Legal projectileMuzzleloaders can be smoothbore or rifled. Must be a single barrel that fires a single round ball or conical projectile.
IgnitionMatchlock, flintlock ignition system, percussion ignition system with a primer or percussion cap, or a wheel-lock.

What Types of Deer Are Popular in California?

As mentioned, in California, you can hunt for Mule deer and Black-tailed deer. Both species are amazing animals and will provide an exciting adventure as you track them down and hunt them. However, you want to ensure you are shooting the right deer. Let’s look at how to identify a Mule and Black-tailed deer.

The Mule deer are spread throughout California. They are well known for their large ears and beautiful antlers. Their coats are also reddish-gray, depending on the season. You will mostly find Mule Deer in foothills, mountains, or even deserts. If you shoot a Mule deer in a mountainous area, remember to check the process of collecting the animal. You might need to climb mountains with a deer on your shoulder. 

Black-tailed deer are a subspecies of mule deer. They are usually found along the coastal regions of California. They are adapted to the coastal brush, forests, and grasslands. Black-tailed deer have smaller bodies compared to mule deer and generally exhibit darker coats. Hunting black-tailed deer in the scenic coastal areas of California is a popular choice for many hunters.

What Else is Popular to Hunt in California?

While hunting, deer is most likely the most popular form of hunting because of the reward of produce and the thrill of the hunt. There are other epic species that you can target in California. Here they are:

Here’s a formatted list of animals that can be legally hunted in California, categorized by game type:

Big Game:

  • Mule Deer
  • White-tailed Deer
  • Elk
  • Moose
  • Pronghorn Antelope
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Mountain Goat
  • Black Bear
  • Mountain Lion (with specific regulations)

Upland Birds:

  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Blue Grouse
  • Sage Grouse
  • Sharptail Grouse
  • Dusky (Blue) Grouse
  • Chukar Partridge
  • Hungarian Partridge
  • Ruffed Grouse


  • Mallard
  • Teal
  • Pintail
  • Wigeon
  • Gadwall
  • Canada Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • Ross’s Goose
  • Various duck and goose species

Small Game:

  • Rabbit (Cottontail and Snowshoe Hare)
  • Squirrel (Red and Fox Squirrel)
  • Prairie Dog
  • Coyote
  • Fox (Red and Gray)
  • Bobcat
  • Raccoon
  • Badger

It is crucial that if you choose to hunt any of the animals above other than deer that you can check the e-regulations. They will tell you what license you need and the weapons’ requirements to hunt legally. 

Hi there! I'm a passionate bowman and a fan of all target sports in general. You'll often find me at my local archery and shooting ranges honing my skills.

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