California's Deer Kill Jumps
Weather outweighed sliding deer populations last year as north state deer hunters rode early storms to a 19 percent improvement in buck kill in 19 northern deer zones, the Department of Fish and Game's Region 1 office reported.

The increase in estimated deer kill from 1999's total of 13,889 to last year's estimated 16,563, brought hunter success back to the level of 1998. Statewide, hunters killed an estimated 39,062 in 2000, nearly 18 percent better than in 1999.

The DFG's Region 1 office in Redding said early storms last fall quieted forests, moved deer into the open and motivated hunters to get active — all of which contributed to an increased success in spite of data showing deer herds in various stages of decline throughout the north in recent years.

Fish and Game biologists, armed with data showing shrinking deer herds in most northern areas, point the finger at public and private forests where thickening stands of conifers are sealing off sunlight from the forest floor and, in turn, causing a disappearance of brushy plant life that deer need for food.

Unlike the northern forests of a couple of centuries ago, today's forests are losing their value for deer — and dozens of other species with similar needs — because fire is aggressively suppressed and brushy species are consequently destroyed in favor of conifers. Land development is taking place on prime deer range, which negatively impacts deer numbers also.

Even with deer habitat diminishing, the DFG said a wet, cool fall can boost deer hunting success as it did in 2000 — at least in a relative sense.

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