Looking for Storms
Hoping against hope for some cool, wet weather, California north state hunters have gobbled up thousands of deer tags in preparation for coming deer seasons inside the state's eight northernmost counties, according to DFG's Region 1 office.

If storms hit early enough, hunters will have a chance to improve on the modest buck kill numbers they have registered in two of the past three years across the 19 B, C and northeastern X zones.

"Hunters will be up against westside forests thickened by a lack of fire and eastside ranges that have spiraled down because of seemingly irreversible changes in plant communities," said Dave Smith, senior wildlife biologist in Redding.

"Generally, deer numbers over the past five years are stable to the west, sagging slightly in the central part of the region and showing no signs of recovery from the severe 1992-93 winter losses on the eastern high deserts," he said.

Archery hunters, as usual, get a sneak preview of the north state's deer season when they attempted to slip quietly into the field on August 10 in zones C2 and C3; on August 17 in zones B1-B3, B5-B6, C1 and the nine northeastern X zones; and, finally, on August 31 in zone C4.

Archers in the small, southwestern Humboldt County zone B4 launched their stealth hunting July 27. The zone's rifle season opens August 24, six days after the early archery season ends.

Rifle hunters in the remainder of Region 1 get their shot beginning September 21 in zones B1-B3, B5-B6 and the four C zones. The nine northeastern X zones open for rifle hunting October 5 and the late C-4 special hunt, known as G1, starts October 26.

Depending on their tag choices, hunters will be allowed one or two bucks per season — legal animals being those with at least one forked antler. The Fish and Game Code requires successful hunters to complete the deer tag and attach one portion to the antler immediately after the kill.

DFG game wardens will be on patrol to help ensure that hunters carry valid licenses and tags, hunt only in the zones for which a tag has been issued and cross fenced, posted or cultivated land only with the written permission of the landowner. Loaded firearms in vehicles — guns with a round in the chamber — are a sure way for hunters to earn a misdemeanor citation, wardens promise.

"Carrying a loaded gun in a vehicle is a very dangerous practice for which wardens have very little tolerance," said Jim Barton, patrol chief overseeing the region's contingent of game wardens.

Fish and Game said north state hunters will be trying to improve on the 2001 success, which dropped 20 percent from the weather-enhanced kill in 2000. The 19 Region 1 zones produced 13,257 bucks in 2001, compared with 16,596 in 2000 and 13,889 in 1999.

Many north state hunters look to the skies for help, and in many instances motivation, in their pursuit of bucks. Storms, which tend to produce deer migrations, can also unleash a flurry of B-zone tag sales at the Redding and Eureka offices, the DFG said.

Fish and Game said hunters had purchased 18,015 of the 18,815 archery and rifle tags available for the C and X zones by week's end, most of them taken during the early June drawings. At last count, some 43,000 of the 55,500 B-zone tags and 800 of the C-zone archery tags were unsold.

Facing fall weather they've come to expect will be warm and dry, hunters will seek higher-elevation summer ranges during early portions of the hunting seasons and hope for inclement weather later in the year that forces downhill herd migrations to mid and lower ranges.

DFG biologists and wardens report some signs of high acorn production — perhaps the result of stress on oaks through the year's dry spring and its hot, dry summer. Watering sites and oak patches could be good choices for hunting spots this fall unless weather patterns change.

Regardless of the 2002 seasons' outcome in the north, Fish and Game said, deer hunters can expect deer herds east to west to gain little, if any, ground because of habitat loss caused by factors such as forestry practices and an absence of rejuvenating fire.

The DFG said intense firefighting efforts over the past several decades have permitted north state forests to grow thick with trees which now block sunlight from helping to produce new shrub life on forest floors.

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