Summer Hunting: What Can You Hunt For In California?

Summer hunting can be one of the best times to hunt in California because the weather is nice, the sun is out longer, and everything is in full bloom.

What most hunters don’t realize is that there is a quite a few things you can hunt for in the summer. California is mostly known for Deer, Pheasant, Turkey, Duck, and other small game which is usually done in the fall and winter, but anyone who wants to branch out into a summer hunt might not know what they can hunt for, or even where to find it.

What Can You Hunt for During the Summer Months in California?

The most popular animal to hunt for in California is deer. Deer season starts earlier in California than any other state and it starts in early July for archery.

General deer hunting with guns begins in August and will go through Oct/Nov depending on the zone. There are few other animals that are very popular to hunt in the summer and they are:

  • Rabbits/Hares – This hunting season starts in July and usually ends in January.
  • Pronghorn Antelope – Has a smaller window which generally lasts from August through mid September.
  • Tree Squirrels – This season starts in August and goes through January.
  • Bear – General season and archery season both start in August.
  • Elk – These dates will vary by zones, so it is best to check with fish and game.
  • California Desert Bighorn Sheep – Season starts in August and runs through February.

As you can see, there are many different game animals to hunt starting in the summer. This is great news because there is hunting for almost everyone including big game, deer, and smaller mammals. Another great thing about summer hunts is that it is open for firearms and archery. You can always check the hunting schedule out HERE.

What Is A Hunting Zone

When you think about hunting, especially for new hunters, you have to think about your state being chopped up on a map into what fish and game-like to call “zones”.

hunting zone

Each zone is like its own little fenced-off section of land and has different regulations on it for hunting. Different zones can have different start dates for game, or different tag limits set by the department of fish and game.

This helps the state in controlling the amount of game that is eligible for hunting to prevent different areas of the state from being thinned out too much and being overhunted to the point there is not any game left.

Zones are done primarily for deer but have been used for other games as well. Be careful of the different hunting tags you buy because they could be for a specific zone that you are not wanting to hunt.

What To Wear

When hunting in the summer, it is best to dress in layered clothing. You will want to start out with a good pair of cammo hunting pants, with a good quality pair of hiking boots. Start with a nice t-shirt as the bottom layer, and add a sweater for the cooler mornings.

As the day heats up, you can take your top sweater off and still have your t-shirt and pants. I do not recommend hunting in shorts, or anything less than a t-shirt because there will be dried thorns or other things that you will have to be trekking over, and you want to have the least amount of bare skin showing as possible when hiking the mountains.

One thing to keep in mind is that you are going to need bright orange colors so that no other hunters in your area mistake you for the game. If you think you will need a t-shirt, always make sure that every layer has some sort of color that will make you stand out to people.

How To Keep Cool

Three things that help me stay cool when hunting in the summer months are the following:

  • Hat – A hat is going to keep the sun off your face and trap any sweat from your head in the band, which will cool you down, especially if there is a breeze.
  • Mesh/Water Wicking – Wearing mesh clothing saves you from the heat because it lets your body breathe. Water-wicking clothing also helps keep you from drenching your shirt and having it stick to you.
  • Sunglasses – Sunglasses are a must-have when walking around in the sun because it keeps you from hurting your eyes, and protects them from the sun. Staring out into direct sun can really overheat you.

Since the weather is going to be warmer, I do not suggest wearing wool socks, so you can buy something breathable for your feet. There is a very limited amount of things you can do to stay cool and be safe when hunting, the less exposed you are the safer you will be on a hunt.

Things To Watch Out For

Hunting in the summer is quite a bit different than hunting in the fall and winter months, especially in California. One of the most important things that you need to watch out for in the summer is Rattle Snakes. These snakes come out of hibernation and will be all over the mountains, foothills, and deserts of California.

They are extremely poisonous and can kill you if you are bitten. Always watch where you are walking, and if you take a step and hear a rattle, STOP! Back away slowly, and go a different direction.

summer hunting for deer

Rattlesnakes are extremely hard to spot because they blend in so well, and babies do not know how to control their venom, so they can be more deadly than full-grown adults. If you are taking an animal to hunt with you, there is a rattlesnake vaccine you can give your does but does not always work, so be careful. The second thing you need to watch out for is dead tree limbs and dried-out snake holes.

These two things can turn your awesome hunting day into a hospital nightmare for a twisted or broken ankle, foot, or knee. always watch your surroundings and make sure the ground is clear of anything that could cause you to fall, or twist something.

Must Have Gear To Take

When hunting in the summer, you may have to update your gear bag or backpack to have a few things for summer that you wouldnt normally bring. Here are a few essential items that I bring on every hunt, especially in the summer:

  • Extra canteen – An extra canteen can be a little bit heavier, but will save you from heat stroke or dehydration when hiking in the sun
  • Compass – A compass will help you find your way back to camp or your car.
  • Matches Or Fire Starter – If you stay out too late, build a campfire so people can find you and so you can stay warm. The nights will get chilly, even in the summer.
  • Ice Pack – A portable ice pack is great for cooling off, and if you accidentally step on something and twist your ankle. They can be stored and only activated when broken apart.

Having these extra things when you hunt in the summer can really save your life if you get stuck out in the forest. Always remember that if you get lost, STAY PUT. Moving around will make it harder for people to find you, so stay calm, build a camp, and wait for the people to find you.


The only real limitations you have when hunting in the summer is from fish and game, and yourself. If you are not in the best shape, don’t go out for a long hike or you will end up hurting yourself, or get too fatigued to hike back.


Always check to make sure that your zone has the proper hunting dates, or you could be in for a big fine. Know your limitations and do not exceed them, and I am sure you will have a ton of fun hunting in the heat.

Related Topics

Can You Shoot A Coyote On Your Property In California

Coyotes are considered non-game animals, but while you do not need a license to kill a coyote in California, it is not legal to shoot a firearm in most city limits.

The state does allow the killing of coyotes by people if the animal is harming your pets, or lurking around, but make sure you consult your local fish and game, as well as the proper authorities to see if it is legal for you to shoot them. Firing a gun inside city limits could carry a large fine as well as legal troubles. You are also not allowed to poison coyotes in California.

Can You Hunt At Night In California

Night hunting in California is legal in some zones, and prohibited in others in the state. You must check with fish and game to make sure that the zone you want to hunt allows for night hunting. It is also against the law in most zones to use any sort of light or night vision to kill prey. You may spot with a light mounted to your car, but can NEVER shoot from a vehicle.


Is It Legal To Shoot A Bobcat In California

Yes, bobcat hunting is legal in California with a total of 5 bobcats per season, and only if you have the proper tags. The season will start in October and end in February, and can only be hunted with firearms, there will be no trapping.

Any trapper that catches a bobcat will have to immediately release it and cannot take, sell, or export any part of a bobcat outside of the state of California.

Can I Shoot A Deer On My Property Anytime

The only time you can shoot a deer on your property is when you have the right deer tags, and you live in the proper zone. Killing a dear because it is on your property is against the law and considered poaching. Most California cities have a ban on firing a weapon within city limits, so make sure you are in a rural area where you will not get into trouble by the law.

Final Thoughts

Hunting in the summer can be a great outdoor experience because it will be warmer, and the sun stays up longer. You will most likely not have to battle with rain and cold like you would in the fall or winter. Always check with fish and game to make sure you have the proper dates and tags for where you are hunting and what you are hunting.

Make sure to know the terrain you are going to so you do not get lost. Finally, be careful for snakes this time of year. Rattle snakes are a serious thing to watch out for and very hard to spot, so be vigilant and smart when walking the forest in the summer.

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