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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: California Elk and Sheep

2019 CA application strategy

California's 2019 elk and bighorn sheep application overview


Main writer: Jordan Christensen of The Draw

Jump to: New for 2019 State Information Draw System Tule Elk Breakdown Rocky Elk Breakdown Roosevelt Elk Breakdown Desert Bighorn Sheep Breakdown

The Golden State seems to be a focal point for many in the country—at least when it comes to pop culture and, now, politics. As hunters, this is a state that many—unless it happens to be your home state—know very little about and falls way under the radar even for the most seasoned application warrior. We decided to group elk and bighorn sheep in the same strategy article because, if you were to apply or have already been applying for this state, the reason you likely started was either for one more chance to draw a desert bighorn sheep permit or because you are a goal-oriented hunter in need of a Tule elk. A nonresident is going to need an incredible amount of luck for either of these goals to come to fruition and, with a rather expensive hunting license for adults, this is a hard pill to swallow each year.

If you are a resident, then it is your civic duty to apply for hunts in your home state. With the low cost per application and the random draw system that exists even first time applicants have an equal chance to draw some of the most elusive hunts in the county. So, if you know you are going to purchase a deer permit one way or the other or you have already purchased an annual hunting license, then get your name in every hat you can and swing for the fence. It could be your year.

Also, if you have youth hunters or happen to qualify for the veteran discount, the cost to apply is pennies compared to the normal adult fees, which almost demands participation.

When building your application strategy—unless you are a California resident—applying here should be a long ways down your list as there are many better options for these species out West; however, if your goal is a Tule Elk or you are the type of hunter who applies anywhere there is a permit available, then kiss the dice before you throw them and see what happens.

Note: The application deadline for all species in California is June 2, 2019 at midnight PST. You can apply online here.


Why California for elk and bighorn sheep in 2019

The only state that offers Tule elk

There is only one location in the world that offers Tule elk hunting and it is California. If you are a collector and one of your goals is to accomplish the North American 29, then this is one of the species you are going to have to harvest at some point. This means you will either need to draw a permit or purchase a hunt through a landowner permit either directly from the outfitter/landowner or through an auction of some sort where the hunt has been donated. These amazing elk have adapted to living in wide open brush country as well as in the swamps found along the coast, offering a truly unique hunting experience unlike any other elk hunting you will ever encounter elsewhere.

California elk population graphic

California elk population graphic. Source: CDFW

Exceptional Rocky Mountain elk hunt

There is only one unit in California where you could draw a Rocky Mountain elk tag and, although the odds are long, this is arguably one of the best if not the absolute best Game Management Units (GMU) in the country for a chance at an unbelievable bull. With multiple Boone and Crockett (B&C) animals taken each year, this hunt truly holds its own with any in the country.

One more opportunity to apply for desert bighorn sheep

If drawing a permit to hunt desert bighorn sheep is a major hunting goal of yours, then applying for every possible chance to draw is important. However, due to the cost of the nonresident hunting license, California might be further down the list than many of the other states, but you can’t win if you don’t play. This is as good a chance as anywhere. Equal odds are good odds no matter what they are, especially for bighorn sheep.

Deep discount for youth and veterans

If you are looking for another option for your youth hunter (under the age of 18), California allows nonresident youth to purchase a hunting license for the same price as resident youth: $12.70. Also, if you are a veteran with a service related disability of 50% or higher or a recovering service member, you may purchase your hunting license for only $7.56 per year. There is no price break for the cost of the permit if your application is successful, but, for the very low cost to apply, if you fall into any of these categories it would be a mistake to not at least get your name in the hat.

No waiting period

California does not have a waiting period for deer, elk or antelope, which means that, with a little planning, you can hunt each year for deer. Bighorn sheep is considered a once-in-a-lifetime permit if you are successful in drawing.

State raffles

If purchasing the expensive nonresident hunting license is not something you are interested in, but you would still like a chance to hunt bighorn sheep or elk or even deer and antelope in California, for as little as $6.48 you can submit a chance in the fundraising drawing applications. These have very similar odds of drawing, especially in the first year without purchasing the hunting license required for the standard state applications.


New for 2019

California youth draw odds now on INSIDER!

You can now find draw odds for youth residents and nonresidents for California on INSIDER. Check out the standalone Draw Odds Page, then click on California, and finally click on either "Resident Youth" or "Nonresident Youth."

Also, you can search for youth hunting seasons on Filtering 2.0, as well as Draw Odds.

Special application available for the opening week of rifle season at Knoxville wildlife area

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for a limited, lottery draw deer hunt for the opening week of the A Zone general deer season on the Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County. The 21,000-acre Knoxville Wildlife Area is located approximately 1.5 miles north of Lake Berryessa. This special lottery draw deer hunt is to limit the number of hunters on a popular public hunting area during the opening week of the season and improve the quality of the experience. Only 120 hunt permits will be issued for this special lottery draw deer hunt. The hunting permit is valid for the single hunt period, Aug. 10 to 16, 2019. The Knoxville Wildlife Area will be closed to all other users during the hunt period.

For more information and to apply for the lottery draw, please click here.

Applications will be selected through a random draw and applications will be accepted through June 20, 2019.

Reduced price for resident junior bear, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep tags

Assembly Bill 2151 reduced the fees for a bear, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep tags for resident junior hunting license holders. Beginning with the 2019 license year, resident junior hunters may purchase a bear tag for $26.18. Junior hunters who are successful in drawing a tag for elk, antelope or bighorn sheep will also pay a reduced price for the tag(s). The fee for an elk and antelope tag will be $21.60; a bighorn sheep tag will be $20.60.

New bighorn sheep zone

As of May 16, 2019, CDFW has added another desert bighorn sheep selection to the existing hunt choices. This selection, Zone-10 Newberry, Rodman and Ord Mountains, will have six bighorn sheep permits up for grabs starting this year.

Nonlead ammunition required statewide

As of July 1, 2019, all hunters must use nonlead ammunition when taking any wildlife in California, except when hunting with a pellet rifle for approved species. Check out this recent goHUNT article here for more information.

  • CCR T14 250.1(d)(3) Effective July 1, 2019, it shall be unlawful to use or possess any firearm capable of firing, any projectile(s) not certified as non-lead when taking any wildlife for any purpose in this state.
  • CCR T14 475(f) The take or attempted take of any nongame bird or nongame mammal with a firearm shall be in accordance with the use of nonlead projectiles and ammunition pursuant to Section 250.1 of these regulations.

Antlerless Rocky Mountain elk draw odds

Find your resident antlerless Rocky Mountain elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident antlerless Rocky Mountain elk draw odds here

Antlerless Tule elk draw odds

Find your resident antlerless Tule elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident antlerless Tule elk draw odds here

Antlerless Roosevelt elk draw odds

Find your resident antlerless Roosevelt elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident antlerless Roosevelt elk draw odds here


State information

To view important information and an overview of the California rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the California Elk Profile and the California desert bighorn sheep profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

California State Profile Rocky Elk Profile Tule Elk Profile Roosevelt Elk Profile Desert Bighorn Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • You may begin applying now.
  • The deadline to apply is June 2, 2019 at midnight PST.
  • You can apply online here.
  • Draw results will be posted on June 17, 2019.
  • The deadline to purchase antelope, elk and desert bighorn tags is July 17, 2019.
  • Leftover premium deer tags are available (first deer tag) on July 2, 2019.
  • Leftover premium deer tags are available (second deer tag) on August 2, 2019.

Drought and snowpack in California

California, like many of the western states this year, is seeing a huge comeback in regards to moisture levels across the state. As you can see with the year over year comparison below, there is very little of the state in what is considered drought conditions any longer. Only 5.97% is still registering within these parameters and that percentage is actually only considered abnormally dry, which means that there isn’t any portion of the state in actual drought conditions. With exceptional antler growth as well as the potential for a higher fawn survival rate this spring, this should be a small step in the right direction for the Golden State.

2019 drought status

2019 CA drought monitor

Image date: May 14, 2019 Source: US Drought Monitor

2018 drought status

  California drought monitor status as of May 22 2018
Image date: May 22, 2018 Source: US Drought Monitor

Wolves in California

There is currently only one recognized wolf pack living in California. Previously, there were two; however, the sightings of any wolves in what used to be called the Shasta Pack has dwindled down to only a rare sighting of what is believed to be a male pup from the last litter in the area.

California wolf activity map April 2019

California wolf activity map as of April 2019. Source: CDFW

The Lassen Pack remains in the western and northern portions of Plumas County. The pack’s female, who is collared, seems to have doubled her area of travel in this past year to over 800 square miles. This is a 67% increase in territory than the previous winter. Overall, there have been a number of wolf sightings and reports in northern California over the past year and, although sporadic, there are enough reports to say with certainty that the exact number of wolves that are residing in California is unknown and likely much higher than what is reported. There have been two confirmed instances of wolf predation on livestock—both in Plumas country—between January and March of this year as well as one that was not confirmed and came back inconclusive.


The California draw system

Understanding the draw

California’s draw system has several twists and turns depending on the species you are focusing on. The state operates on a modified preference point system so whoever has the most points on any given hunt code will draw the tag. There is also a random drawing for any applicant who has less than the maximum number of points.

All applicants are required to show proof of a hunter’s education course prior to applying. This can be done in multiple different ways. For a full list of these options click here.

All applicants are required to purchase an annual hunting license prior to applying for any big game hunt. Once you have purchased your license you will also have an application fee of $8.13 per species for residents and nonresidents.

Here is the list of qualifying licenses and their cost:

  • Adult resident: $49.94
  • Adult nonresident: $174.45
  • Junior resident or nonresident: $13.22
  • Disabled veteran and recovering service member: $7.82 (Refer to California Big Game Hunting Digest for qualifications regarding these licenses.)

Elk and antelope have an identical system; residents with the most points will receive 75% of the permits while 25% will be issued on a random basis. This does not apply to nonresidents and there will only be one elk and one antelope permit issued to nonresidents through the draw. What this means is if any antelope permit—as well as any elk permit including a cow elk—is drawn and awarded to a nonresident all other nonresident applications will be rejected for these species. This makes the odds of drawing in California some of the toughest odds in the country for these species. Resident applicants may apply with one other applicant for antelope and elk; however, if your party draws the last available permit, the party leader will be awarded the permit and the other applicants will be placed on an alternate list. This means that no party applications are ever rejected, but California is different than most states because there is potential for one member of your party to draw, but not the other. With only one permit available there are no party applications allowed for either species for nonresidents.

Desert bighorn sheep awards up to 10% of their permits to nonresidents, but, because of the lack of numbers overall (only 26 permits this year, which is a nine permit increase over last year), there could be up to two permits issued to nonresidents this year. No party applications are allowed for desert bighorn sheep for residents or nonresidents.


Fundraising and random tags

Given the odds of drawing, particularly for the elk, antelope and bighorn sheep for nonresidents, a much more affordable opportunity is available in the Fundraising and random tags program in California. As rough as the odds are, on any given year they are no worse or better when applying for these opportunities. The biggest difference is that you are not required to purchase a state hunting license to get your name in the hat. Only if you are successful in the drawing are you required to purchase the qualifying hunting license.

Here are a few of the details you need to know in order to get involved:

  • You will need to build a user profile for the state of California and receive your GO ID # in order to apply.
  • Any resident or nonresident who will be 12 or older as of July 1, 2019 may apply for the deer, antelope and elk tag.
  • Any resident or nonresident who will be 16 or older as of July 1, 2019 may apply for the bighorn sheep tag.
  • There is no limit on the number of applications you can submit.
  • It does not use or affect your preference points.
  • Winners are awarded a tag at no additional cost.
  • A hunting license is not required to apply but must be purchased if drawn.
  • Apply up until midnight PST on June 2, 2019 at license agents, CDFW license sales offices, online here or by telephone at (800) 565-1458.
  • Tags are awarded by a random lottery, which is run within 10 business days of the deadline. Winners are notified by phone.
  • The cost to apply has increased slightly this year to $6.48 per entry per species.

The 2019 Fundraising random drawing tags are:

One Open Zone Deer Tag

The tag allows the hunter to hunt during the authorized season dates of any hunt, using the specific method and meeting any special conditions of the tag for that hunt.

One Northeastern California Pronghorn Tag

The tag allows the hunter to hunt in any of the Northeastern pronghorn zones, (Mount Dome, Clear Lake, Likely Tables, Lassen, Big Valley and Surprise Valley) with any legal method. The hunt dates are from August 3, 2019 to September 22, 2019.

One Grizzly Island Bull Zone Elk Tag

The Grizzly Island Bull Elk Tag is valid in the Grizzly Island hunt zone, with any legal method. Only one elk may be harvested. The hunt dates are from August 3, 2019 to September 1, 2019.

One Cady Mountains Desert Bighorn Sheep Tag

The tag is valid only in the Cady Mountains hunt zone. Season dates are from November 2, 2019 through February 2, 2020. If awarded the tag the hunter must attend a mandatory orientation to receive the tag. Note: This tag will be available pending adoption of new regulations by the Fish and Game Commission on May 16, 2019. Hunters interested in applying for this tag, will need to contact their local CDFW license sales office and apply once it is available.


California's 2019 Tule elk breakdown

If you are a nonresident interested in applying in California, the Tule elk might just be your deciding factor. It is unfortunate for nonresidents that the Golden State only allows one nonresident elk hunter per year, making the odds of drawing one of these elusive permits next to impossible. If you happen to be a resident—especially for the public land DIY options—the odds are atrocious and while you may have more opportunity to draw than nonresidents, you still need some serious luck if taking one of these elk is your main objective. The random drawing happens before the preference point round; therefore, every applicant has an equal chance in this round. If you are a resident applying for a permit, apply with caution and read each hunt description carefully as there are a few cow elk as well as spike only options available. There are three options in the apprentice category for the youth hunter to have a chance at taking a bull Tule elk; two of these options are for spike only so apply with caution.


Current tule elk herd condition

The Tule elk herd in California is doing great with close to 6,000 animals in the state based on the last report. The herd has more than doubled in size over the last 20 years and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. To get a little better picture of how the herd is doing we can look at the tooth age date provided by the state. There were 35 branched antler bulls harvested in 2016 and the average age class across all of these bulls was 5.3 years old. Below is a breakdown of the age class by each area. The state has not updated the tooth data or any other gauge of conditions since 2017 and has advised that there will not be any updates possibly until 2020.

  • Bear Valley – 8 years old
  • Cache Creek – 4.7 years old
  • East Park Reservoir – 7 years old
  • Grizzly Island – 5.8 years old
  • La Panza – 5.1 years old
  • Lake Pillsbury – 7.5 years old
  • Lone Pine – 6.7 years old
  • Owens Valley – 5.5 years old
  • San Luis Reservoir – 4.2 years old
  • Tinemaha – 2 years old

Top units to consider for Tule elk in California
(not in order of quality)

Zone Trophy
Potential
6pt or
better %
Public land
%
10-Grizzly Island 300"+ 100% 100%
14-La Panza 280"+ 60% 22%
15-Fort Hunter Liggett 280"+ 100% 0.3%
5-Mendocino* 280"+ 100% 20%
7-East Park Reservoir 270"+ 100% 43%
9-Cache Creek 270"+ 50% 64%

*All the elk in this unit reside on private property; it is strongly advised to have arrangements made prior to applying for this hunt. Elk east of Hwy 101 is considered Tule elk. If found on the west side of Hwy 101, they will not qualify for either the Roosevelt or Tule elk category for B&C.

How to uncover hidden gem Tule elk units

As a resident, use Filtering 2.0 to study the number of applicants applying for each hunt. This will be very useful information to help determine where to get away from the bulk of the applicants. If you are a nonresident, given that only one permit is drawn, there is no reason to chase any sort of odds. Apply for the best hunt in the state because you have just as good a chance at being successful as the worst hunt in the state. Look for a hunt using Filtering 2.0 that lines up with your goals and get your name in the hat.


B&C entry trends for California Tule elk


Zones listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Zones in this table are included if any part of the zone is found within the county. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

California's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Tule elk

County No. of
entries
Zones found within county
Solano 11 10-Grizzly Island
Monterey 10 14-La Panza15-Fort Hunter Liggett
Mendocino 8 14-La Panza
Colusa 7 7-East Park Reservoir8-Bear Valley9-Cache Creek
San Luis Obispo 7 5-Mendocino

Map of California's tule elk B&C all time entries 2019


Managing points and expectations

The preference point race

2019 maximum preference points for elk: 17

California elk preference point totals going into the 2019 draw

California elk preference points going into 2019 table version

Residents

The random draw happens prior to the maximum point drawing in California so if you happen to have maximum points your name is actually in two different buckets of raffle tickets each year and you have a chance to draw during each pass. As of 2018, there was only one hunt, which is set this year for August 22 to 25, 2019 on Grizzly Island. It had 100% drawing odds for applicants with maximum points in 2018. The runner-up is the next scheduled hunt for September 5 to 8, 2019, which came in with a 72% chance for hunters with maximum points. The third place was the first hunt of the year in Zone 10—Grizzly Island, which had odds of 28% last year. None of these hunts are for mature bulls. Apply with caution and evaluate your goals prior to making a decision. All other selections for residents were under 10% while the October 5 to 9, 2019 hunt last year in Zone 20—Independence as well as Zone 23—Lone Pine was the hardest permits to draw—both at 0.20% chance of drawing even for the maximum point holders. This is largely due to the amount of public land in this area of the state versus the caliber of bulls that historically come out of these areas. If you are looking for a chance to hunt the best bulls in California, you will need to apply for the last two hunts of the year on Zone 10—Grizzly Island or be prepared for a trespass fee as well as fully guided in some of the more northern units. No matter how you break it down, drawing a Tule Elk permit is very difficult and, if you are serious about making this dream a reality through the draw process, it will take some serious luck.

The good news is if you have less than the maximum number of points is that there is a random drawing as well and this random drawing happens first. If you are a youth hunter, then 50% of the available apprentice tags will be available in this random drawing and, if you are an adult, then 25% of the tags are in this random drawing. Because this happens prior to the preference point draw, it really means that maximum point holders have another chance to be successful in pulling their permit as they could be the lucky recipient during the random drawing as well. Your points carry no value in this random drawing so, essentially, everyone has one ticket in the bucket for the hunt that they have applied for. Some of the hunt codes offer less than four permits and, if this happens, then here is a breakdown of how the tags will be allocated.

  • For quotas of one, the tag shall be awarded at random.
  • For quotas of two, one tag shall be awarded using a preference point drawing and one tag shall be awarded at random.
  • For quotas of three, two (2) tags shall be awarded using a preference point drawing and one tag shall be awarded at random.
  • For quotas of four or more, 75% of the quota shall be awarded using a preference point drawing. The remaining portion of the quota shall be awarded at random.

Nonresidents

With only one permit up for grabs in California for nonresidents, not applying for a top-shelf hunt is a mistake as your odds are going to be <1% and, regardless of how low they go, if you are less than 1%, than you have equal odds and equal odds are good odds no matter how low they go. If you actually drew a permit, then your name came out of the hat very early. It would be a shame to be heading to a hunt that wasn’t one of the best. It’s worth noting that your points carry no value as the random drawing will always happen first and if a nonresident is drawn then you are out, which happens more than not. However, study Filtering 2.0 to locate a hunt that fits your goals and apply. If your name comes out of the hat as the first nonresident, it would be great to go on the hunt you have been dreaming of. Based upon public land and the caliber of bulls, this would be a hunt on Zone 10—Grizzly Island, but who knows? If you have a solid lead on a bull in another area, swing for the fence. It could be your year.

Find your resident Tule elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident Tule elk draw odds here


California's 2019 Rocky Mountain elk breakdown

Zone-4 Northeastern is located in the northeastern portion of the state and is home to one of the most impressive Rocky Mountain elk herds in the country. Multiple B&C caliber bulls are taken on this hunt most years.

The state offers one archery either sex hunt with 10 permits in late August and in early September as well as one rifle hunt in mid-September that has 15 bull tags. For more information about this unit, see the full unit breakdown here.


Rocky Mountain elk in California
 

Zone Trophy
Potential
Archery apps/
success (2018)
Rifle apps/success
(2018)
Archery max
points odds
Rifle max
point odds
6pt or
better %
Public land
%
4-Northeastern 360"+ 674
40%
3,950
73%
31% - Resident
3.6% - Nonresident
2.4% - Resident
0.3% - Nonresident
100% 56%

B&C entry trends for California Rocky Mountain elk


Zones listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Zones in this table are included if any part of the zone is found within the county. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

California's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for typical Rocky Mountain elk

County No. of
entries
Zones found within county
Kern 1 NA
Lassen 1 4-Northeastern
Modoc 1 4-Northeastern
Shasta 1 4-Northeastern

Map of California&#39;s Typical Rocky Mountain elk B&amp;C all time entries 2019


There have been no nontypical Rocky Mountain elk entries in California since 2010. That last entry was in 2005.

Map of California&#39;s Nontypical Rocky Mountain elk B&amp;C all time entries 2019


Managing points and expectations for Rocky Mountain elk

The preference point race

2019 maximum preference points for elk: 17

See the bonus point table in the Tule elk section above for a breakdown of applicants by point level.

Find your resident Rocky Mountain elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident Rocky Mountain elk draw odds here


California's 2019 Roosevelt elk breakdown

There are six different hunt zones in California that contain Roosevelt elk in the northwestern portion of the Golden State. The elk hunting in these areas can be incredible. If archery hunting is your passion, you will need to look towards the late hunt in Zone 2—Marble Mountain, which, when you draw, is actually both an archery permit as well a muzzleloader/archery so this is the only hunt to consider.

If taking a qualifying B&C caliber animal is what you are after, then you will need to look towards Del Norte, Humboldt or Trinity Counties as well as the western side of Interstate – 5 in Siskiyou County, which is within the established B&C boundary. The bulls found along the coast in Mendocino county will not qualify for the record books, but, if you were to hunt east of Hwy 101, the bulls you would find there are considered Tule elk and would qualify for that record book.


Top units to consider for Roosevelt elk in California
(not in order of quality)

Zone Trophy
Potential
6pt or
better %
Public land
%
Success rate
(2018)
1-Northwestern 320"+ 100% 40% 80% rifle - bull only
67% rifle - either sex
2-Marble Mountains 310"+ 60% 66% 66% rifle - bull only
80% archery/muzzleloader - either sex
3-Siskiyou 310"+ 69% 48% 65% rifle - bull only
5-Mendocino* 310"+ 100% 20% 100% rifle - bull only

*All the elk in this unit reside on private property; it is strongly advised to have arrangements made prior to applying for this hunt. Elk east of Hwy 101 are considered Tule elk. If found on the west side of Hwy 101 they will not qualify for either the Roosevelt or Tule elk category for B&C.

B&C entry trends for California Roosevelt elk


Zones listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Zones in this table are included if any part of the zone is found within the county. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

California's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Roosevelt elk

County No. of
entries
Zones found within county
Humboldt 43 1-Northwestern2-Marble Mountains
Del Norte 11 1-Northwestern
Siskiyou 5 2-Marble Mountains3-Siskiyou
Trinity 3 2-Marble Mountains

Map of California&#39;s Roosevelt elk B&amp;C all time entries 2019

Top B&amp;C Roosevelt elk locations since 2010 - California 2019 app strategy


Managing points and expectations for Roosevelt elk

The preference point race

2019 maximum preference points for elk: 17

See the bonus point table in the Tule elk section above for a breakdown of applicants by point level.

Find your resident Roosevelt elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident Roosevelt elk draw odds here


California's 2019 desert bighorn sheep breakdown

California is home to three different species of bighorn sheep. Unfortunately, the Sierra Nevada and the Peninsular desert bighorn sheep are both in rough shape and there is no hunting allowed for either of these species at this time. The Nelsoni desert bighorn sheep, on the other hand, are doing very well and has a large range across much of southern California. There are 10 different GMUs in the state that has herds of these desert bighorn sheep. Out of those ten, there are currently seven of these Zones offering hunts. Zone 10—Newberry, Rodman and Ord Mountains is new as of May of 2019 and is scheduled to have six permits available for this fall. There are other increases as well from Zone 3—Clark and Kingston Mtn Ranges, Zone 7—White Mountains and Zone 8—South Bristol Mtns, which all doubled the number of permits offered in 2018. This may not seem too big of a deal at first glance, but that is a large increase over the 17 permits offered last year, bringing the total number up to 26 total permits and making it possible for two potential nonresident permits this year. This does not guarantee that there will be even one nonresident as the odds are long, but nonresidents are allowed up to 10% of the total number of permits for bighorn sheep and anytime there is an additional chance to draw a bighorn sheep tag is a step in the right direction. The state will be issuing one permit for the lucky winner of the fundraising tag that has been reallocated from the Zone 2 Old Dad and Keslo Peak Hunt Zone in 2019.

There were also a few decreases in tag allocation to be aware of: Zone 5 San Gorgonio Mtns went from two permits to zero this year and Zone 9—Cady Mtns. went from four permits to only two available.

Notes:

  • Zone 2 Old Dad/Kelso Peak Mountains as well as Zone 6 Sheep Hole Mountains are listed in the state regulations as selections but do not have any bighorn sheep tags associated with either of these areas for 2019.

Current desert bighorn sheep herd condition

There are currently over 5,000 Nelsoni desert bighorn sheep residing in California. Considering that there was believed to only be 250 as recently as the 1940s, this is really an amazing story for conservation. With sound management and reintroductions funded primarily by hunters, the Golden State has an ever-growing population of bighorn sheep that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In 2017, the world record Nelsoni was taken, stretching the tape at 190 4/8" and smashing the previous record by over 3”. Given how much attention and effort has been shown to bighorn sheep over the past 50 years, it truly is amazing to see bighorn sheep like this reach their full potential. We really are living in the good ol’ days when it comes to desert bighorn sheep hunting in North America.

California desert bighorn sheep map

California desert bighorn sheep map. Source: CDFW

The hit list units for California desert bighorn sheep in 2019

Top desert bighorn hunts in California
(not in order of quality)

Zone Trophy
Potential
Public land
%
# of
applicants
(2018)
Tags available
in 2019
1-Marble Mountains 160"+ 95% 2,799 5
3-Clark Kingston Mountain Range 165"+ 96% 1,078 4
4-Orocopia Mountains 170"+ 54% 1,027 1
7-White Mountains 165"+ 96% 1,545 6
8-South Bristol Mountains 160"+ 96% 874 2
9-Cady Mountains 160"+ 77% 2,172 2
10-Newberry, Rodman and Ord Mountains NA NA New for 2019 6
 

Hidden gems for California desert bighorn sheep

Hidden gems are always hard to find when it comes to desert bighorn sheep and, given that there are so few options to consider in California, to begin with, it's even harder. If you are a resident using Filtering 2.0, study the number of applicants in each hunt and then use this information to put yourself in on an application that has on average lower application numbers than the other units. This is one way to slightly increase your chances. However, a nonresident isn’t even guaranteed a permit and, if one was drawn, that would be the first permit awarded to a nonresident in many years. Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to apply for anything less than what you consider to be the best hunt in the state. Use Filtering 2.0 to help you narrow it down much easier.


B&C entry trends for California desert bighorn sheep


Zones listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Zones in this table are included if any part of the zone is found within the county. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

California's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for desert bighorn sheep

County

No. of
entries
Zones found within county
San Bernardino 17 1-Marble/Clipper Mountains, 2-Kelso Peak/Old Dad Mountains
3-Clark/Kingston Mountains5-San Gorgonio Mountains, 6-Sheep Hole Mountains,
8-South Bristol Mountains, 9-Cady Mountains
Riverside 5 4-Orocopia Mountains, 5-San Gorgonio Mountains
Mono 1 7-White Mountains
San Benito 1 NA

Map of California&#39;s Desert bighorn sheep B&amp;C all time entries 2019

TOP B&amp;C DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP LOCATIONS SINCE 2015 - California 2019


Managing points and expectations for Desert bighorn sheep

The preference point race

2019 maximum preference points for desert bighorn sheep: 17

California desert bighorn sheep preference point totals going into the 2019 draw

California desert bighorn sheep preference points going into 2019 table version

Find your draw odds

Resident

If you happen to be one of the lucky few that has the maximum number of points in California, you essentially have two chances to draw. The first pass will be the random drawing where an applicant’s number of points carry no value and every applicant has an equal chance at drawing. If unsuccessful in the random pass, then you will have an additional chance at drawing among all of the other maximum point holders that selected the same zone to hunt as yourself. If you are looking for some advantage, studying the number of applicants in each unit over the last number of years may produce a unit that tends to rollercoaster on the number of applicants choosing to apply there. Get consistent in applying for units like this even though during any given year the odds could be as bad as anywhere else. At least you will know your name is in the hat on the odd years where its popularity dips again and creates the best odds you will get. Consistently trying to outguess the other applicants as to which unit will have the best odds any given year tends to lend itself to having the worst odds because you have the same strategy as many other applicants. With limited information, you and the other hunters will often come to the same conclusions. As a reference, here is how the tags are allocated depending on the number of tags allotted per unit.

  • For quotas of one, the tag shall be awarded at random.
  • For quotas of two, one tag shall be awarded using a preference point drawing and one tag shall be awarded at random.
  • For quotas of three, two tags shall be awarded using a preference point drawing and one tag shall be awarded at random.
  • For quotas of four or more, 75% of the quota shall be awarded using a preference point drawing. The remaining portion of the quota shall be awarded at random.

Nonresidents

With only one permit potentially available to nonresidents. there is some good and bad to this fact, depending on who you are. The good news is, if you have zero points, you truly have the same odds of drawing as an applicant who has been applying for many years. The bad news is, if you have been applying for many years, you still have the same odds as if you had never applied before; you are getting no value for your points whatsoever. If drawing a desert bighorn sheep tag is a high priority in your hunting goals, to miss a chance to apply for one of these permits especially with equal odds may be a mistake. California should not be applied for if you are not already applying for all other options out there; however, it is a chance to draw. If this species is the reason you are purchasing your annual hunting license, to not at least apply for a chance at the Tule elk for only an extra $8.13, would be a huge mistake.

Find your resident desert bighorn sheep draw odds here

Find your nonresident desert bighorn sheep draw odds here

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