By Michael Bodenchuk, North America EditorEditor's Note: In three previous installments (see our October, November and December issues) Mike Bodenchuk profiled the major states and Canadian provinces offering mule deer hunting opportunities. But that's not the whole story, as he tells us this month. Here's a peek at some off-the-radar options if you are looking for a mule deer adventure, including some opportunities for 2014. CALIFORNIA
. California is something of a sleeper state for mule deer. The statewide deer population is estimated between 400,000 to 500,000, animals, but this includes significant numbers of black-tailed deer. Overall, mule deer numbers are declining, especially in the eastern, migratory populations in the Sierra Nevadas. Hunter success in California in 2012 was 18.9 percent, but that includes black-tailed deer hunters. California controls mule deer permits largely through the draw, and the general season opens very early in the year. California's blanket protection of cougars has impacted deer populations in some areas.
Most of the California mule deer reports we have in our database are on Santa Rosa Island which now, sadly, has no elk or mule deer (see Article 2785
). However, Catalina Island (Article 1270
, Reports 4477
) is still producing numbers of mule deer. We talked to Ben Myhre and Jim Settle of Wildlife West
(530-519-4902 or 805-550-4204) and were told that this is not a trophy hunt, but they take between 70 and 110 hunters each year (depending on management goals). More than 80 percent of their business is repeat customers. They offer three-day hunts for $3,500, where the goal is to shoot the biggest buck possible, and a two-day hunt for $2,000 for cull bucks only. Prices are all inclusive (2x1 guiding, lodging, meals, on-island transport, meat and trophy handling) and hunters are allowed to take an additional antlerless deer at no extra charge......