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Bear down: Early hunting season a mere month away

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Hunting for California big game begins in about a month. It seems so close, as we haven’t had much of a spring weather pattern, much less summer.

However, across-the-counter-type deer tags — for Zones A, B, C and D — will be valid as early as July 9, when the Zone A archery deer season opens. The earliest bear season opens Aug. 20.

Several California deer tags are issued through a statewide drawing limiting the number of hunters for each zone. X zones and Zone G1 are prime examples.
Additionally, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep are issued through a statewide drawing with oftentimes hundreds vying for one or two tags. Competition is tough.

If you were thinking about applying for any special hunts with the results to be determined through a drawing, you missed the deadline. It was last week.

Bears? Stay safe around them
While one might question whether we’re truly in springtime or still in the dead of winter, black bears in California know the difference. When the snow primarily backs off, it’s time for them to wake up from their wintertime hibernation.

There isn’t a problem when the bears are fast asleep in their winter dens. Only when they wake up do people and bears cross paths.

Bears might be cute from a distance, but they’re not the cuddly little stuffed animals kids go to bed with. A close encounter with a black bear can be dangerous.

We’ve encountered bears in the mountains while camping, mainly attempting to raid the ice chests after the lights went out. These bears have become accustomed to humans and found human foodstuffs to their liking and easier to obtain than what they generally eat.

The state’s black bear population is estimated to be more than 40,000. In the Lake Tahoe region, for example, one Department of Fish and Game staffer logged more than 5,000 hours responding to black bear nuisance issues.

When you’re camping in bear country, use bear-proof containers. Simply locking your food in your vehicle is no guarantee a bear won’t get in to get at what they smell.

At French Meadows campground, we had a problem bear in the evening and one in the early morning. I was able to chase off the evening bear, but the morning bear was rolling the ice chest around the campsite, unable to get into it.

If you’re in bear country, secure your foods. That includes garbage. Get rid of it — properly. Most bear country campgrounds have bear-proof garbage bins. If you have the family dog along, don’t forget to secure the dog food as well.

If you’re tenting it, don’t under any circumstances leave food in the tent. While the bears may seem cute and cuddly, don’t purposefully feed them. Feeding bears is illegal, and you could get a citation.