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The Mendocino National Forest Deer Restoration Plan
"Addressing the decline of the Columbian Blacktail Deer"

By Paul J. Trouette

From the information given to us from the Spanish adventurers and settlers, to the trappers and explorers from the early settling of the Americas; we know that deer were abundant throughout the coastal ranges, and inland to the foothills of the Sierra Cascade mountains. Over time -- particularly from the 1820's to the turn of the century -- deer were utilized for food and for clothing, and through severe market hunting were almost entirely wiped out in northern California. Thanks to proper management from the creation of the CA Dept of Fish & Game in 1907; regulations were placed on deer hunting, and the numbers of deer began to increase dramatically.

By 1922, deer were numerous in the Mendocino National Forest, and a census of the feeding grounds revealed a population of nearly 40,000. (this number comes from a survey of California deer herds 1952) In 1954, Mendocino County had a record harvest of bucks; which was an astounding 5,232. Unfortunately, by the year 2000 the predictions of our biologists and old timers were coming true. In 2000, the harvest of bucks was 1,256. This represents a decline of 3,976 bucks per year.For over 100 years the County of Mendocino has enjoyed it's tradition of deer hunting on both private and public lands; such as the Mendocino National Forest and BLM properties. We have also enjoyed the tremendous economic benefits to our little towns from sportsman all over the state, not to mention the notorious stigma from the trophy clubs who deem Mendocino County as "The Big Buck Capital" of the USA. Mendocino County is the number-one county for Boone & Crockett entries into the record books for blacktail deer. This county has an obligation to restore its tradition of deer hunting, and to ensure its survival for future generations; as an economic benefit as well as a time-honored tradition.

What is the value of a deer in 2007?

During the 2007 hunting season, hunters were asked to participate in an economic survey regarding their expenses on hunting trips to Mendocino County. Here are some of the results:
  • An average weekend trip was between $150.00 to $300.00
  • An average hunter spent approximately 2 to 4 trips per season, or 4 to 8 days in the field
  • Local hunters spent more than ten days in the field.
  • Total average dollars spent to harvest a single deer ranged from $600 to $1114 per season.
  • Total expense on average per hunter to harvest one-to-two deer was $857.00.
In 2006, Fish & Game sold 39,800 tags for the B-zones. 39,800 x an average cost of a B-zone season per hunter of $857 equals, $34,108,600 just in the B-Zones alone.

Private Land Management hunts or (PLM'S)

These Hunts cost an average of $3,500-$7,000 with trophy fees, and with blacktail deer gaining recognition in the Outdoor Channel television market, many of these dollars are spent in Mendocino County in search of Boone & Crockett trophies. Local guides spend numerous dollars in the county year around searching for animals for their clients, as well as managing their lands where all wildlife benefit through this program. PLMs have much more deer on average than public lands because of this excellent management.

Golden opportunity Tags/ Open zone tags

These tags, commonly known as "governor's tags", generate over $185,000 from hunting blacktail deer every year; and guides are paid in the $1,000's for their services helping hunters in search of a trophy blacktail buck. All the tag costs go directly back into Fish & Game for deer management. Guide fees are spent in local cities.

Our Plan

Our plan is to educate the sportsman (as well as the non-sportsman) to the serious decline of our wonderful resource in our world-renowned county. We work to increase the deer populations in our national forest lands to a sustainable balance, utilizing proper management for our personal and economic benefit. Through habitat management, and consistant deer ecology, we can expect significant results over a ten-year plan. Fire and mechanical manipulation are the desired means to achieve our results. Predation analysis, and management play a large role as well. We will actively engage and work with the U.S.F.S., the agency responsible for the management of the wildlife habitat in the National Forestlands.

Funding Plans or structure

We will be generating funds through a public donation program of outdoor sports enthusiasts (and others) who frequent the National Forestlands.