San Diego County encompasses over 4,526 mi² with some great zones specifically designated for hunting. Before setting off on the next hunting trip, it’s important to review state and county requirements, where you can and cannot hunt in San Diego County, and some tips to make sure every hunting trip goes off without a hitch.
San Diego Hunting Requirements
California requires a current and valid hunting license to hunt in San Diego County. In addition to a hunting license, certain areas on the forest may require a Forest Adventure Pass. Passes can be purchased at local Forest Service offices or National Forest Adventure Pass vendors. For additional information, you can contact your local Forest Service office.
In order to bring home any bird or mammal, physical possession of California state hunting license is required. It is common for rangers to check for licenses when leaving a hunting zone, so it is wise to be prepared to show it upon request. Guns and other equipment used for hunting must also be shown upon request. In addition to a hunting license, state and federal duck stamps are required to take home migratory waterfowl and an upland game bird stamp is required to take home pheasants, turkey, doves, pigeon, snipe, grouse, quail, partridge and chukar.
National Forest lands are often surrounded and intertwined with private land in California. Unless granted permission to hunt on private land, be careful to remain on National Forest lands during your hunting activities. Heavy fines may be incurred if a firearm is brought onto private property unlawfully. Information on where to hunt and trails to use for entry to remote areas of the forest can be obtained from a local Forest Service office.
When and Where to Hunt Near San Diego
The Cleveland National Forest is open to bird and game hunting. Dates for the 2019-2020 season are as follows:
Turkey hunting in San Diego:
Nov 9 – Dec 8 2019, Mar 28 – May 3, 2020, Archery ONLY: May 4 – May 17, 2020
Dove Hunting Season:
Sep 1 – 15 & Nov 9 – Dec 23
Nov 9 – Dec 22, Archery ONLY: Oct 12 – Nov 3, Dec 23 – Jan 19
Sept 14-Jan 26 (Depending on Zone), Archery ONLY: Aug 17-Sept 6
Deer hunting in San Diego County: View PDF
This is according to the current season schedule and hunting regulations set by the California Department of Fish and Game. This information can be found here:
When hunting Cleveland National Forest, make sure to bring an Adventure Pass to avoid a hefty parking ticket.
What animals can you hunt in the Cleveland National Forest? Big game includes black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and wild pigs. Furbearers include badgers, gray foxes, and raccoons. Non-game mammals include bobcats, coyotes and jackrabbits. Small game includes brush rabbits and cottontail rabbits. Upland game birds include band-tailed pigeons, California quails, mountain quails, mourning doves, and turkeys. Commonly found waterfowl include duck and geese.
Which parts of the Cleveland National Forest are good for hunting? Here is a list of our top 5 hunting destinations. Keep in mind that motorized vehicles are not allowed in these areas.
- Agua Tibia Wilderness Area—Palomar Ranger District
- Hauser Wilderness Area—Descanso Ranger District
- Laguna Mountain Wilderness Area—Descanso Ranger District
- Pine Creek Wilderness Area—Descanso Ranger District
- San Mateo Wilderness Area—Trabuco Ranger District
Other Hunting Sites in San Diego County
If you do not intend to hunt at the Cleveland National Forest, you may enter a lottery to gain admittance to one of many hunting sites around San Diego. For instance, check out Barrett Reservoir, where waterfowl hunting is available:
Or maybe take a look at Sutherland Reservoir, well known for turkey hunting:
Other options include booking a hunting trip at a private property, such as V1 Ranch, on Palomar Mountain. These types of hunting experiences are typically more expensive; however, they are much easier to carry out as the hosting site handles most of your trip’s hassling hunting logistics. This is a popular hunting option in an area such as San Diego, where public hunting land is so scarce. Learn more about V1 Ranch here:
Explore San Diego Backcountry Hunting for Yourself
Interested in investing in a cabin or house closer to the San Diego hunting options available to you? Contact one of our agents to learn more about all of our great San Diego backcountry properties for sale! We specialize in San Diego land for sale as well as properties throughout the backcountry including in Julian, Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Vista and more!