Well, we all know that North America is a land of autumn hunting seasons, with spring reserved for turkey and bear. In the summer, we get out our fishing tackle. Or do we? There are a surprising number of off-season options here and there. Right here on California’s Central Coast our archery blacktail season opens in July, with rifle season kicking off the second Saturday in August. Although permits are very limited, our tule elk come into hard antler and rut very early. Late July is considered the best time, before the bulls do too much fighting and break off points.
Across the continent, South Carolina is famous for her lavish whitetail season, opening in August with, in some counties, “no limit on bucks.” Alaska’s Sitka blacktail season also opens early, with these deer often shedding their antlers long before the season closes. Throughout northern Canada, caribou hunting generally starts in August, although most bulls are usually in velvet until early September. Sheep seasons also start early up north. August 1st is traditional in British Columbia and Yukon; August 10th in Alaska. The MacKenzie District of Northwest Territories opens the earliest, July 15th. Depending on the area, other game may or may not be open or available that early, but summer is a marvelous time to be in the northern mountains.
In Nunavut, muskox can be combined with caribou in August, a whole lot more pleasant hunt than after freezeup! One of the best North American hunts Donna and I ever did was an early August hunt in Greenland for muskoxen and reindeer, green and beautiful, with good weather. I don’t call hot and sticky “good weather,” but in Florida alligators can be hunted in spring and summer. Then there are our non-natives. Wild hogs can be hunted year-’round in many places. Summer isn’t always the best time, but late spring and early summer is ideal here in California because that’s when the barley is ripe and the hogs can’t resist it. Axis deer are on a weird schedule with some bucks in hard antler in any month, but the majority shed their velvet in May, with the rut in June and July. Obviously horned animals such as antelope, sheep and goats can be hunted at any time. Down in Mexico, spring is turkey season just like everywhere else, but in Yucatan, spring (before the rains) is the best time for the jungle rarities: Brocket deer, white-lipped peccary and more. And let’s not forget Hawaii, not just a great vacation spot but a wonderful destination for axis deer, mouflon and a whole lot more. Spring and summer are great months in the islands!
Now we’re back into the Southern Hemisphere, with opposite seasons. The most popular destination down there is Argentina, but there are other countries offering high-volume bird-shooting on nearly a year-’round basis. For big game, Argentina is the place with red stag the most popular quarry. The rut or “roar” takes place in April and early May, so without question that’s the best time, but red stag can be readily hunted from March into the summer months. This also applies to the more limited red stag hunting in Chile. Other antlered game tends to be in hard antler at the same time, and of course, horned animals such as water buffalo and blackbuck can be hunted throughout the fall and winter months. Tropical whitetail hunting in Peru is on an unusual schedule. These deer come into hard antler and rut at what seems an odd time for me, sort of July and August, but that’s considered the best time.
The antlered game in this region tends to be on an opposite schedule from ours. As in South America, in New Zealand the red stag are roaring in April, although I’ve seen residual roaring as late as early June. Tahr and chamois can be hunted at any time, but ideally you want to wait until they’re in their luxurious winter coats, especially the tahr. This means May and June, with the mountains often getting a bit too icy and treacherous after that. Sika and fallow deer are probably best hunted at about the same time.
Like the axis deer, the sambar is a tropical deer with some stags in hard antler at any time. I tend to think more sambar are in hard antler in the winter months (June onwards), but that might have just been my luck! Australia, however, is much different from New Zealand in that some areas are controlled by rainy seasons, and there are a couple of very specific seasons. Hog deer in the state of Victoria, for instance, are only hunted in April. That’s a pretty good time for axis deer up in Queensland, but in my experience it was too early to hunt sambar and, because of the rainy season up north, that is far too early to hunt buffalo and banteng in the Northern Territories.
The buffalo country gets impossibly boggy early in the year and it stays wet fairly late. In some really wet years even June can be difficult. However, it’s really tropical up there in the Outback, so their winter months (our summer) are far and away the most pleasant time to hunt up there. July and August are also ideal times to hunt rusa deer, whether in Australia or New Caledonia…that’s when they do their roaring, and it’s a marvelous sound.
Okay, for sure I didn’t cover all possible options, but how’s that for a world tour of spring and summer opportunities? Don’t complain about the time of year…make a plan and go hunting!–Craig Boddington