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Hunting Near Bishop

Hunting Near Bishop

Hunting in the Eastern Sierra

Bishop is the gate way to the surrounding lands and mountains of the Owens Valley. The biggest advantage of this area is the vast amounts of public lands. Access to hunting grounds is key to successful hunting. The Owens Valley offers deer, bear, elk, bighorn sheep, upland birds, waterfowl, rabbits and varmint hunting.

Deer hunting is very popular and the area is managed with zones that have a limited number of permits. The zones of X9A, X9B, and X9C sell out every year and generally require points to be drawn. The drawing is held in early June.

Hunting in these areas takes place in fall starting in September and ending in November. These areas lend them selves to spot and stalk hunts, road hunting and wilderness hunting. There are limited tags for hunting elk and big horn sheep in the Owens Valley area. If you get drawn contacting one of the local guides will ensure your best opportunity for success in the pursuit of these game animals. Bear hunting is allowed in Inyo County. It coincides with the opening of deer season.

There are lots of bird hunting opportunities around Bishop. Starting September 1 dove season is opened for 15 days. In Inyo County there is not much opportunity to hunt doves in the second season. Depending on feed conditions dove hunting can be fabulous to non existent.

Mountain quail and grouse (blue, ruffed) are the next to open after dove season. Then general quail season and chucker open in October.  For the hunter willing to put in the effort to hike and scout will have success. Waterfowl season starts in October with the balance of the state opener. Hunters will have success jump shooting, and decoying the ponds and rivers of the Owens Valley. Access to vast amounts of public lands makes it easy to hunt rabbits and varmints like coyotes. Before heading out to hunt a stop at one of the local sporting goods store will give you insight into where to pursue the game you want to hunt.

Make sure that you check CF&W regulations for seasons, bag limits and hunting zones.

Wildlife – Take Precaution

Whether you camp, backpack, mountain bike, or fish, there are precautions you should take in the High Sierra. Following the suggestions below will help make the journey safer for you, your companions, and wildlife. Remember, all wildlife can be dangerous. Please do not approach or feed wild animals, especially bears. Bear attacks in the Eastern Sierra are NOT common, just be aware of your surroundings. Remember to take these precautionary measures and enjoy your visit to the Bishop Area.

Viewing & Photographing Wildlife

Be calm and careful and plan your photography of wildlife with the potential reaction the wildlife may have if you attempt to approach. Use longer lenses instead of approaching and be respectful of the wildlife’s environment. Wildlife photos like the Bighorn sheep photo above was taken from the window of a vehicle on a dirt road. The sheep run away as soon as they see a human figure step out of a vehicle. Enjoy your photography adventures, just use caution under all circumstances. They will love you for it.

Tule Elk

A hulking and magnificent animal in its own right, approximately 400 – 500 Tule Elk roam the Owens Valley area, mostly between Lone Pine and Bishop.  This subspecies (Cervus canadensis ssp. nannodes) of elk is not native to the East Sierra but is actually from the San Joaquin Valley and coastal areas.  Primarily an inhabitant of open valleys, the Sierra was a barrier to eastward migration.  These elk derive their name from the tule plant that it feeds on, which grows in marshlands of the Central Valley to the grassy hills of the coast.

An estimated 500,000 tule elk roamed these regions when Europeans first arrived to California. As the Central Valley was settled by ranchers and farmers in the 1800’s, elk numbers and habitat gradually diminished to a point where they were in danger of extinction. Legislation was passed to protect them in 1873. And even though they began to recover, farmers considered the elk a nuisance because they would eat their crops. As the valley’s communities and farmland developed further, the elk became imperiled. In 1933, a rancher named Walter Dow took about 55 penned elk to his ranch in Owens Valley. Although they were removed from their native habitat, they adapted and flourished and now occupy City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Land Management, and Inyo National Forest land.

Tule elk is the smallest subspecies of all American elks. Smaller in stature than Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt Elk, the average adult male weight is only 450 to 550 pounds (200 to 250 kg) while females average 375 to 425 pounds (170 to 193 kg).

Tule elk can reliably be found in Carrizo Plain National Monument, Point Reyes National Seashore, and portions of the Owens Valley.

The best place to view these elk is at the Tule Elk Wildlife Viewpoint on U.S. Highway 395 several miles south of Big Pine. Mornings and early evenings from spring through fall are the best times to see these large animals. The herd stays close to or on close to irrigated fields to take advantage of water and feed.

The roadside pull-outs exist on both sides of the highway.  They are wide and a safe distance from the road, which allows for wheelchair or disabled access.

For further information, please contact the Chamber office.

Mule Deer

Comprising one of the highest numbers of mega fauna (large wildlife) species in the Eastern Sierra, Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) can be found in numerous herds throughout Inyo and Mono Counties.  Look for their white rumps, black tipped tails and distinctive large ears as characteristics common to this beautiful animal. Mule Deer are native to the region; about eight herds totaling several thousand mule deer occupy various broad ranges or habitats throughout the Sierra’s east side.  They are a mobile species moving from alpine mountain habitat in summers to warmer winter locations in the Owens Valley, Round Valley, Benton Valley, and Bridgeport Valley area.

During summer, you can find them in mountainous areas such as meadows, forests, etc. during morning or evening hours while they are browsing. Many times you can find them near developed Forest Service campgrounds and quite frequently they roam down into communities such as Mammoth Lakes,Lee Vining, June Lake, etc. where undeveloped wildland habitat borders these towns. In fall, winter, and spring, deer from the Round Valley Herd can be easily observed in various locations throughout Round Valley, particularly in locales such as Horton Creek where they browse on succulent Bitterbrush–an important dietary nutrient they need to survive the area’s winters.

The Eastern Sierra Land Trust is a conservation organization that works to preserve open space and wildlife in the region.

For additional information on the Round Valley Deer Herd and the ESLT, click here

For additional directions or information, contact the Chamber office.


Reduce the risk of close encounters with bears:

Let Someone Know: where you are going and when you plan to return.

Keep Children Close: to you and within your immediate sight at all times.

Avoid damage to your vehicle by NOT leaving any foods, drinks, coolers (even if empty) or any empty fast food bags or packaging in your vehicle. A bear’s acute sense of smell can detect odors even though your vehicle is sealed. Furthermore, if your vehicle is damaged by bears in posted areas, you may be fined as well. Don’t chance it. Remember to use appropriate bear boxes for your food storage. The bears will thank you as well.

Make Noise: Talk, sing or clap your hands to let a bear know of your presence. Don’t rely on bells, usually they are too quiet. Shout often, especially when traveling upwind, near streams and waterfalls, or when you cannot see the path ahead (avoid thick brush).

Be Alert: Watch for bear sign such as tracks, droppings, diggings, rolled over rocks, scratch marks on trees and logs that are torn apart. Carry binoculars and scan ahead periodically.

Don’t Hike Alone or at Night: Bears and mountain lions are most active at dawn, dusk and night, but can be encountered any time. Groups of three or more people tend to make more noise and appear more formidable. This makes groups safer than solo hikers.

Avoid Odorous Items: Leave foods and beverages with strong odors, scented deodorants and lotions and other odorous items at HOME. A bear’s acute sense of smell can detect odors from great distances. Dry foods are both lighter and less smelly.

Stay with Your Gear: Don’t leave your packs, food or beverages unattended; even food or beverages stored under water may attract bears.

Bicyclists and runners should carefully select the areas they are recreating in and be extra alert in mountain lion, bear and rattlesnake country. Speed and quietness increases risks of a sudden encounter. A mountain lion my see a lone mountain biker whizzing by as deer-like prey.

Hike at a pace everyone can maintain and stay together. Mountain lions and some bears behave in a predatory manner and will seek the easiest target. Don’t hike ahead or allow someone to fall behind, especially children and pets.

Common causes of attacks while hiking:

  • Not making sufficient noise.
  • Approaching or surprising an animal at close range, especially a bear.
  • Getting close to a carcass or other food source.
  • Startling a female bear with cubs.
  • Hiking off trail or at night.

Reporting a problem

If a bear behaves aggressively or attacks, contact the Bishop office of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFG) at (760) 872-1171. In addition, you can also contact the Inyo National Forest Dispatch Center at (760) 873-2405. If an encounter or attack occurs after business hours, call the DFG’s 24-hour dispatch at (916) 445-0045. The Department will assess the threat to public safety and take appropriate action.


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