A little while back, I did a post on hunting at Fort Hunter Liggett, down in Monterey county.  As I mentioned in that post, I’ve never actually hunted that base and had to rely on a couple of tours and the reports from many friends for my information. 

Well, in the interest of first-hand experience, I was fortunate enough to get my friend and fellow JHO member, Alan Crowder to give us a write-up on another great hunting opportunity… Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Vandenberg has a great reputation for both deer and hog hunters.  The catch, however, is that only military, their dependents, and Department of Defense (DOD) contractors are eligible to hunt on this base.  But let’s let Alan lay it all out:

I have had the pleasure of hunting Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) for the last several years and would like to pass on some of what I’ve learned while hunting there.  In addition, new regulations regarding hunting came into effect on 1 July of this year. 


First the who:  any active duty, retired, or active duty guard may hunt on VAFB as well as DoD employees including NAF and AAFES.  Law enforcement may hunt as long as a letter has been submitted by their commander and approved by the VAFB installation commander.  Guests are only authorized by active or retired military.  Of course, all State laws apply when hunting on base.  Leave your handguns and rimfires at home.  They are not authorized for hunting on VAFB.


What to bring:  there are a variety of areas with specific firearm restrictions.  “A” zones are for archery tackle only.  “B” zones are for shotgun, muzzleloader and archery.  “C” zones are rifle, shotgun/muzzleloader and archery.  If you have one of those fancy “long range” muzzleloaders you will be confined to a rifle area. 


Of course copper ammo is mandatory on Vandenberg.  I am prepared to hunt in any of these areas and many others do the same.  The base is around 98,000 acres mixed chaparral, some oaks, some dunes, and lots of Manzanita thickets.  Good binoculars are a must!  A spotting scope is desirable.  VAFB has over 700 miles of road; some paved, others not well maintained.  Four-wheel-drive is necessary to access some of the more remote locations.  Sorry, no quads.  All driving must be performed on existing roads and no vegetation may touch the undercarriage of the vehicle. 


When you arrive for the first time you must go to the Base Exchange and purchase a “Use Fee” sticker for the type of game you are hunting i.e. pigs, deer, or small game (birds).  The cost for military is $15 per sticker and is valid for the season.  DoD stickers cost $35.  A guest sticker is $10 and is good for 72 hours.  Once you have everything you need to hunt, INCLUDING YOUR LICENSE, TAGS, USE FEE STICKERS AND ID, proceed to the base fish and game office to register to hunt.  Until you do this, you are NOT legal to hunt on base.  The conservation officer will provide you with a copy of the hunting instruction, your authorization (216), a set of maps, a dash placard, and will give you any specifics regarding area closures.  This is important to understand:  this is an active military base with an ongoing role of providing missile defense as well as a busy missile launch roster.  Areas are subject to closure at any time and that’s just the cost of hunting here.  Don’t bother complaining because you’ll just annoy the authorities.  READ THE REGULATIONS!  There are specific rules that must be followed when hunting on VAFB that are unique to the base and are in addition to the California regulations.  For example, all animals must be brought in for check-in with the hide on.  Do not quarter the animal, do not leave the base without check-in.  During the general deer season you MUST wear orange on your torso; it need not be a solid panel.  A hat is recommended, not required.


Our weather here is typical central coast:  morning fog, afternoon winds and generally mild temperatures.  This is not always the case and if you come up here to hunt deer and hogs in the summer you can expect to freeze one day and roast the next!  Be prepared.  Some years in some areas ticks are a real problem:  I have removed over 100 ticks from my pant legs at one time, so treat your clothing and wear repellent. 


VAFB has excellent camping facilities that can be booked through the Outdoor Recreation office.  The base has lodging as well and there are numerous motel options in the surrounding communities.  There is a full-service gun club on base with a pro shop, ranges and best of all a game cleaning and aging facility with room in the walk-in cooler for 25 deer at a time.  For members only, see the pro shop for membership details. 


The hunting.  I heard from the base biologist that 30% of the state’s pig harvest comes from; Fort Hunter Liggett, Camp Roberts, or VAFB.  That said, it isn’t easy hunting because the hogs get a lot of pressure.  This makes many of them entirely nocturnal.  The best option is to get up on a high spot and glass the surrounding countryside.  Sure, you can “bust brush” but likely you will only hear the hog go out the other side and see nothing but the brush moving.  It’s best to try spot and stalk.  Some guys use dogs.  I ask that you think twice about using dogs here because of the high amount of hunter pressure.  A pack of dogs will push hogs out of their beds and they will leave that area for months, wrecking the opportunity for others coming up later in the season to hunt.  Too much pressure and the hogs simply move off base to private land where they aren’t being hunted.  Shooting wet sows is discouraged for the same reason:  hunting pressure keeps the hog numbers well in check.   I’d rather see piglets shot than wet sows because then only one animal dies.  It is a complete fallacy that piglets get adopted by other herd sows.  They are coyote food.  There is always time to make sure of your target!


We have a large population of deer on VAFB and hunter success is far above the state levels at close to 50%.  Those hunters willing to get out away from the roads tend to do well, and success is enjoyed in every area on the base.  Hunting pressure during the deer season is only moderate, and one can get away from everybody else if you so desire.  Good optics and shoes are a must.  For the military and some DoD, there is a VAFB specific tag labeled a “G-11”:  this is an either sex tag with a season that runs from 26 August to 31 December.  It is only available to a limited number first come, first served.


Dove hunting is completely dependent on the weather around the 1st of September.  If it’s hot, the doves are in.  If it turns cool the birds will head inland.  Quail hunting is often good and it looks like 2009 is going to be a good year.  Lots of babies and we are seeing the second clutch of young now.


So give some thought to coming to VAFB and participating in a wonderful hunting program.  The wildlife management team here excited to have hunters here as the important tool that it is!  Hope to see you out here!

Thanks, Alan!  That’s good stuff right there!