First of all, welcome to the site! Hopefully you will stick around, and check out the site. There's lots of good info on here, and many guys willing to help.
Okay, now about D16. I have been hunting D16 for the last 10+ years. Before you get excited, I have only killed 1 deer in that time. I don't get out as often as I'd like, or any number of other excuses. However, I do know the area well. Through hunting, as well as work. There is lots and lots of land out there.
The problem you will find is that most hunters congregate around 3-4 certain areas, and unless you get back in there or get lucky, your chances are slim. However, I know guys that get their deer every single year. They have time to scout, get away from the roads, and usually get their deer the first day or 2. I will be hunting this weekend, but I have the doe tag (G-13). I have a few deer in mind, but can't get out till Sunday, so I hope they are still around after the opening day onslaught.
As for land, you are starting on the right foot with the Cleveland Nat. Forest map. The common areas will be out near Kitchen Creek, but there's lots of private land. Look south of the 8 near Lake Morena also. If you move north of the 8, Pine Valley is crowded, but there are good deer there. Then, the biggest concentration of deer and hunters will be on 2 main roads through the middle of the Nat Forest. Boulder Creek Rd., and Eagle Peak Rd. Find those on your map. Like I said, lots of hunters, but there are good deer there too.
Finally, further north at the end of D-16, is Palomar Mountain. Again, tons of hunters, but good deer area. The problem with alot of the CNF is that while there is tons of land, most of it is so rough it's ridiculous. So, that, along with the fact that you are 30 minutes from 2.5 million people or so, makes for some crowded parts.
One last thing, if you can afford it, grab a pig tag before you had out. There is a small, but blossoming population out there. You would hate to stumble into one without a tag. They are cheapish, and are good all year. Be sure to throw up some photos and stories after your hunts! Good luck, and feel free to shoot me a PM if you need any further info.
No, Kitchen Creek is actually a few miles further east. I hunt Laguna Rec area most of the time during A-22 season. To get there, you get off at the Pine Valley or Old Hwy 80 exit. You have to go a few exits further, maybe 5 or 6 miles, to the Kitchen Creek exit. There is alot of private land around Kitchen Creek, so just be careful.
There is a dirt road that will take you the roundabout way from Kitchen Creek to the rec area (Thing Valley Rd.), but it's okay for rifle hunting almost all the way. I believe there is a very obvious sign stating you have now entered the Rec area.
I will be in the north on Palomar Mtn. on Sunday. Good luck to you!
What dates will you be here? There is actually good upland game going on then. Doves, pheasant, and quail all to be had over in the valley. You can get a non-resident, one day small game license, which is $20.98. Plus, the upland game stamp for $8.90. So, for $30, you can have some really good shooting.
I fly into LAX on the 21st December and fly out on the 27th. That's pretty good prices for one day hunt. I'm going to ask my brother in law if he wants to go. I don't remember if he has ever hunted. I'm thinking so but its been awhile. Maybe I can convice him for a hunt on Monday the 26th then barbaque what we get that afternoon.
If you guys decide to go, let me know. I have never hunted the second dove season, but I could ask around and see if it's worth hunting the last day. I will point you in the right direction to the public fields, and heck, maybe my Dad and I would even shoot over there for a morning hunt. He wasn't able to make it out here for the opener in September, so he'd be up for it.
Let me start off by saying that I am a scaredy cat.
For someone that spent 3 years in 82nd Airborne jumping out of all manner of military aircraft, my friends find this ludicrous - but... it is what it is!
Climbing stand? Yep, still scared - put me up 15' and that is about it.
Ladder stands? I am better in these - but still cautious.
Chain on stands? Used to love them, now they terrify me.
I was once ridiculed for putting chain on stands waaaay too high - some of my friends...