Federal officials have issued a public alert after deer hunters in the South Cow Mountain Recreational Area outside Ukiah were confronted by armed men in an area near a campground where evidence suggests marijuana was being grown.
The Bureau of Land Management frequently finds cannabis gardens in the area, but with Sunday's encounter warned the public to beware.
"The Bureau of Land Management is investigating the incident," Rich Burns, BLM Ukiah Field Office manager said in a press statement. "In the meantime, anyone visiting the area should be aware of their surroundings and leave the area if they notice anything unusual."
The Cow Mountain Recreational Area, a rugged, 52,000-acre expanse east of Ukiah in the hills between Highways 20 and 175, is used for hiking, mountain biking, hunting and, in its southern portion, off-road vehicles.
BLM personnel said the five hunters were on Trail 8 near the Red Mountain Campground on South Cow Mountain's west side when they noticed drip irrigation tubing of the kind often used in pot gardens and were confronted by two armed Latino men.
The hunters turned back but were confronted by a third armed man.
As they drove from the area, they encountered yet a fourth man in a pickup truck who warned them to stay out of the area, authorities said.
The men related the incident to the BLM on Monday, spokesman David Christy said, and authorities are looking for a marijuana grow based on their report.
Anyone with information or questions can call the BLM Ukiah Field Office at (707) 468-4000.