This is a story about my youngest daughter, Heather, who has been the luckiest person I know regarding special hunt draws in California. When she was old enough to have her name placed into the California lottery, she was drawn for a Northern California special junior hunt. She took a 22 inch three by three mule deer on her very first hunt.
Then, the next year, both my daughters and I put in for the same area for the special X zone hunt and were again drawn. Heather was the only one to take a deer, a four by stub mule deer. We believe that the other side must have been injured while the buck was in velvet. Both hunts were on public land in Northern California.
Then, nothing for a couple of years, until the 2007 draw results come along and, you guessed it, Heather was the only one in the family to be drawn for a special hunt. And it was not a buck tag this time but an elk tag for the fifth period Owens Valley cow elk hunt. I could not believe it. I have been putting in for elk tags for as long as I can remember and have never even come close to being drawn.
The next task was to find a place for this lucky lady to hunt. I used to hunt near Bishop with my mom and dad years again, but that was for mule deer. The first person I called was my hunting partner, Chris, to tell him the good news. Chris also had some good news for Heather, and me, as he knew someone who worked in Bishop who could potentially find us a place to hunt. That sounded good to us.
Chris was able to make contact with his friend, Joe, who knew a rancher that could probably provide Heather with a place to do her hunt of a lifetime. Joe would get back to us as it got closer to the hunt date.
It was now two weeks before the hunt and we contacted Joe to see what was up and if we had a place to hunt on opening morning. Joe had arranged the hunt with the ranch owner and set us up for the elk hunt on his property. I contacted the ranch owner, Ronnie, who said there was no problem hunting on the ranch. We made contact and agreed to meet each other a couple of hours before sun up on opening morning.
Now, we had to get to Bishop, and that was not going to be easy. Heather is the captain of her high school soccer team and had a game that Friday which ended at 7:30 p.m., the night before the hunt. Following the game, we had to run home so Heather could make sure that all of her college applications, she sent off the prior night, were confirmed. That was a good call since one did not make it! After I had the truck packed and she had her application resent, we were off. It was nine o’clock and we had a 9-hour drive to Bishop and a meeting with Ronnie at 4:30 am. It was a long night.
We made it to Bishop at 4:00 a.m., checked into the hotel and set the alarm for 4:30. That was a quick nap. Ronnie gave us a call right on time, and we made plans to meet a couple miles out of town.
We met Ronnie, Bill (the other lucky tag holder) Westin and Nick. Before we could even introduce ourselves, Ronnie had Heather and Bill get ready to make a stalk on a herd of elk that they had spotted the night before. We followed them into an empty corral and watched as they made a stalk down the side of the fence line as the sun started to pick over the mountains. As we watched Heather and Bill making the stalk, we could see elk in the far pasture. There must have been a hundred head or more. We waited for about an hour or more as the bulls and cows feed in the field. When it appeared that the elk were close enough for the hunters to get a shot, a shot rang out from somewhere nearby. When another shot was heard 30 minutes later, the elk move out of the pasture and headed to the open valley.
When Heather and Bill finally returned, they said that they did not shoot. Later, we found out that there was a hunter down the road who shot at a cow. The third lucky tag holder out of 5 was also hunting near us. We moved back to the trucks to talk over the plan for the next stalk, while Ronnie went to see if the other shooter needed any help.
Not sure what to do, we all decided to go up and see what was going on with the other hunter. When we arrived, the hunter was looking for his elk with Ronnie, so we started to discuss our new game plan. Just then, we looked up the road to see a small herd of elk crossing. Our third hunter, looking for his elk, must have spooked them.
With elk standing in the road just 200 yards from us, the hunt was on! We all jump in Nick’s truck to close the distance. It looked like another fruitless stalk when, for some reason, the elk turned and started walking back to us.
Heather got ready for the shot, but realized the sagebrush was too high for a good shot. There was an old fence post a couple of yards away that she used to steady herself. As the elk were walking along, she turns to me and asks which one she should shoot. I told her to pick a cow that was medium sized. When they were within about 150 yards of our new position, Heather picked out her cow and made the shot. All we could see was dust flying everywhere. One shot and one cow elk down for this lucky lady and it was only opening morning. Bill was also able to take his cow from this group.
Heather and I were prepared to pack her elk meat out piece-by-piece, but Ronnie offered to take it to the ranch. With a four-wheeler at hand, we loaded the cows up and off to the ranch we went.
We followed them to the ranch, where we used a backhoe as a winch and, before we knew it, the elk were cleaned, quartered, and bagged. Ronnie even invited us to join him for a fresh lamb dinner. What a wonderful way to end a great hunt.
PS - As we were working on her elk, we noticed that it had some very nice ivory teeth. I have taken two elk and still have not been lucky enough to have ivory teeth in either of them. The lucky lady keeps getting luckier.
Heather and I would like to thank Chris, Joe, Deston, Ronnie, Westin and Nick for making this truly a hunt of a lifetime for Heather.