It was supposed to be a scouting trip and turned out to be my best Northern California bow opener ever! I was attending a training class all week in Sacramento and then heading up to Northern California for a solo deer hunt to see what it looked like for the rifle opener. I finished up my training Thursday afternoon and headed up to the Trinity National Forest.
I stopped in Redding for some food and made the final 2 hour drive to our normal camping spot only to find it occupied. Not what I was hoping for, but, being by myself, I went to a spot we call Kenny Roger’s Camp and cleared out a place to set up the tent.
As it was only Thursday, I set the alarm for about six a.m. to get up and take a look at our hunting spot on the hill we have been hunting for almost 25 years. It is a very large rock that oversees a large, very deep canyon that is almost impossible to get a deer out of if you were so lucky to get one. We are about the only ones that really hunt this one spot because of this difficulty of retrieving a buck.
In just over an hour, I saw 8 very respectable blacktail bucks with one way over 20 inches wide with a three by four rack. It looked very promising for the rifle opener, but, I was there with my sticks and they are no good down there, time for me to move on. For the evening, I made a drive down the main dirt road to see what I could find, which was one small spike.
On the way back to camp, I meet the hunter who was in our normal camp site. He flagged me down to say hi and show me a three by two and several does standing in his camp site. We visited for a while and watched the show. It was really fun seeing the buck standing there, just 40 yards away. That really got me excited for the opener.
Opening morning came quick and I was up and walking up the hill before daylight. After about a two hour walk and only seeing 1 buck about a mile away, I made it back to camp. With the sun just starting to get into the sky, I decided a road hunt to two old logging roads was in order. There was nothing home on that trip.
As I was heading back to camp, I passed the other camp site and made a decision to go on one more hunt before taking a break. I drove about a mile past the camp and set out for a long hike down and up the very steep canyon in front of me. I made it to the bottom and started walking side hill up the canyon wall to the road.
I was just a ¼ mile up the draw when I stopped for a rest. To my amazement, a very large two by two buck walked right along the other side of the canyon, about 80 yards from me. He did not even look my way. The big buck had no clue that I was sitting there watching him.
I watched him disappear up the canyon into the dark timber. I slowly worked my way up my side of the steep canyon wall for awhile and then decided to cross over and look for the big buck. I crossed the canyon and headed straight up the other side into the dark timber. Not even a hundred yards up the canyon, I caught site of velvet horns glowing in the forest as if they were calling me. I quickly ranged the buck at 36 yards, and then moved up to get within 30 yards of the buck. Again, I could see his velvet horns moving in slow motion as he was eating his morning breakfast.
Close enough to feel comfortable, I take the shot and he jumps about a foot and then looks around to see what happened. I was behind a large pine tree and was down wind, so he just decided that it was nothing and went back to eating his breakfast. I decided to get another 10 yards closer. As I took that last step, he decides it was time to slowly walk away. It is now or never. I place the 20 yard pin on his front shoulder and let the arrow fly. I hear the arrow hit something and watch the buck jump and run away.
Hurrying to the last place I last saw the buck and found no sign of a hit. I slowly worked my way down his escape route and after about 2 minutes, look up to see him moving downhill at a very slow walk. Then it hits me! I have made a good shot on this buck and the sound I heard was a hit.
With only one arrow left and the deer still moving away, I decide that the old saying “when in doubt, back out” was the thing to do. I worked my way back to the truck and called my brother Mike to bring up his cow dog Hutchie to help me recover the buck. I waited for about two hours and then I heard Mike coming up the road to the rescue.
We got ready for the long hike back down the canyon to the place I last saw the buck. Down we went. As Mike and I reached the area where all the excitement happened, Hutchie was already on the scent. It took her less than a minute to find the downed buck. This was not the big two by two buck, but as we reached him, he started to look really nice. He turned out to be a really nice three by two. Our biggest bow kill on the hill over the last 25 years and number 3 for me.
This is a hunt that I will never forget. Thanks Mike and Hutchie for your help. What a way to start the 2010 hunting season.