Saturday August 13th was opening day for the California “A” Zone – the Central California Coastal zone for blacktailed deer.
The hunting in this zone takes place mainly on private ranches like ours. Standing on our ridge, we can see San Francisco Bay, Mount Diablo and to the east the Central Valley. On the clearest of days, the Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen.
Hunting takes place in weather that averages in the 90’s and it was that way this last weekend.
Our deer herd is down in numbers to about 20 percent of the population from four years ago when five of us could likely kill a buck on opening weekend. It was expected that we would see a half dozen or more bucks apiece.
Weather patterns, especially the drought, seems to be the reason behind the decline. This weekend, my deer count was seven. Two spike bucks, three does, one fawn and one legal buck.
However, the excitement did come about mid-day on Saturday. While still hunting through a likely bedding area, I came upon a buck that was sneaking along about 50 yards from me. For some reason, it seemed like he had not seen me when he stopped and bedded down facing generally in my direction, but not focused on me.
Frustrated that he had not stood still long enough for me to get off a broadside shot, I began to worry a little more than I should have. While generally pretty patient, for some reason, I got antsy and began to look at the buck though my scope. I realized that if I moved about a foot to my left, I might have a shooting lane.
I looked again through the scope and could see his brisket, head and horns clearly. It looked like an easy shot, but a little jolt of buck fever was brewing in my mind. For no good reason I rushed the shot and saw the bullet hit the ground just below the buck.
He was so surprised that he didn’t even move, but stared in my direction looking for me. As I looked through the scope at the buck, I realized that he was giving me a chance for another shot, but as I worked the bolt, he pinpointed my location, rose and sneaked off. I nearly had a chance at him walking, but then he was gone.
This was the closest rifle shot I’ve ever missed, but it points out the fact that shots at lying-down bucks are not as easy as they may appear. My only previous success at a buck while lying down was from a tree stand where elevation created a much better angle at the deer’s body.
Case of temporary buck insanity was a good thing to get out of the way and I didn’t have to get bloody. Nice to know that I still get excited by a nice looking buck at close range.