The Rut is On

As I drove home from the ranch on Friday, a small buck crossed the road in front of me. Something was odd, so I stopped and got out of the truck to take a photo of the small buck.

To my surprise, instead of a buck, a doe was standing where I expected the buck.

Surprised, I moved a bit to look around a large oak tree. There stood the buck. The doe departed with the buck close behind. This was a good sign that the rut is on.

Generally the smaller bucks get things started, but as the days pass, the bigger bucks will enter the game. Hopefully before the season is over.

I’ll be out there this week giving it one more try.

Devil’s Garden Archery Hunt

The bottom line. It was a terrific hunt. Had a great time and we all saw bucks.

Yes I got a buck. Here’s the story.

On day six of the season, I had seen quite a few bucks and the numbers seemed to be holding. But, I was a bit worn out when I rose on Thursday. Decided to glass for bucks from the roads.

About 7:30 AM, I spotted three bucks heading up to a mountain top which I was familiar with. I carefully watched as they cleared the rim and took note of the place where they disappeared.

On some occasions I might have gone after the bucks and tried to watch them bed down and then stalk them in their bed. In this case, I decided to conserve my energy and wait until late afternoon to go after them.

About 3:00 PM I parked my truck about a mile from the spot and carefully stayed out of sight of the bucks. After 30 minutes, or maybe and hour, I reached the crest of the hill and stopped to study the area.

Within minutes, a buck appeared to my left. He was walking down wind and cross wind from me. I knew right away I was in a very good position. I raised my range finder and proceeded to range the buck as he neared.

The first range was 60 yards. The next 59 yards, then 42 yards and then 37 yards.

He turned broadside and stepped beside a downed log. There I considered a shot and decided it was good. As I prepared to draw my bow, the buck pawed the ground, circled and circled and laid down.

What a bummer. Now I had no choice but to stand still and ready until the buck stood up. How long would that be?

I found out in almost exactly and hour.

The wind had been steady, coming into my left shoulder. Then, I felt cool air on my right shoulder. The wind was circling and about about to shift direction. I knew the buck would soon get my scent.

That happened almost immediately. I was ready with knocked arrow as the buck stood and looked intently in my direction. But, it did not me.

My fortune was good so far, but the next move was his and it was critical as I didn’t have an open shot where he stood.

Apparently because he could not see me, the buck took two steps forward and again looked in my direction. When he took the first step forward his head went behind a small dead tree and I drew my bow.

With bow draw, he looked directly at me as I place my 30-yard sight pin on the top of his back and released. The buck did not move until my arrow clanked off a rock.

For a moment my heart sank as the sound was probably an indication of a miss.

I struggled up the hill, while dealing with legs that had been motionless for an hour.

When I reached the spot where he had stood, I looked for the arrow hoping that it would be close by.

The arrow was there and it was red. It was the reddest arrow I’ve ever seen. Relieved, I flopped on my back and laid still for what seemed like ten minutes, allowing my body to relax. I knew from the look of the arrow that the deer was probably already dead.

When I stood up I realized that I might be able to see the buck with my field glasses and not have to track him at all. Sure enough, after about five seconds, I saw the buck laying on it’s side.

IMG_3601-1 Rich's 2017 buck

There is more to tell and I’ll be posting again soon, but I just got home and I’m ready for bed.

 

 

Opening Day A-Zone

Spent the A-Zone opening day preparing for the A-4 hunt. Deer numbers on our ranch are so low that it’s really hard to get fired up.

First time I’ve ever hunted with my bow during rifle season. After target shooting for a while, I headed out to look for a buck.

While I was setting up, I got a text that Rob had just shot a 100 pound boar that was cooling off in a pond and he had to wade in chest deep to retrieve it.

Spent the rest of the afternoon waiting patiently at two locations. Never saw a deer until the ride back to camp when I came upon five deer, two of them spikes.

There will be time to hunt the A-Zone later on. Right now I’m focused on preparing for Modoc. Not enough time to do it all.

The mule is loaded in the Cargo Trailer and my check list is nearly complete.

Devil’s Garden Hunts are On?

Sunday 8/13/17

Late Thursday and after I made my last post, I got a second call from Modoc. Not certain what is up.

Contradicting the morning phone call, the latest word is that the forest closure for the Devil’s Garden portion of the Modoc National Forest is still in effect, but is limited to the area around the Steele Fire.

Hoping for better information tomorrow. (Monday)

Retrieved my A4 tag from License and Revenue Branch.

Fate of A4 Deer Hunt Yet to be Determined

Sent my A4 to back to the license and revenue branch thinking there was no hope that the closure of Devil’s Garden would be reversed.

However rains during the last few days may have opened the door a bit. If the closure is lifted or modified in a way that creates real deer hunting, I’ll be heading to Sacramento to retrieve the tag.

The next few days will tell the tale.

The A4 deer hunt is not the only hunting in jeopardy. The Clearlake Reservoir antelope hunt is also up in the air. And, the September elk hunt is not out of the woods either.

Obviously, the deeper into fall a hunt takes place, the better the chance the closure will be over.

According to Ken Sandusky the public affairs office for Modoc National Forest, another factor is that Modoc is hunter country and many of the people involved in decision making are hunters themselves.

We’ll see what happens. Here are a few Devil’s Garden scenes.

Devil’s Garden Fires Threaten Hunts

Had a great trip to Modoc to scout for deer. And, we did find some. Take note, they were in a burn.

Burns are a vital ingredient of deer habitat. The fires return the climax forest growth to a new start of the plant succession. Mule deer do best in habitat with young plants that sprout after a fire removes the timber that shades out new growth.

bucks in northeast Devil's Garden

We also witnessed several days of lightning a an accumulation of small wild fires that began to expand.

Upon our return home, we were greeted by a notice of closure of most of the Devil’s Garden for the remainder of the fire season (October 1) See link.

Modoc fire closure order 8-1-17-1

Here’s a map showing the closure area.

Modoc Fire closure map 8-1-17-4

The closure is for northeastern Modoc National Forest in the Devil’s Garden area. Unfortunately, that’s where all the mule deer spend their time on the summer range along with most of the antelope and elk. For deer it’s a no-brainer and I’ve already send a letter in to the License and Revenue Branch requesting a reinstatement of my preference points.

Appeal letter

For antelope and elk it’s not as clear. There are some antelope and elk that hang out in the southern portion of the Garden,in summer, but most of the antelope appear to hang out near Clear Lake Reservoir.

aantelope at Clear Lake DSC_0079

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on an opportunity, I contacted Collins Company. Collins Company, AKA Collins Pine. Collins owns owns a large portion of the summer range in northeastern Modoc and has a long track record for providing public access to hunt and camp.

The Collins Forest Manager said, “Find another place to hunt.”

That effectively closed the last potential opportunity for a deer hunt. If my appeal is granted, my preference points will be reinstated and my deer tag forteited.

IMG_3557 burn pano

So, these events are a double-edged sword. While some of the areas scared by fire will produce only junipers and cheat grass, other areas will provide a fresh succession of preferred plant growth that will enhance the habitat of Modoc deer for years to come.

Scouting for Mule Deer

Scouting can take many forms. A very important aspect of scouting is reading the California Department of Wildlife (CDFW) Big Game Hunting Digest. The statistics they provide regarding success rates for the various hunts is very telling. The way you utilize the Hunting Digest should have a significant impact upon your hunt selection

Because I had an Open Zone Tag last year, I scouted three Units. First I scouted during the archery season. I had my bow in the truck, but I wasn’t interested in hunting unless I came upon something that absolutely caught my eye. That didn’t happen and I never took the bow out of its case.

My main objective was to prepare for the muzzleloader seasons. Therefore the scouting I did during the archery season and rifle season was mainly to learn how to access the three areas.

The first step in scouting was acquiring maps and gathering information. I started with a Delorme Gazetteer. This map book is reliable, current and comprehensive within Northern California.

National Forest and BLM maps were significant, but cumbersome to use and not as accurate. Other special purpose maps were helpful for details of a specific area. I would include CDFW and 7.5 ‘ topo maps in this category.

On their web site, CDFW provides maps of every hunt unit.

Significant parts of the early season scouting were driving the access roads and speaking with people on site. Occasionally I found a hunter or rancher who was willing to spend some time telling me what they had seen recently,  such as good habitat, water sources or deer sign.

 

One of the issues with scouting for a late season hunt is that the deer are probably not where they will be during October or November dates which likely fall during or after the migration. Learning the location of a big buck in August or September may or may not be valuable. You won’t find out until your hunt season begins.

On the other hand you may be able to find our where and when the deer migrate or where they congregate for the rut. Game wardens and biologists can be a good source for this type of information. You’ll have better luck contacting them if you do so prior to the opening of deer seasons.

Since the units I hunted last year were completely new to me, I tried to drive the boundaries of units (or close) to know generally where they were located. Last year I never got stuck, but almost. It’s a good idea to check out some of the side roads, but remember that once October and November comes there may be mud. Swamps are dry in September, but might not be later on.

A very valuable resource is a reliable hunter who has experience in the unit you are hunting. Talking to other hunters and building relationships can be a great asset. Ask your friends and acquaintances if they have hunted the unit. You’ll find that other people may have hunted several of the X-Zones regularly forty years ago. Although times have changed, good spots then are probably still good spots today. Having contacts can make a huge difference.

The most valuable information you can have is gained by personal experience. That is why hunting the same unit as frequently as possible is an asset. If you’re hunting with a party, of three or four people, you may be able to combine your scouting and contact resources. That could be very helpful.

The group I hunt with is planning a fishing trip in the unit where we’ll be hunting during the August archery season. We’ll also have our bows along so we can do some archery practice. It’s also a dry run for planning purposes. Getting the kinks out of camping equipment, trailers, ATVs etc.

Stay patient and alert. Know what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a good one, the odds tell us that you’ll be lucky to see one shooter buck.

Good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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