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.

Planning Your Big Game Hunt

Obtaining a big game tag was once guaranteed. That is no longer the case, but it is still the first important step towards going on a hunt for deer, elk or other big game animals.

For a small minority, tags are still easy to obtain as every year there are big game tags sold at auction to the highest bidder. Earlier this month, two deer tags sold for $400,000 or more. However, there are still deer tags available to resident hunters in every state I know of. And, those tags sell for in the neighborhood of $25.

Take my home state of California. In California, the northwestern portion of California (B Zone) and some of the Western slope deer zones (D Zones) are managed for maximum harvest and availability.

On the other hand, “X” zones are managed for buck quality and have limited availability. This system was designed to  provide enough opportunity to keep everybody in the game and also provide a special opportunity for those who want to hunt for mule deer, which are primarily found on California’s Eastern slopes.

Each state has its own criteria for the sale of tags. Most have some “fundraising” tags which are sold at auction or raffle in order to raise funds for habitat management. Remaining tags are sold either over-the-0counter or by use of some type of rationing mechanism.

Rationing mechanisms can be random draw, preference point draw or bonus point draw. The state which is the most aggressive proponent of big game management, Utah,  uses several types of draw and also has many fundraising tags.

Hiring an outfitter or purchasing landowner tags simplify acquisition of tags, but raise the cost. One of my biggest mule deer bucks was taken in Nevada by purchasing a landowner tag. Finding a landowner tag at a fair price requires either inside help or a lot of searching.

Rich with buck

I hired a guide to assist me on the Colorado antelope hunt that resulted in the take of this buck.

Idaho, which believes in making over-the-counter tags available, is probably the easiest state for tag planning. That’s why my first 20 years of out of state hunting took place mostly in Idaho. In those days I had more time to plan, a dedicated hunting partner and less money to spend.

Most years we returned to familiar sites where we learned where the game went as the hunting pressure increased.

Idaho 2004 Rob's bull

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to kill a nice bull elk. My brother, Rob, arrowed this bull in 2004 and tagged it with an Idaho over the counter tag.

At my current age of 66, my hunting partner is now fishing more, my time is less my own and I can afford to take a different path. Which brings us to the next important part of planning a hunt.

Once you have figured out how to get your tag, you need to figure out where you’re going to hunt. This is where your ability to find resources determines your success.

Resources are, State agencies, friends, acquaintances, the internet, maps, books and clubs – of which there are many. Some might be conservation organizations and other may be hunting clubs like  California’s Wilderness Unlimited. Hunting periodicals provide good information as well.

After you determine where and when you plan to hunt, you need to figure out where you will reside during your hunt, what you will eat, how you will travel etc.

Staying in decent physical shape is an important asset for hunting. A regular exercise routine will allow you to do more hunting once you’re in the field.

These days I hunt more often with a guide who takes care of the many hunt details, freeing me up to focus on other things, like writing this post.

The great thing about hunting is that the anticipation of the hunt and memories of the hunt become as big a part of the hunt as the hunt itself.

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This whitetail buck was killed behind a friend’s home in Idaho. He invited me to visit him after we reunited at a high school reunion. He had a tree stand set up when I arrived and this buck was shot with my muzzle-loader at 65 yards.

 

Looking Back on 2013 Hunting

After a few missed opportunities, son-in-law Brett killed his first buck on Sunday morning.

The highlight of the season was helping my son-in-law Brett bag his first blacktail deer.

My personal best was arrowing the nice blacktail buck.

My personal best was arrowing the nice blacktail buck.

The Colorado antelope buck I killed in October was a personal first.

The Colorado antelope buck I killed in October was a personal first.

The most physically challenging hunt was a horseback hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The most physically challenging hunt was a horseback hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Lola had a good year retrieving and in November I had my best day of mallard hunting since 2011.

Lola had a good year retrieving and in December we had our best day of duck hunting since 2011.

Another first was back-to-back double limits of white-front geese in January. (Fred with geese)

Another first was back-to-back double limits of white-front geese in January. (Fred with geese)

Rick Leas killed the best trophy I saw this year by shooting this 350 bull in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Rick Leas killed the best trophy I saw this year by bringing home  this 350 bull in from the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The most unique trip of the year was traveling to VA and subsequently hunting whitetails with my "other" son-in-law Tim Rice, shown here with my step daughter Shannon while on a side-trip to Williamsburg.

The most unique trip of the year was traveling to VA and subsequently hunting whitetails with my “other” son-in-law Tim Rice, shown here with my step daughter Shannon while on a side-trip to Williamsburg.

More About the Colorado Antelope Hunt

A snow flurry hit about the time our plane landed in Hayden Airport. I met one of the guides and the other two hunters as we waited to gather our luggage. It was about 10:30 PM, the night before the opening of pronghorn season.

Not a problem, as there were plenty of antelope. My guide John and I checked out the main hunting territory by climbing to the top of a ridge and glassing in all directions. Within an hour we had spotted twenty or thirty antelope. In addition deer were abundant. They stood out against the snow-covered landscape.

My best guess is that we saw four or five legal antelope in the morning, but nothing that inspired me to take a shot. We didn’t harass them at all, in fact only one antelope spotted as best I recall, and that one we approached to check it out better.

After lunch we checked out another property and then returned to the ridge and resumed glassing. One small group of pronghorn was in a good position for a stalk, so we checked them out from about 125 yards, but elected to leave them alone for the time being.

We first spotted this group of pronghorn in the morning before the snow melt began.

We first spotted this group of pronghorn in the morning before the snow melt began.
In the afternoon, the snow was disappearing. Here's how they looked from 125 yards.

In the afternoon, the snow was disappearing. Here’s how they looked from 125 yards.

John and I took turns using the spotting scope attached to my shooting sticks. The sticks worked well for spotting, photographing and shooting.

Here's John using the sticks and spotting scope.

Here’s John using the sticks and spotting scope.

As the afternoon progressed, John decided we should be more aggressive and check out a few nooks and cranny’s. We found more antelope.

We found a couple bucks that I wasn't sure about. Figured they would probably be around later if we didn't find anything better.

We found a couple bucks that I wasn’t sure about. Figured they would probably be around later if we didn’t find anything better.

It must have been an hour before dark when we came over a rise and John shouted, ” You better shoot that one!”

I didn’t need the encouragement. I was already getting ready to shoot. From 250 yards I hit him, but he didn’t go down. Then I missed him as he was walking away. At 284 yards, I fired, and he dropped – not moving again. The shooting sticks were quite valuable.

Here he is again.

Late on day one, my guide John led me to this buck. I was quite pleased.

Late on day one, my guide John led me to this buck. I was quite pleased.

On day two, I joined our outfitter, Eric Hamilton, and two other guests, Ken and Ray. We checked out another property where Eric was able to lead Ray on a successful stalk. From 125 yards, Ray waited for his pronghorn to stand up. Finally Eric let out a yell and the buck was on his feet. Ray had not trouble making a perfect heart shot.

Ray shot this buck on day two after a nice stalk along a ravine.

Ray shot this buck on day two after a nice stalk along a ravine.

The hunt continued as Ken still had an unfilled tag. The county was broken, but not rough. The hills were covered in varieties of sage and other good feed. Grass and forbs were prevalent. The recent rain and snow was producing new growth.

We stopped near a raptor sitting on a sage bush. After I few minutes of watching it, I realized it was a prairie falcon and Eric paused while I snapped photos. Click on this photo to get the best view.

This photo is interesting, not only because the falcon shows well, but because a jet happened to create a vapor trail to enhance the shot.

This photo is interesting, not only because the falcon shows well, but because a jet happened to create a vapor trail to enhance the shot.

We didn’t get every antelope we went after in fact there was a miss or two. Here’s a video clip of one of the misses. Just click on the link.

http://youtu.be/Fcb0NJ7qMVk

Day two ended without another pronghorn, but we still had a day to go.

Eric had other commitments for day three, so he hooked us up with his father, Greg, who was a real good guy. We enjoyed his friendly, enthusiastic and easy-going style. He told us a few stories about his sage grouse adventures, and it wasn’t long before we found one of his flocks.

We saw a couple flocks of grouse. They weren't very wary.

We saw a couple flocks of grouse. They weren’t very wary.

At the first property we went to, we ran into antelope. Ken had a couple close calls and then the whole herd ran by us and stopped just inside 200 yards. Ken knocked the dominant buck down, but by the time we got to the spot, he was on his feet again.

What ensued was a two-hour track and stalk job that ended with Ken finishing the buck off from 169 yards. It proved out to be the best buck of the trip.

Ken knocked this one down at 169 yards. This buck has impressive mass and great cutters.

Ken knocked this one down at 169 yards. This buck has impressive mass and great cutters.

Trip to Craig, Colorado, a Rousing Success

Had a great trip to Colorado. Hunted with Big Rack Outfitters, Eric and Keri Hamilton. They were charming hosts and took great care of me.

Bunked  in their cabin with two other hunters, Ray Sherman and Ken Craft, from Dayton Ohio.

We all filled our tags with nice bucks.

Not enough time to go into detail, so I’ll start by attaching photos of our bucks. More later.

Ray shot this buck on day two after a nice stalk along a ravine.

Ray shot this buck on day two after a nice stalk along a ravine.

Late on day one, my guide John led me to this buck. I was quite pleased.

Late on day one, my guide John led me to this buck. I was quite pleased.

Ken bagged the nicest buck of all on the last day.

Ken knocked this one down at 169 yards. This buck has impressive mass and great cutters.

Ken knocked this one down at 169 yards. This buck has impressive mass and great cutters.

Lots more to talk about and photos to share later.

Big Rack Outfitters guides for deer, elk and antelope on private lands in Northwestern Colorado. For detailed info go to http://www.bigrack.com.