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.

 

More on the Bob Marshall Wilderness Trip

The weather was snowy and cold. The wind howled – just what you’d expect from a November wilderness experience.

The falling snow limited our visibility on the first day of hunting to the extent that my hunting partner, Alden Glidden, and I elected to spend the afternoon  cutting firewood. It was obvious that we’d be burning wood continuously for the next four days.

A crew of 3 guides put up the wall tent and stove, created a tarped entryway to the tent, set up an auxiliary tent for storage and set up cots in the tent for four people to sleep. A large camp stove would burn enough wood to keep us comfortable and well fed with hot food. Our second guide for the week showed up at the end of daylight and the group was reduced to four. Two guides, Colter Heckman and Shance Hall, along with two hunters, Alden Glidden and myself.

Our spike camp was at about 7,000 feet on the continental divide. Four horses remained in camp for hunting. About a foot of new snow greeted us on the first morning’s hunt. Along with the snow came a bighorn ram that apparently was lost as no sheep are known to reside in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

A lone set of deer tracks crossed a saddle near camp and Colter exclaimed that they looked like they belonged to a big muley buck.

Our first day of hunting in a prime deer area produced no mule deer, but Colter did spot some elk about a mile away. We elected to leave them be and hunt for mule bucks instead, but none appeared.

On day two we rode the horses off trail while hoping to find mule deer in timber. We found plenty of tracks but not warm bodies. As we arrived at the saddle where the buck tracks were found the day before, Colter suggested that I sit and wait for the buck. It was about 2:30 PM when I took up a position about 85 yards above the saddle. I brought a rest and water/wind resistant clothing so I could stay motionless while waiting for the buck. The temperature seemed to be in the teens and the wind was howling with gusts at 30 miles per hour.

As the buck would not stop for long in the saddle, I had to remain ready. A few seconds would be all the time I’d have to judge, aim and shoot if the buck appeared.

At about 3:45 PM. I glanced away from the saddle and then back. Without notice, the buck was standing directly below me. I took the safety off, glanced through the scope and saw a shooter buck. No time for examination beyond that.

As I readied to pull the trigger, I could see the buck tense his body in preparation to exit. He began to move forward as I squeezed off the shot. He hunched up and walked in a circle. As he completed 360 degrees turn, I finished him off with a second shot. I had my buck.

After walking to the buck, I could see the 4×4 antlers on this right side, but wasn’t sure that he had four points on each side. As I pulled his remaining antler from the snow, I was elated to see that both sides were perfectly matched with long tines.

The buck was quite nice and what I was looking for. With a perfectly matched set of 4×4 antlers about 20 inches high, I immediately pronounced him to be perfect for my wall.

For many years I had hoped to one day kill a big buck in the Montana wilderness and now I had one to call mine.

Grizzly bear, mountain lion and wolf tracks were observed every day.

Grizzly bear, mountain lion and/or wolf tracks were observed every day.

The deer of the wilderness live their lives under the constant threat of predators. In addition to being pursued by human hunters, they are also a primary food source for wolves and mountain lions as well as a supplemental source of food for bears, both grizzly and black.

In addition to the bighorn ram, elk and mule deer, we also observed three moose, one a large bull. While watching the three moose, a wolf howled from about 150 yards away. Having wolf tags, we attempted to attract the wolf by howling back at him, but he didn’t come. Later we walked over and found his tracks and the tracks of a second wolf. We followed their tracks for a ways, but they were long gone. I guess they weren’t impressed by our howls.

Left to right, Shance Hall, Dr. Alden Glidden and Colter Heckman pausing at the trail head on the way home.

Left to right, Shance Hall, Dr. Alden Glidden and Colter Heckman pausing at the trail head on the way home.

Rocky Heckman and his crew at Montana Safaris did a great job of providing for us and allowing us to enjoy some of the wildest wilderness in the U.S.

Hunting Season is Near

Didn’t get drawn for moose in Idaho, so I’ll be heading to BC in September to hunt mountain goat and mule deer.

The primary target will be goats, but if we get a chance to stalk a good mule deer buck, we will and if we finish early on the goats, we’ll focus on mule deer for the remainder of the hunt.

Goat and mule deer hunting season in BC starts on the first of September. We’ll be hunting high country. My guide, Kiff Covert, expects that there will be a sizable number of goats in the area we’re hunting, so finding goats may not be a problem. The key will be getting a good shot. It will require some climbing so I’ll be staying in the best shape possible this summer.

Purchased some items in preparation for hunting this season. One of them is a Quigley-Ford rifle scope. Sighted it in this past weekend and it s beautiful. Next stop will be some shooting at the ranch. I’ve also purchased some accessories that should be helpful – a tripod shooting rest and a Leica rangefinder. Now I’ve got to figure out how far is close enough. At age 65, I’m not as good with a rifle as I was a few years ago, but practice will certainly help.

The Quigley-Ford scope was easy to get on target. It is a 5-20 power variable scope.I’ve never owned anything like it. I’m now set up about 1 1/2 inches high at 100 yards shooting 165 grain Barnes X-bullets. The cartridge is advertised at 3130 feet per second out of my Winchester model 70 .300 WSM. If all goes well, I should be able to cover some ground

I’m also hoping to get drawn for a September/October mule deer tag in California, but the odds are not with me. November I’ll be hunting in the Bob Marshall Wilderness for the third year in a row. I’d really like to bring home a nice buck from that wilderness area.

Of course there will be blacktail hunting on our ranch, but deer numbers are pathetic. I’m not overly optimistic about chances of getting an arrow-shot at a nice buck. The rifle season won’t be easy either. Of the 20 ponds on our ranch, 18 of them went dry last fall. I’ve not seen a legal buck on our 1920 acre ranch this spring.

Don’t know how many years of mountain hunting I have left, so I’ll be trying to make the most of my time this fall.

Pumped About Next Fall

Set up some great hunts for next fall. With the day approaching  when I’ll no longer be able to climb mountains and ride horses, I look forward to the fall with impatience.

Last hunting season wore me down, especially the eight day hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. But now my enthusiasm is renewed and I’m ready for another go-round. One of the keys is to keep climbing my local hill on a regular basis.

This is the area where I missed a big buck last Novermber.

This is the area where I missed a big buck last Novermber.

I’ll be back in the BOB again next November, hunting with Montana Safaris and looking for the big wilderness buck that has eluded me the last two years.

I’ve put in for a Shiras moose tag in Idaho and if I get drawn, I’ll be packing into the Lolo Wilderness during September. That’s the time when the moose will be rutting, it’s also archery deer and elk season. If I get drawn, I’ll also be looking to hunt deer with my bow and I’ll also be looking into whether I can purchase an elk tag as well. May have to go for two weeks.

I paid $4,500 for a Nevada landowner tag the year I shot this buck. It's still my biggest muley buck.

I paid $4,500 for a Nevada landowner tag the year I shot this buck. It’s still my biggest muley buck.

However, just in case I don’t get drawn, I’ve got a back-up plan to hunt mountain goats with Kiff Covert in BC. If that happens it will be with rifle and I’ll also have a deer tag in case we come upon a worthy mule deer.

The usual smorgasbord of draw tags has also been applied for in Nevada and California. That is another unknown, but something good could happen and if it does, I’ll be hunting closer to home as well.

Who knows what the duck season will be bring this year, but whatever it is, I plan to be there. Even bought a new O/U shotgun. Can’t wait to test it out on the pond.

At the end of the month, the schedule will begin to clarify and my excitement continue to build. Anticipation is one of the key elements why hunting is such a great pastime.

Hunting the Bob Marshall Wilderness 2014

Hunted again with Rocky and Lorell Heckman of Montana Safaris. Modified the hunt this season. Spent most of the time camped in a spike camp on the continental divide, guided by Rocky and Lorell’s son Coulter.

The change put us in the middle of our hunting territory at the start of each day. We used our horses to get around for the most part, but hunted out of camp on day two.

Here’s the gist of the story.

Day one, Rich misses a cow elk at 200 yards. With a herd of 30 elk, no bulls, passing through a burn at 200 yards, I got prone and shot at one of the herd. Looks like I never touched any of them leading my guide, Coulter, to theorize that I must have hit a tree. In any event, it was a clean miss.

On day two we hunted out of camp and saw no legal game animals, but we did find two grizzly bears about 160 yards from the trail and 200 yards from camp. Got a couple pretty good pics.

These look-alike grizzlies were searching for berries on an open ridge about 200 yards from our camp site. Fortunately they never came for a visit.

These look-alike grizzlies were searching for berries on an open ridge about 200 yards from our camp site. Fortunately they never came for a visit.

Day three produced one of the most exciting days of deer hunting ever. After I missed three times, we followed a buck estimated by Coulter to be about 27 inches wide. We caught up with him twice during the day. The first time we caught up with him I buried a bullet in a tree on my fourth shot and plain missed him running on my fifth.

When we caught up him and his doe companion, the 320 yard shot was nearly impossible in fifty mile an hour winds, so we tried to get closer, but failed. By then it was getting dark. We rode to camp in twilight.

On day four we found the herd of cow elk again, but couldn’t find a way to get close enough for a shot.

The crew brought us feed for our horses on day four and then they hunted near our camp where they came upon two wolves, but were unable to get a shot.

The crew brought us feed for our horses on day four and then they hunted near our camp where they came upon two wolves, but were unable to get a shot.

Day five and six produced some opportunities at deer, but nothing that we were looking for. That’s hunting.

This is the area where we found the big buck.

This is the area where we found the big buck. It was a burn created in the fires of 1988.

In all, the group had sightings of wolf, grizzly, black bear, elk, moose and mule deer. We observed many tracks of these species and also the track of a wolverine. This wilderness area is about as wild as it gets in the lower 48.

As a large winter storm approached at the end of the hunt, large flocks of migrating geese and swans could be heard above us. Winter came in as we departed.

When I climbed into my cab to head to the airport on my last morning in Montana, the temperature was nine below zero, Fahrenheit.

Letter Regarding Wolf Management

Photographed this wolf track in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, November 2013.

Photographed this wolf track in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, November 2013.

Director Virgil Moore

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Email:virgil.moore@idfg.idaho.gov

Commissioner Will Naillon

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Email:willnaillon@gmail.com

Chairman Bob Barowsky

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Email:bbarowsky@fmtc.com

Governor Butch Otter

Email:governor@gov.idaho.gov

Chief Tom Tidwell

U.S. Forest Service

Email:ttidwell@fs.fed.us

Supervisor Keith Lannom

U.S. Forest Service

Email:klannom@fs.fed.us

To Those who manage our forests:

Elk meat is a fine tasting and healthy food. I prefer to season it and grill it on my Weber barbecue. It is best when removed while the meat is as rare as possible. Over cooking drys out the meat and reduces its quality. Weber makes a very good peppercorn marinade that I enjoy, but plain salt, pepper, oil and vinegar is sufficient.

Although I don’t always have a chance to partake, this winter I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy elk steaks and burger from a young bull I killed in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness.

What I couldn’t transport on the airplane, I gave to a good friend, who resides near Riggins Idaho, where elk numbers have sadly diminished. Some traditional hunting areas near his home, where he hunted successfully for years, are nearly void of elk. Wolves are the reason.

Wolves cannot manage themselves. Left unchecked they will prevent hunters from enjoying the bounty of the hunt.

While hunting the “Bob” I heard a wolf howl in the middle of the night and found their tracks on a day when we saw no elk.  I’m glad there are wolves in the wilderness, but they must be kept at a population level where they can coexist with and share elk with human hunters. There is only one way to accomplish that management objective.

I imagine it is very difficult to find a wolf and get a good shot. I look forward to a day when I may have the opportunity to hunt for wolves and learn more about their behavior. I know that it is unlikely that I will ever kill a wolf, but simply coming close would be a thrill I’d always remember.

One more item on my bucket list.

Thanks for doing the hard work of managing our forests and wildlife.

RF

Young bull elk like this provide quality meat second to none

Young bull elk like this provide quality meat second to none