Can’t say that there were no deer killed during this hunt. Three of the five hunters bagged bucks, and they were all nice trophies. Click on photo to show the caption.
Shut out this year on my deer hunt with Blue Bronna Outfitters in Alberta. It was a bit disappointing to go a week in prime deer country without finding a buck worthy of bringing home, but I’ve been on a good run lately and was due for some bad luck.
One of the positives about the hunt was learning to use my Phoneskope with my Swarovski spotting scope. The first day of the hunt produced a few photos and videos.
With the Swarovski scope on the car window-mount, a Canada moose walked across a field not far away, but too far for a photo with my IPhone, so I managed to catch him on the scope which produced an imperfect photo, but it’s still worth looking at.
There is a bit of a learning curve, but it doesn’t take long to figure things out. I didn’t have the PhoneSkope on the lens correctly, which created the quarter moon affect in the upper right portion of the photo. I later corrected this error. The lighting was poor on the original digital copy, so I adjusted it a bit. It’s a work in progress.
The next day, we found our first group of mule deer and I managed to connect on a couple photos. Later on, a small whitetail buck walked up next to and then in front of the truck. At one point he looked into the front seat from about three feet away. Too bad I wasn’t ready with the camera. It would have been an awesome photo.
This mule deer buck is a four by four with a spread around 18 inches. By zooming in with the IPhone, the circle affect was eliminated. One can zoom in prior to taking the photo, after taking the photo, or both. Hard to see his antlers clearly with the tree limbs behind. He was hanging around with a half dozen does.
This little guy was the biggest whitetail I saw on the trip. Although I had both whitetail and mule deer tags, they both went unused. This guy had no fear. No scope needed in this case.
More on Alberta later.
The first three days were for viewing, the fourth was for action. The idea was to look at the deer first and then decide which one to go after.
Unfortunately a couple of the biggest bucks were never properly vetted as they stayed in an alfalfa field far enough away that we never got a comprehensive view of them, but I think they were not quite as big as the one I finally decided on.
The wildlife on the ranch was very calm. While David was talking out the window to a friend, this coyote passed by at about 50 yards. I snapped a photo out the window.
The ranch has many food plots that provide winter wheat for green forage and standing wheat for thermal cover and a late-winter food supply.
David and Derek had fun with me seeing if I could figure out what critter left this pile of scat. I did not know.
The key is to know that the critter was eating apples from the only orchard around. Proves how omnivorous coyotes are.
Buck Run has a two state refuges on the ranch. Here is a photo of one of them.
And yes on day four, my buck. He was one of the two finalists. The other was a tall-horned velvet buck that Derek thought might be bigger than the one I shot. He was lucky that we couldn’t find him on “shoot” day.
He was a huge buck with great antlers and he’ll be prominent on my wall in a few months.
The ranch has a Washington State approved hunting program which offers an opportunity for ten unattached deer hunters to draw a tag to hunt on the ranch. Contact Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Wednesday morning, the fifth day of our Devil’s Garden hunt was a little rough. I got to my spot and waited for the sun to light up the scene so I could advance without spooking deer, but it was to no avail as another hunter arrived and chased the deer out of the woods.
That’s what happens when other people discover the deer you’ve been coveting. You have to expect it to happen once or twice each time you hunt in the public domain for a week or more.
The other hunter chased five bucks out of the nearby timber and I spotted them on a ridge top. They were obviously nervous. That’s when I realized exactly what was going on. I spotted the hunter and his driver friend who picked him up in a white dodge truck after he had completed his chase.
It had rained the previous day and tracks on the ground were very easy to follow, so I decided to pick up the trail of the five bucks – a couple of them big ones- and give it a try. I didn’t really think I would track them down, but I wanted to find out if I could.
The wet ground provided a great medium for the tracks. Here’s a photo I took of one of the buck tracks. They always look bigger in mud and the hoof sinks in farther than with dust.
After about three or four hours of following the bucks, but never seeing them again, I gave up and began the walk back to the timber where I intended to still-hunt for bedded bucks.
I’d been looking at the ground all day, so it’s no surprise that I kept on looking and then a shiny black piece of obsidian appeared. It was a nice looking point, but unfortunately the tip was broken which is often the case. I snapped a photo of the arrow head.
I have to say that the find lifted my spirits a bit and gave me some energy, which may have contributed to the next days success.
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.
There is more to tell and I’ll be posting again soon, but I just got home and I’m ready for bed.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a map showing the closure area.
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.
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.
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.
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.