For Devil’s Garden (M9) (A27) Hunters

Having hunted the M9 hunt twice, I have a general feel for this hunt. I’ve not killed a buck on the M9 trips, but I’ve seen and photographed a bunch of deer. Maybe I  should have shot at one or two of them, but I chose not to.

Here’s an update for 2019. Looks like the weather is going to be warm and clear during at least the first half of the season, which closes on November 10. It appears to me that the deer leave the northeastern portion of the X2 zone about this time of the year. However, it is unclear to me if the larger bucks wait and migrate as the heavier winter storms hit.

I’ve not found the largest X2 bucks in the areas with the most does on my two hunts. I know there are larger bucks because I’ve seen them during summer trips to the area northeast of Crowder Flat.

During the 2017 early archery season, I saw numerous bucks larger that I’ve found during the M9 hunt. And, the general rifle hunt pressures those big bucks so they stick to heavy cover.

Therefore, I’d suggest that a trophy hunter (I mean looking for something like a 26+ inch buck with all the goodies), should hunt the area inside the M9 boundary just west of Crowder Flat to intercept the largest bucks if and when they move. That’s just a suggestion and I wouldn’t spend my entire hunt working that angle.

IMG_3106 2016 Doyle buck

This 2016 M3 buck is by far my biggest California buck. I’d call a buck like him a genuine shooter buck. But, some people would pass him up. He’s 28 inches wide and 18 inches tall.

If you’re willing to go home empty handed because you didn’t find that trophy, I’d not hunt where the does are because that’s where most of the hunters will be. There’s plenty of habitat in the northern half of the M9 zone where the big bucks can stay safe and if you hunt them you won’t be seeing a lot of deer, but you may find a loner buck that fulfills your dream.

If you’re not a trophy hunter or you’ve never killed a 4×4 mule deer, but you’d like to be successful on a nice buck (something like a 20-22 inch 4×4), I’d hunt the area with the most does. That would be the southern end of the M9 zone in timbered areas between Mowitz Road and Deer Hill. And, that doesn’t mean you can’t kill a monster in that area.

That southern area is where I’ve seen the largest concentration of deer, including many medium sized bucks. Here are some of them:

Just my opinion, but it is based upon experience

Round Valley – Returning to a Place I’ve Never Been Before

How do you return to a place where you’ve never been?

No. If you’ve never been there, you can’t return. But you can go to a place which you’ve interacted with many times over a long period of time. It’s possible to feel like you’ve been there even though you haven’t even been close.

That’s the way it is with me and Round Valley, located just a few miles west of Bishop, California. That’s south of Crowley Reservoir and in the northwest corner of the Owen’s Valley.

Here’s a link to a map of the hunting area:  https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=83619&inline

The reason I feel like I’ve been there is  based upon my activities of more than 20 years ago while I was editor of the Mule Deer Foundation magazine, Mule Deer – more recently known as MDF Magazine.

We published an article about deer management in Round Valley and another about monitoring mountain lions. The author of those stories was Becky Pierce who still works for California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

So, now, for the first time ever I’m going to Round Valley. The next step will be figuring out the best way to hunt. Looks like the weather is going to be pretty mild between now and November 10th, which means it may be hard to locate the biggest bucks. But I’ll be trying.

I’ve been doing some research and it looks like my best chance will be to catch a buck heading south out of the Mammoth Lakes area. The deer tend to come out of the west and follow the edge of the mountains down towards Bishop.

We’ll find out soon if they’re going to cooperate and if I’m going to find the right one.

Overwhelmed by Opportunity

Overwhelmed. That’s what I am. Overwhelmed by hunting opportunity.

A good friend invited me to hunt with him on his ranch in the B1 Zone during the late season blacktail hunt November 9-24. My Open Zone tag allows me to hunt that unit, so I can’t say no to that. I’d love to kill a 4×4 blacktail. Maybe this will be the year.

IMG_6967 biggest blacktail cropped

My biggest blacktail. Yes this guy was entered in the local Native Sons of the Golden West Buck Contest ( BBC). You can see that I never removed the entry band. He finished a distant seventh or something like that, but he is still the largest blacktail buck I’ve ever seen while hunting the A Zone. 

The notice for the Livermore Native Sons Big Buck Contest arrived in the mail last week. Pricing system has changed. With an Open Zone tag I need to pay a $35 entry fee for each Zone I want to be entered in. Well we know I’ll enter in A and B1, that’s already decided.

Of course I have to hunt in X2, it’s my favorite unit. The Devil’s Garden has many opportunities to kill a buck, there’s archery in August – the bucks will be in the timber of the northeastern portion of the unit. I killed a buck there in August of 2017. It was a small 4×4 and the hunt was possibly the most exciting hunt of my life. I’m sure I posted the story.

IMG_3601-1 Rich's 2017 buck

This is my 2017 Zone X-2 archery buck. Got drawn with four preference points. My largest Archery buck finished in second place in the “All California” category. 

Here are some shots showing deer and other wildlife that are prevalent in the Garden.

 

And, I must be prepared to hunt in Zone X-6B. X-6B holds some of the states largest mule deer bucks. And, it’s so close to Reno that I might be able to once again spend a few nights with my buddy Jerry and commute to Doyle. The muzzleloader hunt centered around Doyle takes place during the rut. That hunt will surely cost me a $35 entry fee. It’s a bargain.

A place I haven’t hunted is X-6A, but I’m planning to hunt that unit this year because it’s only a 40 minute drive from our family vacation home at Lake Almanor. I know there are some big bucks there and the area east of Susanville called Bass Hill has some of the worlds most massive growth of bitter brush. It would be a mistake not to enter into X-6A. I’d hate to bag a dandy and have it sit on the side lines.

I’m motivated to attempt to add a nice California mule deer to my modest collection of mule deer mounts. The best opportunity to do that is probably Zone D-6. I can hunt there during the rut and if the snow flies early, bucks will migrate out of Yosemite.  D-6? Another $35. What the heck. Can’t enter the game without covering all the bases. Last season a friend of mine killed an awesome buck in that unit.

It would be nice to bag one of each of the subspecies of mule deer in California. So far I have killed a California mule deer, Inyo mule deer, Rocky Mountain mule deer and Columbian Blacktail. There are three others, the desert mule deer, the burro mule deer and the southern mule deer, but the fact that they’re way down south means I’ll probably never to after any of those guys.

The Round Valley hunt in Zone X-9A has been on my list for a long time, but unless something changes, I’ll once again not make it there for the hunt. The silver lining is that I’ll save $35 and a long drive to the Eastern Sierras.

Sent a check for $175.  It goes to a good cause and we have a very active Livermore Chapter with some very dedicated volunteers and participating members

Conversation in the Vineyard.. schedule

This is the schedule of events for the Conservation in the Vineyards program as they stand on Tuesday February 26, 2019.

National Endowment Logo 3

May 2:  6:00 PM to 9:00 PM Arrivals

There will be a reception and hosted cocktail party at the Vineyard Inn. The hospitality room is on the ground floor. Just ask. It won’t be hard to find.

Friday May 3: Various tours as follows.

Breakfast will be ready at 7 AM for the early starters.

8:00 AM – 12 PM. Trophy Room Tour The first van will depart between eight and 8:30 and it will take nearly an hour to arrive at Rich Pierce’s trophy room in Clayton. Box lunch will be provided. Return by noon. (Limited to 20 people)

38 inch mule deer cropped and resized

This 38 1/2 in wide buck is one of the larger bucks in Rich’s collection, maybe not the largest.

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM  Friday Ohlone Conservation Bank. Rob Fletcher will load his truck up with four guests and take them on a tour of the Ohlone Preserve Conservation Bank. This is a great time of year to view butterflies and wildflowers. (Limited to four guests)

11:00 AM Friday: Holm Ranch. Load up and travel to the Holm Ranch where former Livermore Chapter Chair Bob Holm will show you some of the best blacktail habitat in the East Bay Area. He’ll also provide a group of 8 people with a barbecue lunch. (Limited to 8 guests)

Emilee and (dad) Greg Selna Deer

Greg and Emilee Selna with a Holm- Ranch buck killed on a donated youth hunt.

11:00 AM until 4:00 PM Friday. Wine tasting at Livermore Valley wineries. Passes and transportation will be provided.

1:00 PM to 4:00 PM Friday Tour a ranch and wind farm with owner Janice Marciel. Come learn about Wildlife Barriers in the Altamont Hills – wind turbines, freeways and aqueducts. The Altamont Hills are home to many threatened and endangered species.

Friday and Saturday Tour Leader Janice Marciel

Janice Marciel will lead a tour of her ranch and wind farm.

Friday Evening 5:00 PM until 9:00 PM McGrail Vineyards

Social gathering at McGrail Vineyards. Hosted McGrail wine, heavy appetizers and a sausage table with some of your favorite venison – deer and elk.

This is a great opportunity to spend time one-on-one with MDF leaders, biologists, and land managers while trying out Livermore wines. Enjoy the fabulous view of the surrounding East Bay hills.

Saturday May 4. Open Space Tour 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM and load up the 4X4 pickups at 8 AM. This will be a caravan into Southeast Alameda County. The tour will be guided by many local experts and MDF supporters.

Here are some of the things you’ll be looking for:

 

 

 

The tour will cover three different management regimes. Although these open space lands may look the same, the underlying management goals are significantly different.

1.  The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission manages watershed lands throughout the Bay Area. Read about it.  SF PUC San Antonio Reservoir

The mission of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is to provide their customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that is inclusive of environmental and community interests, and that sustains the resources entrusted to their care.

Tour Leader Clayton Koopmann BIO Clayton third person short version with photo

2. East Bay Regional Park District East Bay Parks Stewardship

More information

Bio Doug Bell Bell_BioV2_2019 one pg

3. Fletcher Conservation Lands FCL web site

What is a private conservation bank?

About Rob Fletcher  Rob Fletcher Manager, FCLands

Joe DiDonato biologist Joe DiDonato bio

Saturday Evening 6:00 PM to 10 PM at Poppy Ridge Golf Course

Poppy Ridge 2014

Sit down and enjoy the views. Choose from four meal options. Hosted bar.

Hear what MDF leaders have to say about the state of MDF, the Endowment Fund, major MDF projects and the future. We will ask for your financial support.

Side by side flyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back from Doyle (M3)

My friend Jerry Lowery and I had only two days to find a buck at Doyle. Located several four point bucks, but couldn’t get excited about them.

Here’s a couple of Doyle bucks that I photographed on Friday afternoon.

 

After that found only one other in that size range and it was one we followed on Sunday morning.

We hunted BLM land in the Long Valley, the Doyle Wildlife Area and the Fort Sage Mountains. Looked around a few other places, but didn’t want to spend time scouting with so little time.

Now my dilemma is deciding what to do for the rest of the season. Can go to Anderson Flat, but the results from last season there are dismal. Not sure why.

Goodale is a good option. Trying to figure out a plan for that. One the other hand I could fly to Washington to hunt my friend’s ranch. We’ll see what works out.

Haven’t fired a shot yet this year. I’d like to do that soon, but it could be 0 for 2018.

Modoc Deer

Spent nine days in Devil’s Garden. It was a great time. Morning temps ranged from 8 degrees up to 11. The Cargo Trailer worked well, but I would like to have had a heater.

The propane lantern and one-burner stove took the edge off, but that was about it. Went to town on day three and purchased a big sleeping bag that saved my life. I was freezing at night in my light down bags.

IMG_6378 cargo trailer

The cargo trailer was roomy for one person. Had a table set up at the front and rear with my cot in the middle. The solar panel supplied plenty of power to keep the battery working the lights and fan. The Rhino ATV fit nicely inside and towing was no issue for my 2013 F-150 with Eco-boost engine.

There were plenty of deer, but I didn’t find a shooter buck. Here are my best deer photos.

The horses were there as well.

DSC_0690 horses

On the final day of the hunt, I wanted to sit by a tank and wait for deer. This is what showed up.

Between the skittish horses and swirling wind, it became  clear that it was a bad day to hunt the water hole, so I passed. It was time to head home anyway.

Next up, Doyle.

M9 Devil’s Garden

Leaving in a day or two. Lots going on. Good thing I had my 2016 hunt check list saved.

Went through it tonight. It is probably more stuff than I’ll take, but I may take it all. Won’t go out shopping much, except for some food.

This is a rut hunt for trophy bucks in great habitat. A bit of a drive from the Bay Area, but not too bad.

Taking my F150 and pulling my 16-foot Cargo trailer with our Rhino ATV and set up for sleeping.

Here is the preliminary list. It will evolve a bit as I pack.

Devil’s Garden muzzleloader M9 Nov1-11, 2018

Deer Season About to Start

Deer season could have started in July, with the A-Zone archery season, but a series of mishaps and also some planned trips wiped out the A-Zone season for me.

The last weekend of the A-Zone starts tomorrow. I’ll probably go to the ranch, but mostly for purposes other than deer hunting. With about 150 pounds of fish and assorted other game in my freezer, the last thing I need right now is a deer carcass.

So… I’ll gather up some stuff stored at the ranch, pick up the Honda Rancher ATV, shoot my muzzleloader and maybe my .30-06 and then return home in time for dinner.

On Monday, Linda and I will drive to Alamanor for a week of relaxing.

The real season begins on about November first when, with my Open Zone Tag in hand, I’ll make the first trip of the season. My objective will be X-2 where the Devil’s garden muzzleloader season will be open. It runs until November 11th so I should have a chance at a nice buck.

If that doesn’t work out, I’ll hunt the Doyle muzzleloader hunt and maybe the Bass Hill archery hunt. I can reach those areas while staying at the, newly aquired, Lake-House at Almanor.

It has been a full summer. Now for a full fall – without any surgeries.

Did make some progress today by taking the Airstream trailer down to the grasslands where it will remain at the Kerry Club until February. It’s looking pretty good for (it’s age) – 62. I’ve owned it for 32 if those years.

Looking Ahead to the “Open Zone” 2018 Hunt

2016 is over now. I got my buck and it is hanging next to me on the wall. The minute I saw it step into the open it was a shooter. The finish of the 2016 hunt took place on opening day of the Doyle Muzzleloading Rifle hunt. You can read all about it on previous blog posts.

The decisions I’ll make for 2018 will be similar to 2016, but probably a bit different as well. In 2016, I didn’t hunt seriously during any of the early hunts. I just scouted, but I did carry a bow or firearm most of the time. This year I may hunt the Devil’s Garden archery hunt, A4, as I drew a tag for that hunt last year and really enjoyed it. I also saw some big bucks.

Assuming I’m still with tag during the Devil’s Garden muzzleloading rifle season, I’ll probably have to do that hunt again. Last year’s hunt was cut short when my dad became ill. I went home and was present for his recovery. I have some unfinished business in Modoc.

The Doyle hunt is a tough one. There are several hunts going on at that same time. I’ll have to think hard about the Round Valley hunt has a high probability of seeing a big buck. Anderson Flat is also a hunt that conflicts with the Doyle hunt and there are often  big bucks that migrate from Yosemite Park. Right next to Doyle is the Bass Hill Archery Hunt in X6A and it takes place during peak rut time.

But before I make definite plans, I’ll follow my own advise and check the Big Game Digest from 2017 and also 2018 when it comes out. There will probably be some information there that will influence my thinking.

Whether I follow a path similar to 2016 and enjoy revisiting the great places I hunted previously or invite new adventure by hunting some of the remaining places I’ve not seen, the 2018 hunts are likely to reveal another impressive mule deer with an outsize rack. When I see the right one, I’ll know it’s time to shoot.

Anticipation is half the hunt.

 

California Open Zone Tag 2018

Two years ago I successfully bid on and purchased a California Open Zone deer tag.

Over the course of the 2016 deer season I had some of the most memorable deer hunting of my lifetime. The season culminated in the killing of the largest mule deer buck of my lifetime.

That buck is now on the wall of my office and I admire it daily. The price I paid for the tag was $10,500. I filled my tag on the first day of the hunt commonly referred to as the Doyle Muzzleloader Buck Hunt.

A few days ago I made the decision to bid on the 2018 Open Zone Deer Tag. Once again I was successful. This time the tag sold, in the Santa Rosa Chapter of MDF live auction, for $15,500. Definitely a big increase in two years, but still well worth it. In my eyes this hunt is one of the best values in the universe of mule deer hunting.

During the lead up to the 2018 season and as the hunting season unfolds, I’ll explain why. Sure it’s about the chance for a trophy, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s the hunt of a lifetime, even if you’ve done it before.

IMG_3106 2016 Doyle buck