Why a Fundraising Tag?

The first 25 years of my deer-hunting life were spent trying to kill any legal buck. In the beginning, any success was good enough.

Between 1971 (the year I killed my first buck) and about 1995, I hunted with bow and arrow almost exclusively. During that time, I killed four bucks. Needless to say, I was not a prolific deer killer. But, I hunted every year and each year I hunted at least two deer seasons and often three – counting an out-of-state hunt.

My enthusiasm was not diminished by modest success. I had so much fun hunting deer that I was only slightly disappointed when I failed. And, I was an optimist, a big factor if you are an archer. The largest mule deer buck I killed before 1995 was a 23 inch wide three by three.

There was no need for an open zone tag in those days. Bucks were always around. I just couldn’t kill them. My missed shots per buck killed was somewhere  around ten.

Then I won a Browning Semi-Automatic Rifle at a Mule Deer Foundation event. It was my first true deer rifle. Things changed in a hurry. I learned that deer were not really all that hard to kill if you could hit them and with a rifle they were much easier to hit.

One thing led to another and I was no longer satisfied to just hunt and occasionally bag a buck. I also began to hanging around with serious trophy hunters.

And, I learned that the biggest limiting factor in trophy hunting was access to a trophy buck. I began to pay attention to the hunting zones and as it became harder and harder to gain access to trophy mule deer, I became more envious of those who drew good deer zones to hunt.

Then, in about year 2000, California created a preference point system. Special deer hunts were carved out and trophy bucks were there to be had if you could draw a tag, but only a few dozen hunters were drawn for these hunts each year and in order to draw a special hunt tag you had to be very lucky.

As the years went by, I heard stories about the different special hunts and wished that I could draw, but that never happened.

About the time that the preference tag program came about, another way to obtain tags was created. Each year a very limited number of deer tags for specific areas were sold at auction.

As I attended fundraisers I watched as hunters bid what seemed to be exorbitant amounts of money for the right to hunt a deer. The cost of such tags was way beyond my means. Anyway, I was still hunting and having a good time doing so.

As time went by, my income grew and I would occasionally hire an outfitter for some of my  hunts. Soon I realized that the cost of some of my outfitted hunts was nearly as much as the cost of the fundraising tags. I might be able to afford to purchase an open zone tag at auction. And, if I did, I wouldn’t need an outfitter, as the hunt locations were close to home.

The deer hunting season would be practically endless.

I’d purchased landowner tags for as much as $4,500 and guided deer hunts for more than $7,000. Why not stretch a bit more and pay $10,000 for a tag that would allow me to hunt all the places I’d dreamed about for years.

At the age of 66, 45 years after killing my first buck, I finally had the funds to bid on a tag that might give me a shot at a buck of a lifetime. The only thing stopping me was myself.

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



Last Day of the 2017/18 Waterfowl Season

My conflicts and my blind partner’s work prevented either of us from hunting the last Saturday, so we postponed the hunt ’til Sunday.

Started off pretty good when a few teal buzzed us early at blind C. We had three birds in the first hour and were thinking that things might turn out OK.

early retrieve last day IMG_4187

Unfortunately many hunters were eager to finish picking up decoys, so after 8 AM, the hunting completely turned off with ATVs on every levee.

We still had three birds and hadn’t fired a shot for some time when the last of the other hunters pulled out. About that time a gaggle of snow geese broke up and headed our way. We put in some #2 shot and each of us dropped a snow goose.

Last day snow IMG_4189

Tom had quite long chase while Lola retrieved my goose.

We sat it out for another hour and a half  and Tom dropped a teal before giving in and picking up the decoys at blind 4.

Every season is unique as was this one. Had more limits than goose eggs, but a fair number of each.

Lola was rejuvenated this season and I’m hopeful that she’s got a couple more years of hunting left. Could say the same for me.



Livermore-Pleasanton MDF Banquet Coming March 9

The date set for the 2018 Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) banquet in Livermore is March 9. As usual the event will take place at the Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Avenue. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

The price for a single adult ticket is $80, which entitles the holder to a buffet dinner by Mike’s Branding Iron, a one-year membership in MDF and a gift at the door.

Other ticket prices: $125 Couple, $45 youth, $45 MDF Life member.

Proceeds of the raffle and auction will contribute to the MDF purpose which is, “To ensure the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitats.”

For more information or to purchase tickets call Ryan Heal (925)337-6707 or Randy Morrison (707)829-5904.

Here’s a link to the MDF web site: http://www.muledeer.org/



Help Stop the Decline of Waterfowl

Jeff and Pluto

Jeff Kerry with Pluto at the Kerry Duck Club.

Jeff Kerry is one of the most ardent waterfowl supporters in California. Recently he contacted me and asked me to support a cause to stop the decline of waterfowl habitat, waterfowl numbers and waterfowl hunting.

Nobody has more credibility to discuss this topic than Jeff. I’m supporting his effort and the first thing I need to do is post his letter here and tell you how to sign a petition that will be used to demonstrate support for this effort.

Here is his letter. Double click and it will appear in PDF format.

Help Stop the Decline by Jeff Kerry

If Jeff sounds excited, it’s because he is. He’s been managing wetlands nearly all his life and he knows what he’s talking about.

That’s why I ask that you sign this petition and offer financial support if you can. We need to make some changes in California before it’s too late. Click on the link below.


Thanks. Much more on this topic as the issue progresses.

Sunrise at Blind D cropped




Brett’s Day at the KDC

Thanks to our Kerry Duck Club partners we had a great “pot luck” style barbecue on Friday evening where we drank excellent wine and feasted on barbecued duck and goose.

The traditional Friday night duck stories got Brett in the right frame of mind for his hunt, but we weren’t sure about our chances of drawing one of the better blinds as my draw number was down the line a bit.

Turned out the draw went our way and we were able to hunt an excellent blind that shot very well and there was no shortage of ducks.

Since he had not hunted ducks for over two years, Brett and I anticipated it would take a while for him to get on target with the ducks. We expected that we would need more than one box of shells apiece if we were to fill our limits – so we carried 90 shells to the blind.

We didn’t expect that Brett would have just one duck when his first box was empty. He did kill his second teal on the first shell of the second box – from a new shotgun.

Brett's duck IMG_4150

Lola had a great day retrieving all thirteen teal and a goose. Here she is with Brett’s first duck of 2018.

That was a significant change to the program. It seemed as though something wasn’t right, so after the first box was gone, we agreed that maybe we should trade shotguns. The barrel on his Weatherby  pump shotgun was a bit long for shooting teal at close range and the stock seemed to be a bit long for him, especially given the rather heavy coat he was wearing.

We had nothing to lose, so I handed Brett my Browning over-under and after swinging on a few imaginary ducks,  he loaded it with some 2 3/4 inch #4 shot Kent shot shells.

first duck IMG_4152

The masked duck slayer with his first duck of the 2017/18 duck season.

When the next teal arrived, Brett shood and shouldered the gun. The bird turned to Brett’s right and flew low over the decoys. He proceeded to shoot it dead. New gun, first shot, one dead green-wing. We were learning again that when shooting quick shots at fast, close ducks, a fast swinging, short-barreled gun is an advantage. Neither Brett nor I shot teal well with the Weatherby and its 28 inch barrel.

The only bird I hit while shooting the Weatherby was an Aleutian goose and it came by on a straight line at about 45 yards, a target better fitted to the longer barreled pump.

But Brett wasn’t the only one struggling. Took me a box and a half of shells to kill my seven teal. In the end, it got down to one shell to fill Brett’s limit. Out of the 90 shells we had carried to the blind, only one was left.

A drake green-wing teal came at the blind from the south. It was low and coming fast. As Brett stood, the bird reacted by swinging to Brett’s left. Brett swung smoothly with purpose and fired.

final take IMG_4158

The bird continued on its way, so we ended the day with thirteen teal and the Aleutian goose that must have been lost.

We had a great time and will retell the story of our 2018 KDC hunt many times.