The (MDF) Caribou

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My first outfitted big-game hunt was an Alaska barren ground caribou hunt that took place about 20 years ago. Bought the hunt at the Mule Deer Foundation Convention in Sacramento that took place in 1998. The caribou tag says 1998, so that validates the year.

The donation to MDF was set up by Gary Williams, MDF Chairman of the Board. At the time Gary was working for Leupold-Stevens and Leupold paid some of the trip costs as a donation from them.

The hunt went to sale at auction and I was the high bidder for $1700. The hunt took place in September and the caribou we hunted were part of the Mulchatna herd.

Camp was on the Nushagak River and we hunted up and down the river by boat. We found this caribou along the King Salmon River, a Nushagak tributary.

Although the Mulchatna herd was supposedly at an all-time high, I believe it may have already been in decline. We didn’t see many caribou and the one on my wall was probably the largest that my guide, Robert Nelson, or I sighted. Today the Mulchatna herd has still not regained the stature it had during the early 1990’s.

Robert and I stalked to within 60 yards of a small band of caribou and the I shot was the largest bull in the group. We killed him about two miles from the boat and the boat was about 30 miles from camp. The next day we brought a meat packer back with us to make the pack out a little easier.

I had two caribou tags and could have shot another smaller bull, but decided to pass. It was a good decision because I ended up using my second caribou tag on a Sitka blacktail deer on Kodiak Island about a week later.

I killed the bull with a Browning Automatic Rifle in 7mm. It was the first hunting rifle I owned with which I bagged a big game animal. Prior to that time, I hunted big game with bow and arrow only. The rifle was a raffle prize a San Jose MDF banquet in 1995 and it has an inscription on it: CENTRAL COAST CHAPTER, 1995, Fifth Annual Banquet, The Mule Deer Foundation. It was the model and caliber used by John Leonti the original chapter chairman of the San Jose Chapter. He was a nice man who passed away some time during the year before the banquet.

I purchased only one raffle ticket that night because I didn’t want to stay for the end of the banquet. I handed my ticket to David and Rose Stevens before I left and asked them to watch over it. David called me the next day and told me I had won.

I tanned the original cape from my caribou, but never mounted it, probably because I couldn’t afford the price of taxidermy work in those days. Last year I decided to find capes for a few of the animals taken on some of my past hunts. This is the only caribou I’ve killed so it is definitely a trophy to me even though just another caribou to anybody else.

My taxidermist and MDF supporter, Taff Vidalles, searched for a proper cape. Early season capes were available, but they did not properly represent the bull I had killed. Eventually he found a cape with characteristics of the bull I killed and purchased it for $650 wet-tanned.

I ended up paying $1,250 for the mount. $900 was Taff’s normal price. He added $350 (of the $650 cost of the cape) to his regular price and estimated that the $300 credit was appropriate because he normally would have had a preparation and tanning cost of about that much. I agreed.

Here’s me and the bull the way we looked in 1998.

Rich and Caribou

 

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 Fundraising Tag

There are many fundraising tags made available by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). These tags are a product of legislation passed by the California legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

Many conservation organizations supported the creation of these tags including, for one, The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF). So it’s appropriate that I made my fundraising tag purchase at MDF’s Santa Rosa banquet last weekend.

CDFW made the tag available and authorized that MDF Chapter to sell it at the banquet. My high bid was $10,500. Five percent will go to MDF to cover the cost of selling the tag and the remaining 95 percent goes to the Department to be used as funding for deer-related conservation and associated expenses.

Now for the good part. The tag, called an Open Zone Tag,  is basically a season pass to hunt for deer during California’s numerous seasons. With that tag in hand, I can hunt any of the hunts that I’ve drooled over for years.

For about two hours this morning I looked over old California Big Game Booklets and listed the places I’d like to go. And, I can go to many of them if I don’t pull the trigger too soon.

Yes, I could have kept on putting my name in the hat for these tags, but at my current rate of success I would probably have died without hunting any of them. Finally impatience won out.

Or, I could have made trips and photographed deer without a tag, but that wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.

I plan to set my sights high and pass up a bunch of bucks before I pull the trigger. However, I’m not passing up Mr. Big even if he’s the first deer I see.

I’m making my list which will likely include hunts in X2, X5, D6, X9a, X6 and maybe even a B zone. In search of nostalgia, I’ll probably visit a few of my old haunts. I’ll probably hunt a couple zones during the August archery season while also scouting the country  in preparation for the late season opportunities.

This is a very full plate of activities, so we’ll see how much I can actually pull off, but I’m not making other plans. I’ll likely hunt with my bow, muzzle-loader and rifle before it’s done. The early archery seasons start in mid-August and rifle opportunities continue almost to the end of December.

I plan to keep notes and post them here. That will be part of the fun.

 

 

 

 

MDF Livermore-Pleasanton Banquet 3-6-15

Here’s a link to our three-page banquet notice. It includes a sign-up form. flyer page 1

More info: flyer page 2

And a page for sign up. Should be enough instructions here to get it done, but if you need more info, call committee members, Ryan Heal or Randy Morrison.   flyer page 3

 

Phone numbers for Randy and Ryan are on page 1 of the flyer.muledeerlogo 021

Montana Safaris Donates Deer Hunt to MDF Livermore 2014 Banquet

The Bob Marshall Wilderness is a huge expanse of mule deer country.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness is a huge expanse of mule deer country.

This is a all inclusive wilderness pack-in horse-back hunt for one hunter – 8 days. Includes a free upgrade to a wolf combo hunt. Also may be upgraded to an elk/deer/wolf combo hunt (arrange with outfitter). All meals, guides, horses and complementary shuttle to the airport are included. Deadline to apply for tag/license/permit is March 15, 2014. Total cost of deer license is $570.

Note: Because the 15th of March falls on a weekend this year, on-line tag applications can be completed on Monday, March 17th.

Check out their website at http://www.montanasafaris.com

Montana Safaris, Lorell or Rocky Heckman

200 US Hwy 89

Vaughn, MT 59487

(406)486-2004

safaris@threerivers.net

Dates: General Rifle Season

Additional hunters: $2,700

Location: Bob Marshall Wilderness

Check out the banquet flyer by clicking on the links below:

Flyer front page

2014 flyer pg 2

2014 ticket order form

Fish the Fall River and Golf at The Fall River Country Club.

Your host for this two-day trip will be Rob Lawson of Lawson’s Wildlife Adventures.

Lodging will be at the Fall River Inn and all meals for the two-day stay are included.

Rob Lawson will be your guide while you fish the Fall River and/or Bidwell Reservoir. You make the choice and Rob will take care of the rest. Fishing in the Fall River will be from Rob’s 14′ Aluminum Boat while fishing at Bidwell Reservoir will be from float tubes provided by Rob.

Bring your fly rod and golf clubs to the Fall River Inn and enjoy this two-day sojourn in the Shasta Cascade Country.

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One of the fishing options is Bidwell Reservoir where you may catch a giant rainbow like the one pictured.

Green fees at Fall River Country Club are not included, but Rob will transport you to the club and pick you up when your round is complete. You can fish one day and golf the other or do all in one day.

Here are links to the MDF banquet flyer.

Flyer front page

2014 flyer pg 2

2014 ticket order form

Kodiak Charters Donation to Livermore-Pleasanton 2014 MDF Banquet

Kodiak Charters has donated an Alaska adventure for two hunters or fisherman. MDF will auction this trip at the Livermore Banquet scheduled for March 14, 2014.
The trip begins with a commercial flight to the town of Kodiak and from there a small plane will take you to the northwest end of Kodiak Island. Kodiak Charters owner,  Randy Blondin, will assist with scheduling the short flight across the Island which typically costs $104 one way.
Depending upon your arrival time in Kodiak you may need to stay over before catching the charter flight.The regular retail price for these trips is $2,250, but the price for additional hunters booking at our dinner will be at the “show special” price of $1,875 each.

Fishing trips for halibut, salmon and crab are primarily summer activities while hunting for Sitka blacktail deer and caribou takes place primarily in the fall. For further  information and scheduling, call Randy or Terri at (907)942-4909. The dates are subject to availability. All hunts are unguided. Kodiak Charters will drop you off by boat and pick you up at the end of the day.

For more information about the banquet and ticket ordering click on the links below.

Flyer front page

2014 flyer pg 2

2014 ticket order form