The 2017 big game season started off spectacular. We hunted coastal Blacktail deer in early August with Emily's family. We had a blast in 4 days and were able to harvest 4 hogs and a buck. After that we headed to Emily's parents house for a few days of ocean fishing. What a great way to start!!!
Next, I had a OTC archery deer tag over on the western portion of Northern California which occupied myself and good friend for a long weekend in late August. My good friend JP and I hunted 3 days and saw some great bucks and hogs. A couple of stalks put both of us within bow range and we were able to connect. It's hunts like these that we could only dream about and thank our lucky stars for the opportunities since archery hunting in an OTC unit is anything but a slam dunk.
J.P. with his nice 120lb hog. Well placed shot with his Bowtech tiped with Mangus broadheads did the trick at 40 yards.
We got to watch my buck and his partner, an absolute giant wide 3 point, for about 20 minutes before I made my move. My stalk lasted about 45 minutes and everything came together for a well placed downhill shot at 60 yards. I had the wide boy pegged but he never stopped while I was at full draw...so I took the opportunity on my buck. The Rage broadhead zipped though this buck leaving an incredible blood trail that only lasted about 60 yards to the piled up buck.
The next hunt was a special one, not only because it was a once in a lifetime draw (Nevada Bighorn Sheep) but because it was shared with some incredibly people. People that would sacrifice time off, vacations and fuel to help me out in my quest to take a ram in some of the most unforgivable country.
Throughout the first few days we saw some great animals but none were presenting the opportunity where the entire hunting crew could enjoy watching these amazing rugged desert creatures. Sheep are an amazing animal where low densities and rugged terrain can make them a mystery among the mountains.
On the 3rd day we spotted a group of 4 rams and I decided to make a play on them. JP, Emily and I made a ambush stalk on the rams which entailed starting a grueling hike before light, scrambling over rocks and climbing steep hillsides. Once we reached the top we made radio communication with my father, Emily's father & mother and my friend Skip, who had been watching the ram group since day break. The gave us some excellent directions and walked us right into the rams.
They were already bedded down when we caught up to them due to the warming temperatures and I rested for a shot. There were no giant sheep in the group, however some great rams for my taste. My primary goal was to have everyone on the hunt be apart of the experience and to have my dad and Emily's dad direct us into them and hear there excitement...well that sealed the deal.
The shot was longer than I usually take 450 yards but I felt comfortable with my rifle and practice at that range. My shot was a low miss and we sat and watched the rams head down towards a canyon that I knew from scouting had a spring. I decided that I would go as far as the cliff edge above the spring to see if I could locate the group again. As a approached the cliff, I immediately spotted the ram group at about 200 yards. I backed out and deiced to move down the ridge and come over the top above them. Needless to say it worked perfectly. I peered over the cliff to see my ram standing on a pinnacle rock at 45 yards. One well placed off-hand shot sent the ram to his resting place. JP, Emily, and my good friend Skip made there way over to me and it was all smiles, pictures and congratulations.
Processing this majestic creature on the side of a steep rocky slope that he had called home for the 8-9 years was a cereal moment. All of gods creatures are special but to harvest an animal, bone it out and pack it out is an in-explainable connection to earth that drives me and so many hunters do what most think is crazy. Those moments are why we drive thousands of miles, wake up early and stay out late, its our passion and truly what we live for.
I know......how do we top that!!! Well I still have a deer tag and Emily an Elk tag! Oh wait...Idaho archery Elk! Yeah I cant forget that...well I drove 12 hours to go chase bugling bulls in central Idaho in nice 70 degree temps....wrong...The weather threw everything at me, 40 mph winds, rain, sleet, oh and 8 inches of snow! Needless to say it made things very difficult. However with the help of a good friend, Scott I was able to find some Elk and some nice bulls, two of which were within 100 yards but just never broke that distance to get a shot. I went home empty handed of Elk meat however I did take home a wealth of knowledge and discovery of a new part of this great country we live it.
Now onto October. This was a fairly slow month of hunting for us however I was able to squeeze in a 1.5 day hunt over in the inland coast for blacktails. I decided to hunt down in a steep canyon that I knew held some deer. After about an hour hike down at first light I spotted two grey bodies at about 700 yards going into a small patch of timber. I could tell that one was a buck but couldn't completely tell at that range. I spent the next half hour sneaking my way further down into the canyon. with each step I thought about how much work it would be to get a buck out of here! I got to a small rock on a side slope and set up my pack and rifle it was a good vantage point of where the bucks had disappeared. I was shooting my very first deer rifle, a Savage Model 110 243 topped with an Alpen Apex 4-16X. I waited for about 20 minuted before I saw movement in that same patch of timber and immediately saw a gray body emerge. I ranged it at 240 yards and then got the scope on him....a small fork! I mean a tiny fork...I said to myself that he definitely wasn't big enough for being this far down into the canyon but had hope that the other deer was a buck and would emerge to join his little buddy. After about 5 minutes the little bucks his big brother made his appearance with a heavy trot out of the timber. I quickly put the cross-hairs on him and made a half second glance at his headgear and squeezed the trigger. It's very tough to explain to folks the feeling after a perfect shot and a great bucks hits the ground but I will say that I was all by my lonesome in that canyon but I am betting you could have seen my smile from a few miles away! The buck was a monarch, a heavy tall 4x3 with 5 inch eye guards. I snapped a few photos and started to bone the buck out and get ready mentally for pack out. I shot the buck at 10 am, had him broken down and loaded in my pack by 11:15 and made it back to the truck at 2pm....Needless to say I was beat but the sweat and tears were worth ever every second.
Next up was Emily's Oregon Elk hunt in November. This was an awesome experience. Emily's folks joined us as well as my good friend Skip who also had a tag. We were greeted by a fresh blanket of snow when we arrived to camp...in fact we were given the same greeting almost every day of the hunt! We knew this would make it easier to track the animals....and it did! Day one we tracked a group of elk and got on a nice bull however he slipped through the timber before we could get a shot.
This was different hunt for us since we rarely used our binoculars since it was such heavily timber.
With November over and the big game season in the past we got to focus on our Dog child and his favorite past time....Bird hunting. Kona is 8 this year and was able to retrieve ducks, geese, doves, quail and chukar. Since Kona's first hunt I have kept track of all his retrieves and this year he broke 1300! I am so proud of the dog he is. Most bird hunters will attest that in their hunting dogs life there are a few retrieves that bring tears to your eyes. From chasing and catching a chukar in a shale slide to a triple on geese where he listed to ever hand signal you gave him, these moments are the reason I bird hunt. This year that moment was when Kona pointed on 3 different occasion. Now these aren't one minute points but they are 10-20 seconds where he is locked on a bird. This is not something I trained him to do but when he does it makes me one proud dog-father.