Goin' Home With A Buck
a very young boy, I could hardly wait until I was old enough to go deer hunting
with my father. Dad brought home a buck, sometimes two every deer season.
A good deal of the meat that our family consumed was venison, so it was always
a welcomed event when dad got a deer.
... I remember vividly, a fantasy that I began
having at age four or five. It was about a time in the future when I would
be arriving home with my father on a Sunday night after a successful hunting
trip. Instead of following my mother and little brother out of the house when
we heard Dad's truck pull up, like I had always done. Some day I would be
in the truck with him. I would get out and raise the stiff green canvas tarp
in the back. Under the tarp would be two fine Blacktail bucks. As I stood
proud and manlike my dad would say, "I think David's is a little bigger".
My mom would smile and give me a hug. My little brother would say" you
got that buck Dave? "
.. The fantasy I had had for many years about
my first buck pretty much came true. The only difference was that mine wasn't
a little bigger. They don't grow forked horns any smaller than the one I took
at age twelve. With pencil thin horns and probably weighing less than a hundred
pounds on the hoof, it definitely was no monster.
... I was still very proud of that buck because
back in those days, getting a buck was the important thing. If size was to
be considered at all, it would be body weight and not antler size that earned
you a little more prestige among fellow hunters.
.. There are several reasons why just getting
a buck is sometimes much more important than the size of a deer's antlers.
As people often say "you can't eat the horns". This is very true,
especially if you depend on a supply of venison in the freezer to help feed
the family, as we did back in the 50's and 60's.
... When available hunting time is limited it's
even more important to bring home a buck. When you know that you only have
a weekend or two to hunt for the entire year, you may not want to pass up
a small forked horn on opening morning, knowing that it could be the only
buck you see that season. Maybe in the area that you hunt, the Blacktails
simply don't grow large horns so why bother holding out for a big rack. You
can see that this is true by looking through the record books. Many high scoring
bucks come from the same area's, while very few if any entrees come from other
... Genetics and diet play big roles in the growth
of large antlers in all members of the deer family. If hereditary factors
are poor or diet is inadequate, or if there is a lack of calcium and or phosphorus
in the soil, male deer will not be able to grow large antlers. There are some
areas in California where even the healthiest mature bucks almost never grow
a set of horns with more than two or three points on each side and a spread
greater than 16 inches.
...Sometimes it's a hunters age and experience
that are used to decide if it's more important to go home with a buck, than
it is to wait for one with large antlers. I believe that a young hunter with
limited physical ability and limited hunting experience should be encouraged
to take a small buck. I think that an older more experienced hunter should
incorporate more of a challenge into his hunt. Depending on the area, this
may mean working a little harder in hopes of killing a mature buck with large
...For many years I hunted Blacktails in parts
of California where hunting was very difficult and hunter success was poor.
If I went home with a legal buck I was happy. These areas had only a moderate
deer population. The buck to doe ratio was very low and there was substantial
hunting pressure. The genetics were also not conducive to large horn growth
in most of the areas I hunted. To make matters worse most of the terrain was
steep and brushy and the days were usually extremely hot, as is often the
case in California's "A" zone which runs from mid July to late September.
After seeing both of
these bucks during archery Season, I hunted them exclusively during
rifle season, only to get a couple quick glimpses of the 21 inch four point
on the right.
It wasn't until the rut began and the season closed, that they again showed
was physically demanding and extremely challenging to hunt these areas. I
guess that's actually what made it so appealing to me. It gave me a great
feeling of accomplishment to be able to be regularly successful under these
... I took pride in my ability to kill a buck
when others could not. Because of my physical endurance, my determination
and my years of Blacktail hunting experience. I was confident that I could
overcome nearly any hunting challenge. For me hunting must be a challenge.
The more difficult the challenge the greater the sense of accomplishment
when successful. I've never been one who has had an interest in paying high
dollars and shooting a 30 incher in an alfalfa field. I can only take credit
for what I earn and I can only appreciate what's difficult to achieve. I
must suffer both physically and mentally to earn the right to kill a buck.
... For a long time there was a balance. I would
hunt hard each season and eventually kill a deer. If my friends heard a single
shot in the direction in which I was hunting they would know that I got a
buck. " You take all the fun out of it, you never shoot more than once"
my cousin Jamie once said. In fact, I killed seven bucks in 7 consecutive
years, using the same shell casing. I would reload my lucky shell, marked
with silver paint, and use it as the first shot the next year. I finally
lost it in Sonoma County after firing several shots into a large boar hog,
which was nearly impossible to bring down.
... I've always had the dream to live and hunt
on my own property. That dream became a reality a few years ago when I moved
to a ranch in Mendocino County. The Blacktails in this area have the genetics
for very respectable antler growth. This is apparent by the large number
of entries in Boone and Crocket that come from the county. Food for deer
is abundant and hunting pressure is minimal. The buck to doe ration probably
approaches 50%. Sounds like all the ingredients necessary for some great
Blacktail hunting, doesn't it? The hunting truly is great, but great hunting
doesn't necessarily mean going home with a buck.
...These days I have increased the difficulty
of the challenge. Sometimes I wonder if I haven't made the challenge too
difficult. I have probably hunted and average of 50 days each of the last
two deer seasons without firing a shot. This doesn't mean that I don't see
bucks. I usually see legal bucks every time I hunt our ranch. It could be
just one or two or maybe as many as ten or more in a full day of hunting.
I've come close to pulling the trigger on a couple of the larger ones but
have not. They just didn't meet my present standards.
... I am looking for one of the truly large bucks
that I know exist in this area. I know they're here because every fall, shortly
after deer season closes they come out of hiding for the rut.
... I have put a
tremendous amount of effort into trying to find one of those big bucks. I
hike, I sneak, I glass. I literally try everything I can think of but I rarely
see the big ones during hunting season and when I have, they have not given
me a decent shot . Wouldn't you think that an able bodied guy who has been
hunting for more than 35 years and who is lucky enough to have a good ranch
to hunt on, could occasionally score on a big Blacktail buck. That's what
I thought before I moved to this county. Now I wonder. At times it seems
like if I do ever take a really magnificent buck it will be the result of
dumb luck and not effort.
....My tactics work very well on younger deer.
I can find forked horns and small three points regularly. My usual hunting
technique is sneaking from vantage point to vantage point thoroughly glassing
from each spot.
Home With a Buck, part 2