My Season of Success
all started in February of 1998. I was contacted by my friend, and our
hunting ranch coordinator, Dave Corrick. I already had an early season
Private Lands Management (PLM) tag for our ranch. I was eagerly looking
forward to my August B-Zone hunt in the mountains just south of Covelo,
called me at work and told me he had an extra, late season PLM tag and
was wondering if I was interested. For those not familiar with the PLM
program or the PLM seasons, the PLM program is run by the California
DF&G. It is offered to ranch owners who, in turn for taking limited
numbers of bucks on their ranches and making habitat improvements, are
allowed to hunt from August through the end of November. To me a late
season tag meant no heat, no snakes, no bugs and cold weather but most
of all, it meant hunting blacktail deer in the rut. It was a dream come
true and I didn’t hesitate to answer Dave with a definitive “YES!”
...Late winter turned into early spring,
then summer and eventually August first arrived. Several of my hunting
buddies and I arrived at our deer camp on the last day of July. The
forecast was for temperatures in the 105 degrees range. We knew it would
be difficult to take any decent bucks with the weather so hot but a
hot day hunting with no bucks is most definitely better than work. Needless
to say we were ready to hunt.
...The hot weather forecast was a double
let down for me. I wanted good weather on my early hunt so I could take
a good buck and still save vacation time and away from the family time
for my late season buck hunt. The more time I spent hunting early meant
the less time I could spend hunting in November during the rut. I figured
I’d hunt a day or two and see what happened.
...I awoke at 5:00 a.m. on August 1, 1998.
I could here several other alarm clocks, in addition to mine chiming
and beeping throughout the camp. I rolled out of my camper, as did everyone
else. A quick cup of coffee and some breakfast then the jeeps started
to roar to life. We all spoke once again with each other, giving our
hunt locations so we wouldn’t walk through someone’s opening day hunt.
...I left camp about 5:20 a.m. and turned
from our main road onto a cat skid and drove towards my spot for the
morning. It was already warm. I was wearing only a t-shirt and light
cover shirt. About ¼ mile up the cat skid I rounded a corner in my jeep
and saw a fallen, three-foot diameter tree lying across the skid. Daylight
was coming fast so I needed to make a decision. Attempt to drive over
the log, risking getting stuck and missing the opening morning shoot
or turn around and try to find somewhere else to hunt.
...I gave driving over the log a shot and,
surprisingly, I made it the first try. Minutes later I was sitting just
under some buck brush. I had a great view of two ridgelines that led
from a spring to some bedding areas. It was light enough to shoot at
about 5:45 a.m. Ten minutes later, a buck stepped out of the brush.
He was heading from the spring towards the beds. He was about 150 yards
from me and I could immediately tell he was a shooter. I looked at him
through my binoculars. He was a pretty heavy three pointer, kind of
weak on one side but he was at least 20 inches wide.
...I raised my rifle and steadied it on
my knees. The crosshairs of my scope landed on the buck’s shoulder,
I whistled and he stopped. My .270 cracked and the 20 incher fell where
he stood. The buck turned out to be a three pointer, 20 ½ inches wide
by 14 inches tall.
...I was ecstatic. I had done what I came to do. I took a beautiful
buck and on the first day of the season. I could now head home early,
make points with my wife and at the same time, save those always valuable
vacation days. Although, I did stay another day at camp enjoying the
ranch and the good company. Only one other buck was killed that weekend
and it was 105 degrees, maybe even hotter.
...Back at home and work, all I could think
about was November. I made a couple of scouting trips to the ranch before
hand but Dave told me during the rut the bucks are constantly on the
move looking for does in heat. Time should be spent on the ranch when
they’re ruttin’ he told me.
...November! It was finally here. I had
the truck loaded with my trusty jeep in tow. I watched the weather and
saw that a series of storms were supposed to hit around the 5th. That
decided it for me I took two weeks vacation and was on the road towards
the ranch. I arrived four and a half hours later, unhooked the jeep
and headed towards the cabin. Once on the ranch, I put a few rounds
in the magazine of my .270 and rested it in the gun rack next to me.
...As I picked my away around the ranch
roads towards the cabin, I saw numerous, smaller bucks. The roads were
muddy from the recent rains and the temperature was in the upper 40’s.
I stopped several times to glass the early season “hot spots.” I looked
at one particular ridgeline and noticed some movement. By the time I
could focus my binoculars, all I saw was one side of a massive, four
point antler. I grabbed my rifle, put a round in the chamber and scanned
the area where I had seen the buck. Nothing, the buck was gone as quickly
as it had appeared.
...The next day, my good friend and hunting
partner Ken Westhorpe arrived. This was our first late season hunt on
the ranch. I told him what I had seen the day before and that my mind
was now set on a mature, heavy horned four pointer. Of course, he had
the same vision. The next two days were great. No bugs or snakes and
no 105-degree temperatures to deal with. We saw many, many great blacktail
bucks. At one point, I passed on a mature, heavy, dark horned three
pointer. His image is still vivid in my mind to this day. He was 20
inches wide, tall, had good mass and two nice eye guards, probably a
125 to 130 class buck. The weather was getting colder by the day. With
no television or radio, we had no way of knowing what Mother Nature
had in store for us. We would soon find out.