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2013 Sitka Gear Catalog
Karsten Hart: Hunter, Freestyle Skier
Kissed by an Elk
Going for The One
Author: Sean Browne
Aug 18, 2010
Each year before hunting season Dylan starts sending me trail cam or spotting scope photos of great bucks he’s been seeing as I anxiously await my annual trip to his ranch, the
, in Humboldt County. Often there are some specific deer we hope to find but we aren’t usually just looking for one buck. My excitement level builds as the possibilities unfold.
This year I had planned to arrive late August however Dylan was seeing so many great deer he asked if I could come earlier. I was able to change my schedule and arrived Tuesday 8/2. We had a few exceptional bucks in mind to chase. A monster 3×4 that seemed like a good candidate for my bow. A 5×4 down near the cabin, and then one huge buck that had only been seen a couple times. Not sure what he was, only that he was very very BIG. This ended up being the buck we hunted for. The one.
Tuesday night Dylan and his wife Holly and I left the cabin around 6pm. Immediately we saw a 4×4 near the cabin. He looked great, deep forks, probably the biggest I’ve ever seen, but a young buck. Too young to shoot. He’ll no doubt be huge next year. One great thing about hunting every year with Dylan is that I’ve been able to see how improved the deer are on his ranch. Also you can see traits from previous great bucks that are now propagated in his herd like the huge typical ‘Cabin Buck’ or the non-typical ‘Fever’. He’s done a great job managing the ranch. He’s now part of the
or Private Lands Management program which has the benefit of longer seasons and also allows me to either use my bow or rifle.
We find a great vantage point on a large rock that overlooks golden hills on either side We glass for Mr. Big until sundown. A spike is milling around nearby unconcerned. Dusk is such a magical time hunting. The landscape you’ve been glassing for hours slowly transforms color as bucks and does materialize. Excitement builds as we hope to catch a glimpse of the big buck. As the sun sets behind us, the sweetly scented hills and distant trees turn a reddish gold and then slowly through shades of gray into night.
It’s a little warmer than we’d wish and we have seen some hard horned bucks. We’re thinking that they may have changed their pattern and are rubbing their velvet off somewhere in the thicker brush. We do see some great deer the next day along with all the usual pigs, turkeys, quail. Some we recognize like ‘club’ that had a big knob for an antler on one side is now a respectable 4×4. A very tall 3×3 with silver gray velvet. Too many to recall now but we don’t see one of the big ones or THE big one. Lots of does and fawns are seen all around the ranch.
Thursday I make the mistake of checking my phone, which rarely works up there, only to find it has. An urgent issue at work requires my attention by Friday. I end up leaving Thursday night. I had originally planned to be up on the 21st so decide to just come back then. Time spent this week was really a bonus.
Sunday 8/8 is Kari and my birthday. Dylan calls me and asks if I’ve seen the picture. With no cell coverage in La Honda I don’t get my texts until I’m back in the valley. Kari and I are shopping when I finally see the picture. He’s spotted the BIG buck and has taken some pics with his phone through the spotting scope and sent me the one below. The picture is impressive, his antlers stand clear above the tall grass, deep forks and extra points. Staring at my iPhone I can’t help but think I’m sharing the same feelings with my primitive ancestors as they gazed at the flickering images on the cave wall; hope, desire, hunger. This is a special buck!
When I finally call to say I’ve seen the picture. He asks wouldn’t I rather hold him in my hands. I need to get back up there as soon as possible. I don’t require any further encouragement. What a great birthday present! Yes I want to hunt this buck. I manage to communicate the urgency to Kari and have no problem securing some additional days off from work and an understanding boss. I’m headed back up Tuesday morning 8/10. I arrive mid day and take it easy at the cabin with Dylan until it gets late enough to try for him. We have the rest of the week to look for him until Friday when another hunter is coming in.
Dylan's friend Kenny hunts coyotes on the ranch for Dylan. I’m thrilled to finally meet him. He’s come to help us out. Dylan has a plan. He and Holly will both take separate locations to glass for the buck while Dylan and I will head up top near where Dylan had seen him last. Finally we all head out to our respective spots. We aren’t really seeing many deer out.
Dylan decides we should go up a little higher than where he saw the buck last. It’s not long before Dylan spots him with another buck getting up from their beds and walking away from us into a thick strand of oak trees. I only see a big rack and his rear as he disappears into the trees. Dylan says to make sure I shoot the right deer, the big one is the wide one. It’s pretty obvious which as they disappear into the woods.
Dylan takes us much further up where we grab our gear and are quickly climbing a grassy hillside, through a wooded area, and emerge onto a high rocky knob that overlooks the trees the bucks entered. I take a prone position with Dylan behind me and try to get settled in for any possible shot. I have my Sako 85 in 30.06 with a short harris bi-pod. I have a steady rest.
We have a great view if they keep coming with some clearings that offer good shot opportunities. My legs are higher than my head and I’m lying on jagged rocks. After 20 minutes my left arm is falling asleep and I’m beginning to wonder if they will show. I’m wanting to sit up for a while but I tell myself to just stay put as they could emerge at any moment.
Soon Dylan whispers behind me that he sees them. He calmly explains where to look and I see the big buck immediately. I acquire him in my scope and then turn it up to 12 power. He’s facing me with his head down at about 200 yards. I’m afraid he will walk right out of this window back into the trees. I’m looking down on him and I hold in between his shoulders. I’m squeezing and boom, he is gone at the shot. I’m not sure if it was a hit or not. I reload and watch and he emerges into the closer clearing. I’m not sure if he’s hit. I’m holding on him again, squeezing, and boom, at the shot he’s gone again. I know he’s hit and think he’s just rolled right there.
Now the buck he’s with walks right into the same clearing facing left and looking down. He's a big 5×4 himself. He just stands there for minutes looking, we think at the other buck. He’s a great buck. After a long time we are starting to ponder the idea of shooting him too on my second tag. He just stands there offering a perfect broadside shot. Suddenly we hear crashing in the trees below and the other buck bolts off. We are pretty sure it was the first buck rolling down the steep hill. After a few more minutes we see the 5×4 in the far distance.
We finally decide to go check it out. We gather our gear and walk back down the steep hillside and then make our way to a large fir tree that they were under when we shot. We side step down the hill and eventually I see an antler rising above a log that stopped his fall. As we approach Dylan sees he has six points on that side and as we arrive and pick up his head by his beautiful antlers, he’s actually a 5×7 with great palmation on both sides. Dylan and I exchange congratulations at least a few times. I’m in shock. I still can’t believe we pulled this off. I take a moment holding his rack in my hands, what a majestic buck. He’ll provide many meals and memories and be immortalized as the biggest buck yet taken on the ranch and most likely the biggest of my life.
Kenny and Holly soon arrive along with her kids Clayton and Ashley. I’m so glad Kenny is there helping us drag him up the steep hill. We finally get him to the top where we take a couple pictures just as the sun sets.
I’m so grateful for my luck and for Dylan’s skill and knowledge to put us in the right position to have a chance and take such an incredible buck. My dad used to say there are no atheists in fox holes. I think hunting also puts you back in touch with God or whatever your notion of him may be. From urgent supplication to unbounded thanks, hunting often has me checking in with the big guy. I’ll be thankful for this day the rest of my life.
I look forward to many more hunts at the Diamond C. As I take better and better bucks I’m truly looking forward more to ‘the hunt’ the anticipation, the experience, and the memories of time spent with great friends like Dylan and Holly Carr.
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