Part II (See Part I here)
Don and I drove north and found David
Brinker and the crew hard at work at Sitka Headquarters. We talked
shop for a while and looked at some new products that are on the drawing
board. I am excited and sold on their product. I find it hard to
imagine that they keep on improving it. Of course, they
asked about the elk and I was willing to tell the story.
Thank goodness for
great camo, but also for the short and flat shooting Bowtech I was using. It
allowed me to shoot sitting flat on my butt with the bow between my
legs. It was great to see every staff member with a stick bow in
their office and in the back storage room they have a neat little shooting
range. Out came two velvet bucks that they had taken opening
weekend. I was excited as I held my first velvet bucks, up close and
personal. They were beautiful and I knew I would do everything I could to get
one, and hopefully in velvet. We said goodbye and got directions to
our next destination and were off.
California is home to some of the
best wineries in the world, and Stag's Leap and Silver
Oak are two of our favorites. When a person books a bowhunt, it's always a good
idea to add on a few extra days. No doubt we needed all the
time we had to savor the full offerings of these two tremendous wineries.
And then it was off to hunt for black tail deer. Tina Marie, the better half of Arrow Five
emailed directions to their hunting camp, and it was late in the evening when we
pulled in. On only a few hours of sleep we were out spotting for
deer. I was impressed as Jim showed us several bucks, but none in the
class we were looking for. We sat a couple of ground blinds but
only saw a few young deer. Each morning we would spot and then set up for
the evening hunts. I tried a couple of stalks, but some operator
error and a swirling wind left me on the short end of the
stick. It was down to the wire as my buddy and video guy Don had to head out the next day.
We returned to camp and had a great time
with the dogs. Odd, but out of eight dogs only three took to the water to
swim. But swim they would while the others stayed on shore and encouraged them. They never tired of Jim throwing in a stick, and off they would go.
That afternoon we glassed up a few deer on the
other side of the ridge when Jim exclaimed "that is a great buck, he will
book for sure!" I realized right then that it was Boone and Crocket
for sure and it just escalated the intensity. We tried a stalk
and got close, but bad winds had Don and I backing off. I wanted that buck, and even more importantly, I wanted Don to be there when we put an arrow through
him. It was a good call Don made as he knew I had more time and
that we shouldn't bust this buck out of the country.
That morning as we woke up, I was pleased that Don
said he would stick around for a quick morning hunt. We finally found the
buck and made a stalk and I am dissapointed that I made the mistake of a lifetime on a Booner, or we would have had a kill on video. It stung as we
said goodbye. Don wished me encouragement and I felt better. He was
off to hunt brown bears and I would stay on this buck until Schaafsmans kicked
me out or the season closed.
Nothing happened that night, but the next morning, Jim suggested we go back to a long ridge to glass across the canyon. It
would be a great vantage point, and he dropped me off and left me with my
spotter to see if the big boy would show himself. It didn't take long
when I found the two pointer and a doe and a fawn that the big guy was
with. Within the hour, our buck showed up, and from another vantage
point Jim had also spotted him. He drove back over to me and we watched
as the deer fed unaware that they were on him.
Jim asked me if I
wanted to stalk them but agreed that it would be risky. He felt the buck
would feed out later that night and we could ambush him by taking advantage of
the more dependable upslope evening winds. As I watched the deer, a small
coyote pup emerged from below and made its way to within a few feet of
me. It looked so comical as it could not figure out what I
was. Another coyote was working its way above my buck and
eventually closed the distance and spooked him. When Jim returned I explained
this to him and he was even more pumped. He felt the deer had wanted to
feed more and that it was likely they would be back out and early.
After lunch, Jim dropped me off just above a good
trail and the opening where he though they might return. It was less
than an hour later when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I was expecting the doe and fawn or perhaps the little guy. When the
monster four-pointer showed first, I almost lost it. I wanted to jerk back
my bow but it was a good thing that I was shaking so hard I knew I had to
wait. When the buck slowly walked along the slope I calmed myself and
took the shot as he glanced away. The arrow traveled thorugh him
and with one jump he was out of sight. I radioed and waited
Jim is also famous for his breeding of tracking
dogs. One of his best had tracked and found 99 deer, and I hoped mine would
make it 100. When they showed up I was pleased to see that he had
brought one of the pups, Sunny. She was a real sweetie and hung around with me
in camp as I worked on my tule elk cape. I was starting to doubt the hit
when off Jim and the dogs struck on the trail. It wasn't long till
they found the deer. He was every bit of a brute as Jim had
suggested – a Boone and Crocket 4 x 4, in velvet and best of
all, in my hands. What a Sitka moment!
What a great hunt. It puts California in a completely different light for
me... The people, the redwoods, the vastness of the county and, of course, the game.
I will be back.
The next Foss adventure: Adam Foss is off hunting stone sheep with his brother Cameron.