I've always had a bit of an adventurous side, but it had to be on my terms, if that makes any sense. It took me a while to step out of my comfort zone and do something "Crazy" like leave my home state of Oregon to hunt elk or deer. As a matter of fact it took something as drastic as moving out of my beloved homeland to prompt a change in my thinking. Having said that, I still found myself going back each fall to hunt blacktail deer in the Southwest corner of the state. After all, my new-found home was within a stone's throw, metaphorically speaking, from Los Angeles, California and there couldn't be anything worth hunting. Or could there be?
I've chased elk at twelve thousand feet in Colorado and stumbled through cacti in the middle of nowhere Arizona, trying to find the funny, little, pig looking critter that really isn't a pig at all, known as the javelina, but for some reason the rugged mountains that I saw every day near my house never crossed my mind as a place to hunt. It wasn't until I moved into a new neighborhood that I began to get excited about what treasures these hills might hold.
One day shortly after moving in, I came home from work, to an interesting story from my wife. She told me that shortly after noon there was a nock on the door. When she opened it, there stood a very large man, maybe 6'3" or 6'4" and 240 pounds. He said, "Is your husband home?" Now you can imagine how a twenty-something, attractive woman who is home alone in a new house might feel when finding herself in such a situation. Evidently my new neighbor could see the concern on her face and reassured her that things weren't as they seemed. He informed her that he had seen my antlers hanging on the wall of our garage and was excited to have a hunter in the neighborhood.
After making his acquaintance, John informed me that there were indeed deer to be found around here and some respectable ones at that. That meeting and the conversations that followed got me excited at the possibilities and lit a fire under my rear end to get out and do some scouting.
The first thing that struck me as I began to explore the area was how uninviting it looked, at least at first glance. The more I looked around the more I began to notice similarities between this hot, arid landscape and and my old stomping grounds. Although I definitely am not accustomed to hunting an area where every bush, tree and cactus seem to want to jump out and grab you. I remember thinking to myself that deer are deer and they are going to act somewhat the same regardless of their location. Although the vegetation may be different, I could still use the topography to make a game plan and I was confident that I could figure these deer out.
This year my work schedule was such that I wasn't able to get into the woods for the first two weeks of the season. Fortunately for me my first day of hunting also coincided with a nice cold front and a bit of rain. I've always enjoyed hunting deer when the first good rain of the season shows up. Back home when that first rain would come it was like some one shook the forest, the deer would come crawling out of the wood work. As my door clicked shut that morning I smiled, noticing that I had just gingerly shut it, being oh so quiet even though my watch said it was barely 5:30 a.m. and I still had at least two miles to walk in the dark before I even began to hunt. Old habits die hard, I suppose.
With the rain that morning came clouds, the kind that hang low and grab onto the mountaintops. The kind that prohibit a man from seeing the very mountaintops he had been waiting an entire year to hunt. I'm not the kind of guy that gets discouraged easily so I made a new plan to head to a different canyon, a bit out of my way, but I wasn't going to hike into pea soup just because that's where I had previously thought I should go. It wasn't my original plan, but it would give me a good vantage point to do some glassing.
As I made my ascent to the distant ridge I was pleasantly surprised at how much sign there was. I followed a trail that traversed below some cliffs. It wound it's way through the remnants of an old burn that left the brush even more aggressive than it was before. There were deer beds scattered along the way and I was getting more excited as I approached the saddle that would be my perch. As I reached the point that I was going to glass from I was met by a fifteen mile an hour, cold, cold wind. I should say cold by Southern California standards. The climb had left me a bit damp so I got into my pack and pulled out another layer to fight off that wind. I spent the next hour and a half picking apart the far side of the canyon and glassed up as high as the clouds would let me.
As the clouds lifted I decided to make my way up the ridge to explore a little higher elevation. Three hundred yards into my next move I sensed something up and across. I caught movement, threw up my binoculars and saw a doe making her way down the hill, followed by a critter with antlers. I told myself that I was going to shoot the first legal buck I saw because I was unsuccessful elk hunting this year and needed some meat in the freezer. Taking three quick steps forward I broke the top off of a burned bush and nestled my rifle there, just like it was meant to be. The buck was out there a ways , but not far enough to make me think about where to hold. Four hours into my first day in the deer woods this season my .300 barked and a nice three by three fell.
The buck lay two hundred and fifteen yards away. Getting to him took me forty minutes because of the angry vegetation. The parting of the clouds and the arrival of the warm rays of sun was timed perfectly as I loaded the meat into my pack. I don't remember exactly what sound came out of my mouth on my first attempt to hoist my pack onto my back, but I'm sure it was comical. What I do remember, is telling myself "One step at a time, my friend".
I'm generally not one to share my exact hunting spots in such a public forum and I suppose I'm not going to start now. What I will say is I was hunting D-13. I figure if I run into someone up there, they have worked hard enough to deserve to be there. If they are fortunate enough to put there tag on a buck and need a hand, I'll give 'em one, with a smile.