California - Every year, my brother, cousin, and I train extremely hard, whether it’s continuously shooting our bows or putting on loaded 60 pound packs and hitting a trail. We never seem to stop practicing. It was no different in 2013. We started setting up trail cameras in late May and early June. I had to wait patiently for the Thursday before the opener so that I could finally tow our hunting trailer to our camping spot. As 5:30 am rolled around, I found myself on the road, loaded down, and very excited for the season. Friday night had all of us up late, going over the pictures and thoughts revolving around where we should hit at first light. Eventually, the alarm went off, coffee on was put on, and it was finally here: opening day!
The first few days brought no shots, though we saw a lot of does and a few legal bucks. There was one very cool 3x1 non-typical buck; however, we couldn’t get any closer than 90 yards from him. On the third day, my brother connected on a nice buck, and a few days after that, we rolled up camp and headed home with high hopes for the next time that we would come back. August 29th came quickly, and my brother and I headed back for seven more days. Earlier that year, he had won a free taxidermist mount, and since it was my turn to shoot first, we agreed that if we came across a deer we would both want to mount, he could go ahead and shoot first.
August 30th had us in a new area and about an hour from camp. As we climbed to the top of a mountain, we began glassing only to find deer after deer after deer. A giant 3x4 quickly grabbed our attention, and we set off. Having the perfect wind and cover, we slipped into 100 yards with ease. Unfortunately, the bedded down bucks were on their feet and now feeding in a small bowl, of which we had been sitting on the edge. With no way to move closer, we filmed the deer feed off in the timber line.
With no luck, back at camp the next day, we set out an hour and half earlier to drive back to the mountain where we glassed up the bucks a few days previously. At first light, we saw what looked to be three does in an area close to where the bucks had been. By 9am, the sun now blinding us, we saw movement: a stud 4x4 with a giant 3x3 and the three does from that morning. As we watched them all bed, realizing we had to wait for the thermals to change for the correct wind, just how big he really was began to hit us! Midday found us stalking down an old logging road with no shade in the direct sunlight. More than halfway down, my brother stopped and said to me, “Don’t move.” As I looked up, I saw a bouncing coyote coming up the trail straight for us. My fear of him spooking and ruining the stalk set in when he came within 20 yards and caught sight of us. A few moments passed, and he turned right and went on his way. We pushed forward, standing next to our third marked tree. Knowing we could be around 100 yards away, we slowed down and waited a minute. Right before moving from shade to shade, I heard my brother say, “He’s on his feet; don’t move.” I scooted to the side of him to film the deer. I couldn’t believe how big he was. Waiting what seemed like forever but was really only a minute or two, he finally stepped out, and at 60 yards, thwack!! BBD!
As some emotions ran through us (the loss of our grandpa is the sole reason we hunt), we hugged, quartered up, and packed out this truly amazing public land blacktail buck. Once we got back to camp, it was now evening, and a decision was made to drive home with him to put the meat in the freezer, since we had three days left to hunt. On our way out, I couldn’t help but notice a strange looking deer on the hill across the road. When we came to a stop, I realized it was the non-typical buck with two does and a small spike. A quick stalk and a deadly 35 yard heart shot left us with our first double down.