Hog Blog Friends In The Field – Jean’s A-Zone Buck
October 7, 2014
California’s A-zone is a special place, and the folks who hunt it every year are a different kind of deer hunter.
To begin with, it’s the largest, single zone in the state, ranging from just north of Los Angeles all the way up to the southern edge of the Mendocino National Forest. It reaches from the coast, inland to Interstate 5. That’s a lot of diverse territory, and the animals that inhabit the place are as different as the regions in which they live.
Then there’s the season itself. A-zone archery starts the weekend after July 4th. Rifle season kicks off in the second week of August. That’s mid-summer, folks, and across much of the zone, these are the hottest, driest months of the year. It takes a special kind of dedication to get out there in these conditions to hump the rugged country in hopes of hanging that A-zone tag on a blacktail buck. Consider as well, that there’s only about a 10%, reported success rate in the zone… and if trophy blacktail bucks are your thing, the A-zone is not the best place to find them (although some real monsters come out of the zone every year… trophies not only for their size, but for their rarity).
Bottom line is, you have to really want to hunt deer to take part in the A-zone seasons, especially to do it consistently. People think I’m crazy when I mention that I miss it.
My friend Jean, and her husband, are a couple of those special hunters, and they didn’t miss the season this year. Here’s Jean’s story from her 2014 A-zone hunt.
Okay, here goes nuttin’…
We took the F150 and the trailer down to Willow Creek early Thursday morning for 3 days of trying to invite a deer to dinner.
The end of the ranch we had talked about hunting was occupied by another hunter. So we started working some of other spurs out from the main ridge. Down from one of the saddles I noticed a loaf shaped object on a small hill, maybe 400 yards away.
It was a bedded doe. She was looking at me. I called Todd on the radio. He came over and watched her with me. We looked away to talk for a few seconds. When we looked back, 3 does were standing. The middle one runs over, kicks the deer on the left and they all trot off down the hill together. It was as if to say “They’re watching too long. Get going, asshole!”
This was exciting to me because it is so hard to see bedded animals. 99.99999% of the time, they do a much better job of hiding than I do of looking.
We then set up camp and rested from the early morning start.
The evening hunt was uneventful, other than the usual bird pissing matches with one another at one of the water tanks.
The next morning hunt I got busted by what was probably another doe. At least I’m seeing deer, even if it is just a glimpse at deer butt. As we’re driving the ridge road, another deer we can’t identify runs away from us. We didn’t find that deer, but we did see one bedded in the same spot as yesterday.
In the early afternoon, we drove the back part of the ranch. Not many tracks and fewer new ones.
I got to my spot for the evening hunt about 6pm. I had little hope of seeing anything other than does but still glad of seeing all of the deer we had been able to see.
A little before 7:00pm I see one, then another critter about 500-600 yards distant. They look like dogs. No wait, THEY LOOK LIKE DEER.
NO, WAIT, THEY LOOK LIKE BUCKS!!!!!!!!!!! THEY ARE HEADED THIS WAY!!!!
Is one legal to shoot? YES, at least one is. They disappear behind a little hill for what seemed like an hour but was probably about 3 minutes. They crest the hill and come down the trail.
I can’t get that thing that’s slamming around in my chest to settle down as much as I would like. I take my best shot at 215 yards. Buck # 1 jumps and runs down the hill. I shoot again because he’s moving and I don’t want him running down into the canyon. He does not come out the other side of the brush pile.
I can now see that Buck # 2 is legal as well. For a moment there is a flash of doubt about “Did I hit the right buck?”. I review my actions and decide my course of action was correct. Buck # 2 did not respond to the sound of the shots at Buck # 1. He looks around for his buddy (in doing so, he presents a perfect broadside shot opportunity), prances around, jumps the fence, and trots away.
I babble something at Todd on the radio. Having heard the shots, he was already on his way. I am cold from the adrenalin in my system. He gets me to tell him the area where I shot and where I last saw the deer. I go down the hill so I can shoot if the deer comes out of the brush.
Todd goes in to check for tracks, blood and deer. There is no blood to see, but he finds some tracks that look like deer in a big damn hurry. Then he finds the deer. At first he thought it was a log. He calls me over. I ask him if I need my rifle. He says “No, he’s dead.”
The hill is steep. The reason the buck did not roll down the hill further is that his antlers became entangled in some chamise branches. I said my private thank you to both the buck and the bush that held him.
Even though he is only a forkie, he is a pretty big buck. The light color of his face tells me he is an old one. I say thank you again and again to nothing and everything.
He is too heavy for us to drag up the steep hill, even with some mechanical advantage.
When I opened him up, seemingly massive amounts of stomach ick and blood come pouring out. One lung is all but gone. My first shot was further aft than I had thought it would be and the buck was at more of an angle to me. There was no diaphram to cut through, it was just gone.
My second shot was almost total crap. My bullet tore some tendons on his upper right front leg. Maybe it helped stop him, I don’t know. It was nowhere near the front of the chest like I had intended.
We pulled him about 100 feet up the hill with a block and tackle to the truck. Lifting him into the back of the truck was a challenge. Todd figured out how to get it done. It is now 9pm and very dark.
Back at camp, the skinning and initial clean up finished up about 2am.
When we came home the next morning, a friend stopped by to help move the cooler, and inspect the head. He looked at the teeth . They were worn even with the roof of the mouth. This deer was definitely an old one.
I look forward now to summer sausage, steaks, jerky, roasts, and burgers. I am grateful to the deer and to my husband, Todd for all his amazing help and hard work.
The deer has indeed become all of those things, including roasting the bones and trimmings in the BBQ and making soup stock.
So congrats, Jean and Todd!
Updated 10/09/14 – Jean sent us a picture with her buck!