B zone buck hunting
Article and photo by Casey Allen
9/21/11 -- The opening weekend of deer season in Northwestern California’s B zone was more productive than previous years. Many camps in our hunting area had bucks hanging and one camp had two. Mike Taylor got a shot at a big, wide racked buck but missed and I had one in my sights but could not get a clean sure shot.
The weather was warm but not oppressively hot. It seemed, by personal observation that the local deer population had increased over the last few years. There were more bucks running around my neighborhood and more deer seen along our rural roads. We were hunting the Six Rivers National Forest in Trinity County and it was obvious that more water, green grasses, and browse was available than in recent memory.
There were also fewer hunters. The absence of four wheeler ATVs was noticeable. The fact that laws restrict which roads the ATVs can travel on and require the use of a helmet either displaced ATV hunters or they left their vehicles at home.
My partner, Brad Vallerga and I hiked into the Yolla Bolly Wilderness before sunrise on a moonlit morning the first day of the season. We met four other hunters at the trailhead with the same thoughts. After a short conference we learned that we both wanted to hunt the same canyon but Brad and I wanted to hunt the lower canyon while the party of four wanted to go up.
From the top of a ridge I watched Brad and the four hunters disappear into the canyon heading in different directions. Two of the guys no sooner dropped out of sight when a buck trotted out between them heading my way. The tall three point buck snuck through their line without being seen, except by me. I was in the perfect position and was sure I would be shooting this buck. He continued trotting and followed the contour of the slope below me. I followed him through my scope and each time he stopped there was some brush in the way of my shot. I had the safety off and even pulled the slack out of my trigger but I just could not get a clean shot. The buck went from 200 yards to over 400 yards away without presenting me an opportunity before disappearing into a ravine. I gave chase but never saw him again.
Shots rang out up the canyon and I figured the party of four had scored. Brad and I worked our way down the canyon but saw no other deer. It was a long hot walk back to the truck. I was happily satisfied by seeing the buck and secretly I was happy to not be packing him out in the heat.
Mike Taylor and Dan Hopper were in their own canyon near camp. Mike came upon a buck and doe and the buck was wearing a heavy set of wide antlers. Mike, who is 65 years old, had to run 50 yards to get a clear shot. He peered through his rifle scope off hand and tried to hold the crosshairs steady. But the excitement and the 50 yard dash were too much and his only shot sailed high.
We have a comfortable camp with great food and close company. We have many weeks left to hunt and can’t wait to get back out there. I’ll let you know what happens.
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