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​Deer Season Success

hew! The deer seasons, for most of us, are finally over. Thanks to the stormy weather that came along a couple of times this month, most of the hunters I know filled their tags. Even I got a 3x3 blacktail buck on a ranch near Montgomery Creek. It was a wet, windy hunt, but not too bad considering I was successful, and I got to use an ATV to tote the buck back to my pickup.

Meanwhile, my son Mark, and son-in-law Robert, got their bucks too, albeit on hunts by themselves in widely different places. Robert found an exceptional 3x3 with five inch eye guards near Hayfork, while Mark shot an outstanding buck in the western portion of the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Considering the fact that Mark’s a grandfather four times over, I would not recommend hunting in remote country alone like he did. Oh well, I admit I used to do the same thing on occasion.

3x3 balcktail deer, by John Higley
On a windy, rainy day in October I was happy to find this nice 3x3 blacktail on a ranch near Montgomery Creek in eastern Shasta County. Photo by author

Just for fun, I’d like to share what it’s like to hunt alone in the Trinities through an exchange of text messages that Mark and I had on the evening of opening day. Turns out there’s reception in one small spot where he camps, providing you don’t move or turn the wrong way when you’re trying to send a message. Here, then, is part of our back and forth.

8:22 p.m.: Got a monster this morning at 11. Boned it out, and have been packing it back to camp since 2 p.m. It’s the hardest pack I’ve ever done. Had to make two trips to get all the meat to the ridge. Six hours back to camp, and I ran out of water five hours ago!

8:24: How many deer did you see?

8:28: Only saw the one buck and it was down in Higley Hollow. I spotted the buck, or one similar, at 8 a.m. I made the choice to drop into the hollow and try to locate it again. Found this guy a couple hours later and got to within 285 yards. He was straight downhill, but I made the shot.

Just so you know Higley Hollow is our name for an abyss of interesting proportions. It’s steep, nasty and unforgiving. We vowed long ago to never hunt there—but never is a long time.

9:00: Wish I was there to help. How big was it?

9:04: It’s a great 5x5 with good mass and long tines. One of the biggest bucks I’ve ever killed.

9:07: Sounds great, but how are you doing?

9:12: Legs are cramping like mad. The hard part is over, but I’m afraid I might not be able to walk tomorrow. I’m drinking water and eating a sodium rich Mountain House. I still have to deal with Misery Hill (our name for a steep one mile stretch of trail on the way to the trailhead 4.5 miles away from camp).

9:20: Text me in the morning.

9:24: Will do.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose. Mark made it out the next day only a little worse for wear. His buck gross scored above the Boone and Crockett minimum for entry in the Records of North American Big Game. Whether or not it makes the “book” after the mandatory drying period isn’t important. He has an experience to remember for the rest of his life. And one not to repeat again.

This if the fine 3x3 with eye guards (photo courtesy Meredith Feamster)
This is the fine 3x3 with eye guards that my son-in-law Robert Feamster tagged in Trinity County near Hayfork. Photo courtesy Meredith Feamster

Anyway, for my family the deer season was very good. The general rule of thumb is that warm weather is detrimental to deer hunters and the harvest increases in years when inclement weather events happen during the season. I’ve always been of the mind that the best time to hunt is when you can, regardless of the weather, and Mark’s experience proves it. He killed his buck on a very warm day, while Robert and I got ours when the weather was cool.

 magnum 5x5 blacktail in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, by Mark Higley

My son Mark tagged this magnum 5x5 blacktail in the Trinity Alps Wilderness on opening day. It took him the better part of two days to tote the boned meat out on his back. The slope of the mountain behind him tells only part of the story. Photo by Mark Higley

Despite the fact that some deer tags are getting harder to get each year, California still has a lot to offer to hunters with the tags and the right attitude. Those of us who live in the northern portion of the state can literally hunt out the back door, or within easy driving distance of home. And, we can choose how we want to hunt, and how easy or difficult we want the challenge to be. All in all, it’s a pretty good deal.

The important thing, I believe, is for hunters to keep on buying their tags and to get out there and participate in the rituals of fall. Win, lose or draw, it’s better to have hunted than to wish we had. Now it’s on to small and upland game and waterfowl. Good luck whatever you do.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.


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