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First Bucks

ow that the general deer seasons are over, there’s time to reflect on whatever it is that we accomplished in the pursuit of venison for the freezer. I’ve seen the results of successful hunts in pictures on the phones of friends, but despite the grins on unknown faces I think deer hunting, for the most part, was tough.

Mostly that was due to the mild weather and, quite possibly, to the bumper crop of acorns at lower elevations. More than one experienced hunter told me that pickings were slim during the rifle seasons at higher elevations where there were lots of bucks during the bow season.

I suspect many of the deer were spread out in the oaks where they are much harder to find.

That said, I was with my son-in-law Robert Feamster when he scored on a nice 3x3 blacktail in Trinity County near Hayfork, and he was with me when I tagged a respectable forked horn near Buckhorn summit off S.R. 299.

But this story isn’t about guys like us, who have hunted deer in this state for decades. Rather, it’s to acknowledge the achievement of two newcomers to the scene. One of them is my married granddaughter Megan Carper of Mckinleyville, and the other is the 17 year old daughter of a friend by the name of Annelise Saltsman who lives in Palo Cedro.

Because her husband, Caleb, is a dedicated hunter, Megan passed her hunter safety course just before bow season opened, and she hunted with the bow her husband bought for her all through that season. Even though she wasn’t successful, she was more excited about deer hunting than she could have imagined, and she was anxious for rifle season.

On their third day out they were hunting on family property near Mad River and things were tough. After several hours of tramping through the woods, and seeing only two does, they were ready to call it a day.

However, on the drive out to the gate Caleb spotted a deer about 150 yards away, and determined it was a legal forked horn buck. Telling Megan to follow him, Caleb acquired a clear view of the animal, and set up the shooting sticks he carries with him on deer hunts these days.

Megan settled her Browning .243 on the sticks, and tried to find the buck in the Redfield scope.

“I see a doe,” she said.

“The buck is to her right,” Caleb instructed.

Megan Carper displays her first buck ever as two of her kids Cabella (blond hair) and Bailey Rose look on. Photos provided by
Author’s granddaughter Megan Carper displays her first buck ever as two of her kids Cabella (blond hair) and Bailey Rose look on. Photos provided by the author

Megan moved the rifle a few inches and saw the buck facing away at a slight angle. Caleb told her where to aim so she squeezed the trigger.

She missed her intended target, but the buck collapsed anyway. It turns out that Megan hit him in the neck and, as she told me later, she didn’t ruin any meat.

Meanwhile, on public land near Whiskeytown in Zone B2, Annelise was hunting with her dad Cory, her mom Angela, and her two brothers Carson and Cory. They had spent several hours in an area where Annelise had scouted on her own before and during the bow season, but when they heard someone else shoot nearby they decided to move to another spot. It was a good decision. As the SUV bounced along the narrow dirt road, Annelise caught sight of a deer in on the steep hillside below and told her dad to stop. She got out and slipped back to where she had a good view of the deer, which was partially hidden by shady brush.

Annelise Saltsman poses with her first buck ever, photo by John Higley
A first buck does not have to be a big buck to make indelible memories. Here Annelise Saltsman poses with her first buck ever. It won’t be the last.

“I thought it was a doe,” she said later, “but my dad said it was a legal forked horn and that’s all I had to hear. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to get nervous, and when I raised the .30-06 Savage rifle and shot off hand, the deer simply disappeared. I couldn’t believe it. My first buck!”

Annelise was understandably thrilled. She remained so even as her father coached her through the field dressing process and, later, while cutting and wrapping the meat.

Come to think of it, my granddaughter Megan field dressed her buck too, and had no qualms about it. Both she and Annelise are looking forward to many years of deer hunting ahead. I’m certain that Megan and Caleb, who have three daughters, will make sure the kids are indoctrinated into the outdoor lifestyle. The future is in the hands of the next generation, and the more kids, male and female, who realize there’s more to life than smart phones and computer games, the better.

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 myoutdoorbuddy.com. 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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