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Luck of the Draw

suppose it should have come as no surprise. After entering the big game drawings and waiting until after the drawing, I went online the other night and learned that I actually got a tag for the premium X zone I put in for. It was pretty much a sure thing, considering the number of preference points I had and the odds published in the California Big Game Hunting digest I got in April. I am not going to whine, because I will be able to hunt mule deer in October and that’s always fun. However, the zone I was drawn for is unfamiliar to me and I know there will be some homework to do before I sally forth and visit the area with the intention of finding some deer.

So, you ask, why did you put in for that zone anyway? Frankly, it’s a matter of timing. I want to hunt mule deer again in California and the spring left this chicken long ago. I wanted a more or less sure thing in the drawing so I would have the opportunity to hunt the east side of the state again before I can no longer handle the terrain., John Higley, maps, GPS, hunting tag, big game, elk, hunting tips, Zone, tags, outdoors, Luck of the Draw, John Higley
John Higley poses with a 4x4 mule deer buck he got in Zone X5b when he had a tag many years ago.

For a long time I’ve been thinking about the so called good-old-days with regard to deer hunting in this state. I started hunting mule deer in the dark ages of the 1950s when the entire state was open to anyone with a tag and there were lots more deer. Really! Since the 1970s herds have diminished a lot, and while I still get a buck most years (a blacktail in the C or B zones) it’s not because there are more of them, but because I’m a better hunter.

Back when I was young, all I did was wait on migration trails for some deer to walk by or hike my tail off all day long hoping to jump a deer with legal antlers. Today, I actually think about the patterns of deer and why they’re apt to be in a particular place at a particular time., John Higley, maps, GPS, hunting tag, big game, elk, hunting tips, Zone, tags, outdoors, Luck of the Draw, John Higley
Mule deer country is often wide open and optic, such as a spotting scope, are an important tool to have.

Thus, I can put myself in the right place at the right time on a fairly regular basis.

Speaking of that, now that I have a mule deer tag, I wonder if I’ll take my own advice and try to make the most of it? Here are some questions I’ll be sure to ask myself even before seeing the country I’ll be hunting for the first time.

One: What conditions will I be dealing with during the duration of my hunt? Will this be a camp out situation with a vehicle, a motel stay close to the hunting area or a primitive backpack hunt in a remote location? It all makes a difference in the type and amount of gear necessary.

Two: Is the gear I have in good condition, or does some of it need to be repaired or replaced? The time to make those fix or replace decisions is now, and not when I’m somewhere between here and nowhere.

Three: Are my optics adequate for the task at hand? Binoculars, check.

Riflescope, check. Spotting scope, in case it’s big, open country, check.

Four: Have I sighted in my rifle recently with the ammo I intend to use on the hunt? No, but I promise I will. While I feel my old .270 is still right on, a few shots to confirm that fact will be necessary. If I miss somehow during a hunt I need to know if it’s me or the rifle to blame. Come to think of it, if it’s the rifle, I’m to blame for that too.

Five: In unfamiliar country do I have the proper maps to find my way around? I know, I know, I can carry a GPS unit and computer generated maps or even aerial photos but, being old fashion, I have trouble deciphering some of them. I prefer a detailed map I can read easily regardless of the source it comes from. Personally, I want a compass in my pocket as well.

Six: Good boots are a necessity, and clothing should be thought out too.

I’ll take along the layers needed for anything Mother Nature conjures up. Of course, it’s one thing to hunt from an established base camp with plenty of gear, and quite another to spike out.

Seven: What items do I need to process a deer in the field? I’ll think about that and pack accordingly. At the very least, I’ll make sure my knives are sharp enough for field dressing and skinning and game bags are there to protect the carcass from dirt and flies. Also, I’ll have an extra pack frame in the truck -- just in case some young guy comes along and insists on carrying a load of meat for me. Hey, I can daydream, can’t I?.

Eight: Most important of all, perhaps, is time allowed for pre-hunt scouting and for the hunt itself. Like a lot of other folks, I’m guilty of carrying my busy lifestyle into the field but I swear this year will be different. I will relax, whatever that is, and hunt for days, if need be, without a specific number of hours hanging over my head.


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Deer holding tight in cover during times of heavy hunting pressure as I was about to find out. Francisco Garcia hunting story.
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