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Where the hell is Kettenpom?

By Chuck Giles
11/10/13 – Kettenpom is a community near Zenia in Northern California, but I’ll get to that later. Some of you may remember a previous article in MyOutdoorBuddy in which I wrote about winning a deer hunt as a Hunter Education Instructor. This is the story of that hunt which took place this last week. Once again as in my bear hunting story I will save those of you who wish not to hear other’s hunting tales and tell you I did indeed get a buck.

I am a Hunter Education Instructor for California Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). Each year, the coordinator for instructors in California, Captain Roy Griffith, works very diligently to recruit and retain persons interested in becoming involved with this endeavor and those of us in good standing are entered into a separate lottery for a chance at donated private land hunts. They include wild pig, blacktail and mule deer adventures. I was fortunate to win and opted for a management buck hunt with Arrow Five Outfitters in Trinity County. I made a very good choice.

Kettenpom, Trinity County, Deer Hunt, Chuck Giles, Arrow 5 Outfitters
My drive in was filled with views like this of the country I was to hunt. Photo by author

At the risk of repeating myself, I am not one for choosing guided hunts. Primarily because of my thin wallet and I also just prefer hunting either alone or with my wife. I know, I know, it is not necessarily the safest choice to hunt alone, but I am fairly outdoor- savvy and an experienced backpacker, not to mention asocial. Some just call me a grumpy old man. They just may be right, but I prefer my own time table and destinations. That is not to say I have harvested a ton of animals in my trips. I did not get serious until my wife’s family got me interested in big game hunting when I was almost 40.

Back to the hunt; my greatest apologies to those residents of Trinity County. I had no idea the splendor your area enjoys. I also did not know there is not a traffic light in all of Trinity County. For that I congratulate you.

Due to a mix-up in communications, I chose Highway 36, west of Interstate 5 to get to Zenia, Ca. where Arrow Five Outfitters is addressed. I am now quite sure this is the longest, snake-shaped highway in North America; At least for a four door, long bed Ford.

However, I actually made more photo stops along the way than I did nature breaks. There are no adjectives to describe the beauty here. Even the old burn areas with stubborn black snags still standing looked majestic. I can only imagine the work my brother firefighters put in to tangle with these steep landscapes.

Kettenpom Buck, Trinity County, Chuck Giles, Arrow 5 Outfitters
I knew my photos of the Stewart Ranch home of Arrow Five Outfitters would not do it justice, but this should give you a good idea of what I saw on one summit. Photo by author

MapQuest guided me to this piece of heaven on earth with my destination as Zenia and I shall ever be grateful in spite of the winding and climbing endured on my way to where I was sure the outfitters would have a huge sign welcoming me to their ranch.

That, in a round-about way, brings me to Kettenpom. Upon arriving at the Post Office in Zenia, the only public building in town, I learned I still had a way to go. Yes, I must drive some more of the mountain highway to the Kettenpom General Store. One of my strongest regrets for this trip is not taking a photo of this old west remnant of a building with a roofed porch for wood storage, thick worn, wooden, warped steps, a sparse inventory of the basics and a congenial young lady holding a baby in a chest carrier. The only thing missing was a squeaky screen door. She gave me my final directions. From there I would continue on several miles, over three cattle guards (the final one of which her daughter had labeled the “whoopee” cattle guard due to the bump you had to traverse) to the Stewart Ranch, home of Arrow Five Outfitters.

Not usualIy one to talk to myself, when I at last pulled onto the dirt road into the outfitters, I actually heard myself say “spectacular!” The view into the valley below was just plain neat. Knowing photos would do this place no justice, I nonetheless took a few.

Upon arrival at the poplar surrounded cabins, I was greeted warmly by one of the owners, TinaMarie Schaafsma. She and her husband Jim are the owner-ramrods here and work diligently to make it what it is. They are both no-nonsense, no BS and good humored folks. I immediately liked them both. After being shown my accommodations, I was invited in to lunch with some of the other hunters in camp.

Shortly thereafter, I unpacked my gear, met a few of the other employees and was taken on an afternoon hunt. This ranch is full of deer. They specialize in trophy blacktails and of that there is no shortage. The Schaafsma’s management practices have preserved a very well balanced herd of deer and that is no easy undertaking, as I learned listening to them. In addition to hard working folks, they are exceptionally knowledgeable on wildlife, ranching and anything else you wish to discuss. We saw nothing at which to shoot that first day.

Remember, I was there to harvest a “management” buck. This is a mature male deer capable of breeding but not up to the standards they have set with regard to antler development. These deer are usually denoted by at least a forked horn on one side, but for whatever reason genetically have not grown what is an acceptable set of antlers to pass on.

Kettenpom Buck, Trinity County, Garberville, Chuck Giles, Arrow 5 Outfitters
I took this photo on my way out of Kettenpom headed toward Garberville. Photo by author

The following morning, a guide name Louis was my companion for the day. Louis is actually a tad older than I, but one of those raw-boned, hard working fellas with a wealth of knowledge and a mustachioed face slightly “war-mapped.” I enjoyed him immensely.

Their method of hunting is spot and stalk. I tried at first to spot deer before Louis, but to no avail. Invariably he would point out a deer that I would have missed completely. This could also be one of the main reasons I haven’t been the most successful hunter in the past. It made me think, but I took the lesson from it well. In that kind of mountainous, rolling country I tended to look far away for a sign of an animal. Some of the ones which were pointed out to me were no more than fifty yards away in a shadow. Hmmm….wake up, Chuck!

After looking at quite a few bucks, the very first deer we spotted (OK, he spotted) suitable for me was a heavy-horned forky just over a bluff from the trail. He instructed me to chamber a round and take aim. Unfortunately, when I had a buck in my scope, I noticed another that had popped up close by. In the confusion, I was reluctant to pull the trigger and the delay allowed them both to go bounding out of sight into a gully from hell. Never once did Louis chastise me. Little did we know he would have a much better chance for that in just a short while?

Just an hour later, we (yes, we) eyed another buck in which I may be interested. After glassing it carefully, we decided against it. Then it turned to leave and we realized it only had a fork on the right side. “This is your buck, Chuck,” whispered Louis.

Allow me to regress here; earlier that morning, Louis had asked me what caliber I was shooting. I told him it was a 7MM. “I know it’s a bit too much sometime for California deer, but I can hit what I aim at,” I replied proudly. I will regret this bragging in the very next paragraph.

Kettenpom Buck, Trinity County, Chuck Giles
This gorgeous photo of my buck with horms framing the small peak in the background was taken by TinaMarie Schaafsma. Photo courtesy of Arrow Five Outfitters

Anyway, this buck is near broadside to us about a hundred yards downhill. I put the vitals in my scope and pull the trigger knowing it is going to drop in its tracks. I was wrong. Now I did indeed manage to hit the deer, but not where I intended and it took off downhill like most wounded game will do. I will spare the details and say we did harvest that deer albeit quite a ways down the hill in a deep gully from my first shot. Only then did we discover a small third point on the right side. It was a full-fledged 3x3. Here’s a tip most of you hunters probably know; when shooting up or downhill, aim low.

I spent 25 years in fire houses where nothing about your personal information, relatives or actions are sacred nor untouchable from criticism and belittling. This was a golden opportunity for a comment on my marksmanship. Louis, being the ever professional guide, simply congratulated me on the fine buck and commenced to helping me get it out of that hellhole along with Mark, an earlier successful hunter. I can rest assured, though, that more than a few laughs were had later at my expense and that’s OK. When you deserve it, you deserve it. By the way, when field dressed, the buck weighed 128 pounds.

I can’t remember being more appreciative of an opportunity than this adventure. Arrow 5 Outfitters is a class act in every aspect. I am also fortunate as a relatively new (5 years) Hunter Education Instructor to have won this chance. My thanks also go out to Captain Roy Griffith and Lt. Peter Blake of DFW. A final heartfelt thanks to Jim and TinaMarie for their unequaled hospitality, Brea’s cooking and Louis’ eyesight.

If you are itching for a shot a Trophy Columbian Blacktail Deer, I urge you to take at look at Arrow Five Outfitters. Their success rate in guiding hunters to such a prize is on the order of 98-99 percent.

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