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The buck we didn’t get and two we did

By Tyler Low
08/10/14 -- “Can you see him? He is just below the sky line to the left of the big live oak.” The respectable three-point stood only 500 yards away, but my hunting partner, Kyler Olson, couldn’t quite get an eye on him. “Oh, ok. There he is. I’ve got him.” Kyler finally found the deer. Now the only thing to do was to dial the turrets on his Vortex Viper PST 4-16x50 and pull the trigger. “Ok, just let me know when you’re ready to shoot,” I said. After Kyler got settled in and dialed his turrets a shot rang through the river bottom and the deer dropped dead in its tracks.

That morning my alarm had gone off at 3:30 a.m., but it didn’t matter because I was already awake. I didn’t sleep a wink that night in anticipation of the next day. It was the opening morning for the G-1 deer season in Northern California and I couldn’t be more ready. After Kyler and I got dressed we warmed up the truck, hooked up the boat, and we were off to the local gas station for a quick bite and to fuel up the boat. As we got to our boat launch I had a feeling that today was going to be a day I wouldn’t soon forget.

Sunrise in the G-1 Zone, 2013, photo by author
Sunrise in the G-1 Zone, 2013, photo by author

I beached my 13-foot Gregor aluminum boat where we could just barely see the sun starting to make its way over the huge rocky outcrop that was our vantage point. Once at the top of the hill we set up and began to glass. I had already filled my second choice B tag with my bow so the pressure was off to get meat in the freezer. This meant I could be a little more selective and possibly get the chance to kill my first trophy Blacktail buck. It wasn’t more than 10 minutes before we got our eyes on some deer. There he was a good looking three point that was only 500 yards away. Kyler and I have been practicing shooting beyond 700 yards so we both felt comfortable and ethical taking a shot at 500 yards. After Kyler found the buck in his scope and dialed his turrets all there was left to do was to pull the trigger and begin the long haul of getting him from the top of the outcrop and down the hill to our boat.

As a shot rang out through the steep valley, Kyler and I looked at each other in disbelief as the buck dropped in its tracks. The only problem was that Kyler hadn’t fired his rifle. As it turns out there was another pair of hunters across the huge valley who were sitting on the top of the hill looking down on this buck. Although we were bummed out we watched the hunters as they walked right past the deer they had shot. We felt obligated as sportsmen to get in the boat, cross the river, and, help them find the deer and offer our boat to haul it out. As it turned out, the pair had shot two deer: the nice three point and a decent 2x3. After we climbed up through the brush and loaded the deer in my boat we drove one of the hunters down to their camp and helped him off-load their bounty. We then exchanged a few quick stories and we were on our way again.

Photo by Tyler Low, 3 forked deer in a boat being transported to camp.
This is the buck Kyler didn’t shoot. Just as Kyler was ready to pull the trigger a shot rang out from across the canyon. We helped our competition find this very nice buck and carry him back to their truck. Photo by the author

Although it seemed like hours, it was only 8:00 a.m. That meant we had a whole lot of hunting left to do. We decided that this area was all hunted out due to the number of gun shots that we heard ringing out during the first couple hours of sunlight. We headed upstream to another spot that I had in mind and gave it a shot. After hiking up the steep, dry bank, we set up and glassed the hillsides for well over an hour in a spot where I was sure that we would see some action. We had no such luck. For those of you who are lucky enough to live in the northern California area you know that temperatures can easily reach 100 degrees even in late October. This day was no exception. It was hot. Real hot! And I knew that the deer would be bedded down in the shade somewhere out of the blistering hot sun.

At this point Kyler and I had walked a total of more than 10 miles and it was only noon. We were tired and hungry so we decided to head over to my grandparent’s house and get some food and maybe a quick power nap. I set my alarm for an hour and a half later and laid my head down for a split second and was out cold. After a much needed nap and a bite to eat we were more ready than ever. We loaded our stuff in the truck and discussed our evening hunt game plan.

There is a long stretch of public land close by so we decided that our evening hunt would consist of hunting both ends and meeting in the middle. I dropped Kyler off at a parking lot then drove myself down the road a few miles and started hunting towards him. With rifle and binoculars in hand I was off like a rocket. Once I got to a large hillside that I wanted to glass, I set up. I hooked my 10x42 Nikon Monarchs up to my tripod and began to scour the hillside for any sign of deer. After about an hour I still had not seen anything and was starting to get discouraged. I knew that I needed to stay positive if I wanted any chance of killing a big buck. After a little self-motivating pep talk I was good to go.

Sitting on the hillside under a small oak tree I couldn’t help but think to myself there is no place that I would rather be. The sun was starting to sink down behind the mountains which made for a beautiful sunset and I was out in the wilderness doing what I love. It was a very humbling feeling for me and I was doing my best to take it all in. But then, with no warning, there it was.

Far off in the distance I heard the faint ringing of a shot fired. Or at least I thought -- I couldn’t be sure so I listened and there it was again…and again…and again… and finally one last time. I knew this was Kyler because we were the only ones out there. Guessing that he just missed the chance at a good buck judging by the number of shots he took. I called him up on the radio with next to no expectations.

“Damn man; was that your whole magazine?” knowing that his gun only holds 4 shots I already knew the answer but I was trying to pull his chain.

“Hell yeah,” Kyler yelled. “I got that sucker on the last shot!” I could hear the excitement in his voice.

“How big is he,” I asked. There was a pause.

“I am not sure yet,” Kyler said. “But he is huge!” I had to laugh at both his confidence and his excitement!

Tyler Low with a full pack of venison and a tall 3x4 buck caped out ready for the taxidermist, Photo by Kyler Olson
This is Kyler with his buck a nice 2 x 3. Dark was setting in when I took this photo with my IPhone. Photo by author

I knew that there was not much time left before the sun went down so I started hoofing it in Kyler’s direction. Judging from the sound of the shots he was roughly 2 miles away so I needed to cover some serious ground. In front of me was what seemed like an endless uphill climb. I had just crested over the top of the huge hill, huffing and puffing, when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. About 80-100 yards in front of me were seven does all walking in a line. I searched through the crowd to see if there were any bucks with them and that’s when I saw him, He was chasing the last doe around like a sheep dog.

In my sights I had the biggest buck I had ever seen and he was no more than 100 yards away - an easy chip shot. Not wanting to spook the deer, I didn’t risk moving up to the large rock 10 yards in front of me to get a steady rest. Instead, I took aim free-handed. I could see him perfectly: the only problem was that I could not get my crosshairs on him. Was it buck fever? Was it exhaustion? I believe it was a combination. I took a deep breath and tried my best to settle myself down. Finally, he came into view and I steadied my aim.

Click. The nightmarish sound that no hunter ever wants to hear, I had not loaded a round into my chamber before I took off up the hill. My heart sank deep into my stomach. Luckily, the monster had not noticed me. Being as infatuated by the does as he was he didn’t seem to notice anything else going on around him (a good sign that he was going into the rut). I quickly racked a shell in the chamber and let the lead fly. With my heart beating out of my chest I waited for the buck to drop in his tracks. Instead, he froze and looked around as if he had just walked on a frozen pond that began to crack. I had no time to think about it so instinctively I loaded another shell into my Weatherby Vanguard .300 Winchester Magnum and squeezed off the trigger. The 180 grain Berger VLD had hit its mark. The buck dropped as though he had been hit by a train.

In complete shock I stood there all alone with nobody to share my emotions. I didn’t know what to do with myself: Laugh, cry, scream? Embarrassingly, it came out as a little bit of everything, but I didn’t even care. As I walked up to the deer I realized just what I had shot. After soaking up the moment, the silence was broken by radio talk. It was Kyler and he had heard my shots. After determining where he was, I took off my shirt, turned it inside out, and began to wave it like a victory flag. Kyler saw me and began to sprint over. As he got over to me he could see only the butt of the deer because it had fallen behind a big rock. But once he walked around the rock and saw the rack on the deer his reaction was priceless. He threw his hands up and dropped his jaw in disbelief!

Tyler Low with his 3x4 buck shot at 100 yards with a Weatherby Vanguard .300 Winchester Magnum. Photo by Kyler Olson
This is me with my 3x4 buck I shot at about 100 yards with a Weatherby Vanguard .300 Winchester Magnum in the G-1 Zone last year. Photo by Kyler Olson

After a quick celebration we knew that the work had just begun. There was maybe 45 minutes of sunlight left and we had 2 deer that needed to be quartered and mine that needed to be caped. We both went to work on my deer and had it caped and boned out right as the sun faded over the mountains. We put on our headlamps and hiked a half a mile over to Kyler’s deer and quartered it and loaded it into his pack then began to hike out.

Tyler Low wit pack full of venison and a tall 3x4 buck caped out ready for the taxidermist. Photo by Kyler Olson
This is me with my pack full of venison and a tall 3x4 buck caped out ready for the taxidermist. Photo by Kyler Olson

We finally made the 3.5 mile hike back to the truck at 11:00 p.m. We were winded, tired, sore, bruised, battered, beaten, and just plain exhausted. But despite all of this, you could not have taken the smiles off of our faces. We loaded the deer in the truck and made the short drive back to my house where we processed the two deer and put them in the fridge, then got some much needed shut eye around 2:30 a.m.

There is nothing more fulfilling than working hard for something and being rewarded in such a major way. Despite having several obstacles in our way that day we rose to the challenge and came out on top, and that is the testament of a true sportsman. We never quit no matter how tired or hot or sore we were and in return we doubled down on two gorgeous California public land bucks. I could not be more proud as a hunter and an outdoorsman. Despite all the trials and exhaustion I could not think of a better way to cap off the day. And that is why I am proud to be a hunter.

Tyler Low, a long-time MyOutdoorBuddy fan, is a devoted outdoorsman who loves to hunt and fish in Northern California. Recently Tyler struck up a conversation with our own Gary Heffley at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding. He told Gary he would like to write an article for MyOutdoorBuddy. Arrangements were made and this is his first submission. We hope you enjoyed his first-hand account of a deer hunt he will never forget. If you would like to share a story with our readers, send me a note at frank@myoutdoorbuddy.com.

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