mseanbrowne

X Oblivione – H.P. Lovecraft – as read by Dancing Dove

Have enjoyed her poetry and short story readings. Requested my favorite H.P. Lovecraft short story ‘X Oblivione’ and she did it. So love this one. It’s really more a long poem.

M5 California East Mount Lassen Muzzleloader Hunt

After many years accumulating points in California and yet remaining one less than maximum, I finally found a good hunt where my points might work in my favor. The M5 late-season East Mount Lassen muzzleloader hunt is only 5 tags in the whole X5b zone. In 2017 only 2 people with max points applied. This put my odds up to about 200:1 for a great hunting opportunity. I didn’t draw the tag in 2018 but did this year.

I had talked with Josh Schulgen of Kika Worldwide Outfitters back when I drew my sheep tag. I had already booked with Dry Creek but enjoyed talking with him and we got to talking about using my CA points. I had planned to try for the M5 tag and hunt with Josh.

One thing about this hunt is that you can’t use a scope. I take the Nikon BDC scope off my Thompson Center Encore and start the research process on what to shoot and how to get it shooting. I settle on the non-lead required Barnes T-EZ 50 caliber 250gr Expanders. My first shots at 50 yards group very close to point of aim. Three clicks up get me where I need to be at 100 yards. The weekend before my hunt I give it a thorough cleaning and go back to the 50-yard range to make sure it prints where it should at 50. My shot is perfect. Centered and 2″ high of my point of aim. I put it away and go home and clean it up again. I consider myself ready.

June came along and I get the good news. Josh managed to secure a nice 3 bedroom AirBnB in Alturas which would serve as home base for our hunt. They had an area picked out about 40 minutes south near Termo. I decided to go to Redding the night before and have a leisurely drive to Alturas by highway 299. The weather was great and the scenery beautiful. Being the first one to arrive I met with the owner Victoria. She gave me the walk though, the house is perfect. Nicely decorated, great wi-fi and some great plaques with passages from scripture throughout the place.

Josh is driving up from the south so we arrange to meet where we’ll scout the night before opening day. I arrive to find Josh along with Rick Jones and Austin Young who are helping with the hunt. They all have spotting scopes set up on the mountainside and have already located a great buck. They think he’s a 5×6 and he looks big. The foreground is private land that they had managed to secure permission to hunt previously. They decide to ask again. Elias is the ranch foreman and they know the owner lives out of state. Well, the owner happened to be at the ranch and was great, we had permission to hunt their land too which would make the whole proposition a lot easier. We decide to call the buck ‘Elias’.

Spotting scope pic of ‘Elias’

Saturday morning we’re there at first light. Groups of bucks are leaving the alfalfa fields for the rocky hills. Josh and I stalk a group but as we get near we see there are no shooter bucks in the group. We regroup and glass the hills again. Later Josh and I do a longer hike but are not seeing much. At one point we do get close to a nice looking 4×4. We go back and forth about how big he is. Thinking he’s not that big, then thinking, he is a super buck. We get a lot of video of this buck and start to think of him as plan B. The hunt ends that evening with no further Elias sightings.

First sighting of the 4×4 I eventually shoot

Sunday comes and it is bitter cold. Have all my gear on. Josh and I do another hike but again no big bucks. We spend a good deal of time up on the mountain. We can see a huge herd of antelope in the alfalfa fields. A coyote on the periphery. Yesterday the guys even saw a mountain lion. We spend the usual time looking for bucks and still no sign of Elias. As the evening approaches, we decide to drive a short road that leads to where we saw the good 4×4. Before we even turn up the road Josh spots a group of deer and sees antler tips he thinks are our buck’s. We wait watching for him to show himself. He’s with about five does and a smaller buck. Sure enough, it is him. We quickly come up with a plan to try and drive back and get in between them and the alfalfa fields they are slowly headed towards. Rick and Austin drive by the other side of them to try and watch what they’re doing. As the sun goes down at 6 pm they are slowly coming towards us. Finally, we decide to leave the truck and get to sagebrush we can hide behind as they approach. As we exit the truck it’s clear our scent is headed their way and sure enough, they alert and hold up. We’re behind the bush now and Josh has a tripod high enough for me to rest my fist and rifle on. It’s now 6:20 with only ten minutes left to shoot and we’re losing light. Finally, Josh sees him broadside to the left of a pine tree. It takes me a long time to make him out but I put the gun on my fist and try to ease my front sight bead into his body. I’m there and slowly squeezing and boom, I take the shot. After the smoke clears Josh says he’s hit. I drop 3 pellets in and drive another bullet home, then recap my rifle and we move slowly after him. We flush him and I snap shoot but miss him. I reload yet again and we eventually come up to him, he’s hurt and not moving from us. I shoot him again and he only moves a few yards and is now down for good. This was a crazy few minutes. Josh was so key to us closing the deal. Making the plan, guiding me to see the buck at 110 yards in low light, and then following up cautiously to finish him. I would not want to have left him overnight with the coyotes and lion. I pick up his antlers and am so pleased, he’s a great typical, symmetrical 4×4 with eye guards and good mass. He’s a great California Mule Deer. We exchange congratulations and the team arrives soon after for pictures and securing the meat. The guys score him later that night at 174.

Sean Browne and Josh Schulgen with my M5 California Mule Deer
Penny next to the 250gr Barnes Expander and my recovered bullet

This was an amazing adventure and such a great use of my 16 years of California preference points.

August Trail Cam Pics

Pulled my trail cam card after a long interval and was pleased to see many great pics! Captured a Bobcat which I have not seen in a long time. Also a fox, a great 3×4 buck in velvet and later hard horned, doe nursing fawns, and a great shot of a doe in the air cresting the top of the trail from the creek.

Bobcat at the top of the trail

3×4 Blacktail Buck
Gray fox
Doe nursing two fawns
Airborne doe stotting up from the creek

Archery Blacktail Hunt

So my annual hunt at Diamond C proceeded with great anticipation. I was to hunt a cool non-typical buck named Rojo. By the time August arrived, we changed plans and decided to sit a blind with a very large, Boone & Crockett class buck they were calling the ‘cracked pond buck’ probably from where they first sighted him.

After sitting for him three days and no sign of him we were out patrolling and caught sight of a mature 3×3 with two other smaller bucks. He looked great to me and I have actually only taken on straight 3×3, a hard horned buck Scarface Jr. This one is in full velvet and looked great. We proceeded to stalk the group and cresting a grassy hill they were only 150 yards. I had my Remington 700 custom .270 rifle, put the VXR red dot on the crease and shot. The buck did not go very far although out of our sight. When we came on him we saw how lucky we were as he’d slide down the top of a steep hill towards a creek under a fallen log and his rack stopped right at the top. This made for a fairly easy recovery.

Every hunt at Diamond C is a new adventure and many times it doesn’t work out as anticipated. Many times it does. It’s always a great time and I treasure my relationship with the wonderful Carr family and all the great times I have had hunting the Diamond C.

He’s baaaack…

Pulled the Trail cam card in hope of some velvet bucks. Going through lots of does, fawns, and turkeys but caught this cat again. Looks like the same one from January. This time coming up the deer trail from the creek on the 15th and then heading back down a couple of days later.

Mountain Lion coming up from the creek on the deer trail.
Mountain Lion headed towards the creek

Mountain Lion in La Honda

I decided to check my trail cam after a couple months. Dreading going through the expected 500 pictures of squirrels and antler less blacktail deer. I get to a pic that looks like a bobcat, eyes glowing behind the brush. Just about died when a big mountain lion steps out. I captured three nice pictures of the cat approaching my trail cam.

The trail cam is at a natural blacktail deer sanctuary spot on my home property in La Honda, CA. There is a deer trail leading up from the creek to a little landing where many does and fawns bed and bucks rub their horns on a nice low willow branch. I captured a picture of a mountain lion two years ago but his head was outside of the picture.

First Mountain Lion picture from 2016

Clearly this was a lion but was so disappointing to have his face off camera. Now two years later here is the sequence from January 2019. Was a little concerning to see since he’s headed right up to where my wife Kari has the suburban and she often takes the cover off late at night before trailering her horse the next day.

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2018 Blacktail Archery Hunt ‘Tank’

August 1st is the start of my annual blacktail deer hunt up in Humboldt County at Diamond C Outfitters. Have been talking to Dylan for the past few weeks and we’ve identified an old buck we’ve seen over the years we call ‘Tank’. He has been pretty active in a clearing in a more thickly wooded part of the ranch and Dylan set a blind up a couple weeks before.

I get there uneventfully on a Wednesday and am fortunate it is not the usual August heat. I’m in the blind at 5 pm with a lot of daylight left. I have my comfy chair and am settled in for what I know might be a few days of waiting until I see a good deer and maybe longer to get an opportunity for a good shot.

I’m not in the blind more than thirty minutes when Tank himself appears at the edge of the clearing. I can’t believe it. I have my bow on my knees with an arrow knocked and watch as he seems to poke around but not enter the field. He’s at thirty-five yards. He never offers me a good shot and leaves as quietly as he appeared. I’m still excited to have seen him and know he’s not spooked. Am confident in time I’ll get a shot at.

Within the hour does and fawns appear, a dozen turkeys slowly work their way across the field. A big hare at one point is with the turkeys. Another doe and fawn even bed down not fifteen yards from me. As the evening comes I start to see some young bucks, two different fork horns, and a couple young 3x3s also come through.

At about 8:45 dusk has come and I have another 10 minutes of shooting time left. Then incredibly Tank appears again at the edge of the field. This time he enters the field and is browsing but facing me head on. He seems to move and then stop not presenting a shot. Then two younger bucks appear off to the left and I get ready thinking this may get him to move. I have my bow in my hand when he stops perfectly broadside and am drawing almost as he stops. I’m holding on him steady at only twenty yards, my green pin just behind his shoulder as I release. I hear the smack and the see the green lit knock glide and land on the hill behind. He bolts and traces a semicircle that has his off side right in front of the blind window and I see it round with red.

I text Dylan to tell him I made the shot and think it’s good. I give him the details and wait. Dylan and Clayton drive up about 30 minutes later. When they get to the blind they tell me they passed him lying dead in the creek maybe forty yards from the shot. Am so happy to have made a good shot on such a beautiful buck and for the immediate recovery, not having to sleep wondering if all went well. The shot was perfect, complete pass through the heart. Was my first try with Rage Trypan, they did the job and flew accurately.

So thankful for having met the Carr’s thirteen years before on a management hunt and now having such a great relationship with them and probably the best hunting opportunities in our state.

My Ram in Ca Big Game Digest and the Ca section of May 2018 Huntin Fool

So excited to learn my California Desert Bighorn Ram picture was included in this year’s California Big Game Digest. Thanks to the Dry Creek Team to have me take a picture ‘with the CA tag on’ to send in. And later I was surprised to see me again in the California section of the May Huntin Fool magazine. Was so happy to see them both!

Kahr P380 Ammo Test

I recently picked up a used Kahr P380 at my local gun shop. I had ended up with a credit after selling a hunting rifle and decided to give it a try. Have heard great things about them, quality components, match barrel, and excellent useable sights.

Went to Reed’s Indoor Shooting Range in San Jose. My favorite indoor range. I bought some cheap hardball ammo for some initial testing and then three boxes of self-defense ammo for accuracy and function testing. I shot ten rounds of each of the self-defense ammo at a close range of 21 ft or 7 yards.

 

ARX INCEPTOR

I started off with the ARX Inceptor which is a new type of bullet. They are a solid injection molded of blended polymer-copper not intended for expansion but rather provide displacement based on the fluting and high velocity. The ARX started off quite well with my first three shots in the X ring.  There were no malfunctions. Recoil was quite manageable. Result: 3-9s and 7-10s with 4-x.

 

Hornady Critical Defense

The Remington Ultimate Defense rounds were a little harder to control than the ARX. They also functioned flawlessly. I seemed to shoot left with them, not sure if it’s me Accuracy was 3-9s and 7-10s with only 1-x. I would feel comfortable using this for self-defense.

 

Remington Ultimate Defense

The Remington Ultimate Defense was the only brand that had any malfunctions with a single stove pipe. The accuracy was also a little worse than the Hornady with a final result of 1-8, 2-9, 7-10 with 1-x.

I enjoy shooting the little P380, it is surprisingly easy to shoot and pretty accurate. I think I would go with the ARX load. It offers controllable shooting and some impressive results if you watch the tests on their web site.

 

The New Year’s Eve Ram


On June 12th I’m at work when my friend Dylan jokingly texts me he drew two B Zone deer tags again. The CA draw is out. I tell him I’ll check it tonight after work. When I finally do I’m dumbfounded by the mysterious Y next to ‘Desert Bighorn Sheep’. It takes me a long while to believe this could possibly be true. I started hunting late in life, one year after CA started preference points so I have one less than max. Still somehow I had drawn the one random tag for Zone 9 Cady Mountains! Having hunted for fifteen years I still feel like a newbie. I’ve been making up for lost time though taking deer, antelope, elk across the southwest, wild pigs, blacktail bucks in northern California, Pope & Young mule deer in Colorado. I owe my success to the expertise and patience of many wonderful guides and some very fortunate friendships I’ve fostered along the way.

When my disbelief on drawing the tag subsides I get in touch with Dry Creek Outfitters and secure their services for my hunt. I’ll leave on the 27th right after Christmas. Between this time and my hunt I will be laid off from my job, kill my first elk with a bow in Wyoming, and ultimately find a better job that starts right after my sheep hunt! It seems I already have so much to be grateful for.

Preparations begin immediately, what better reason to buy a new rifle!

I frequently consult with Kyler Hamman my favorite California pig guide on all things shooting, reloading, and hunting. He guided me on my first ever big game hunt back in 2002 when I took a great boar. That experience changed my life and ignited my passion for hunting. He suggests I consider a Cooper Backcountry rifle. Ordering one takes six months so I find one on GunBroker. It’s a lightweight rifle at 5 3/4pounds. I decide on .300 Winchester Magnum and top it off with a Leupold VX3i 4.5-14 CDS scope. With Warne Mountain Tech rings and scope it weighs in at exactly 7 pounds.

Kyler also offers the excellent Boar Sight Shooting School with long range set up and I take my rifles to see how they do at distance. He has 8” hanging steel plates at distances from 200 to 600. Hitting 400 yard 8” plate is my goal. All my rifles shoot well and the new Backcountry doesn’t disappoint. I had to use an older turret with a similar  trajectory while waiting for the new one and it still rang the bell at 400 yards. I decide it’s good to go. The actual Leupold CDS turret for my California mandated 165 gr Barnes TTSX load arrives only days before I have to leave.

Ever since I started hunting I enjoy collecting and reading all the classics. It’s amusing to read Jack O’Connor in ‘Sheep and Sheep Hunting’ write about his favorite pair of Biesen stocked model 70 Winchester .270 featherweights that come to ‘a perfect 8 pounds’ and would be ‘difficult to improve on’. I wonder what Jack would think about our modern rifles, lightweight hi-tech clothing, laser range finders and turret scopes. I like to think he’d be pleased with our progress and not that we’re a bunch of wusses.

I’m also training physically and trying to not overdo it and risk injury. I alternate days with sessions on a stationary bike and running the hills in my La Honda neighborhood in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As the holidays near I start to get a little paranoid when my wife Kari catches the cold that’s going around. Many colleagues are sick as well. My Christmas spirit this year featured frequent and fervent self serving supplication to the man upstairs in support of my ongoing health. He must have heard my call.

Getting closer the excitement builds. The DF&W orientation in Sacramento is well done and gives me new appreciation for all the hard work these folks have done to allow this hunt to even take place. I didn’t know about the history and their successful efforts to open the hunt in 1989 after 114 years. They do a super job and It gives me some hope that our unfortunate abalone closure won’t be permanent as I also enjoy ab diving and spearfishing.

News of Jason slaying a new state record ram ‘Goliath’ isn’t the first biblical reference I’ll find on this epic adventure. Other pics of rams in social media fuel my excitement. I was anxious to see how my own story would unfold.

Wednesday – December 27th
Finally I leave for the hunt. As I near camp driving Interstate 15 I pass a gauntlet of billboards at regular intervals featuring each of the ten commandments and finally a passage from Revelation 3:20. It feels like I’m being challenged; do I deserve all this?


I arrive at Camp at 3pm and I get the tour. I have a comfortable 2 person tent. There is a spacious canvas mess tent with a wood burning heater where we enjoy Tim’s cooking and assorted delicious homemade cookies and Christmas treats like ‘Crack Balls’ and ‘Magic Bars’. I’m starting to think this may be the one sheep hunt you gain weight.

I show Tim my rifles and gear. Tim offers me use of a walking stick made from a saguaro cactus rib. Some carbon trekking poles have collapsed on hunters giving them a spill so I decide to give it a try. It’s strong and extremely light. The stick was perfect for negotiating loose rock on steep hills or as a bino monopod in the field. Later on in the hunt I notice a well worn inscription ‘Joshua 1:9’ I don’t know my bible verses but in this best of all worlds we live in it’s no further than my phone. The passage includes:

“Be strong and corageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”

A great theme for any hunt and as I read it I can’t help but hear Tim’s voice. He leads us in a brief blessing before dinner each night and in the morning before we all head out. I really appreciate Tim sharing his words of faith with us and he does so with grace and humility.

Our team are: Tim Mercier, Cliff St. Martin, Kirk ‘Sawyer’, Tom ‘Tanto’, his son Luke, and Ben ‘Grizzly’ from Arizona. As night falls they each return to from scouting and compare notes. Several rams are discussed with names like the ‘Broken horn ram’, ‘Juicy’, and the ‘Short horn ram’ None are quite the class of ram we’re looking for.

Thursday – December 28th
Our first morning we leave at 6 am with an hour drive out to a point for glassing. We spend all day glassing the opposite mountain side. It is bitter cold in the mornings. I’m pretty sure I had every layer of Kuiu gear I own on at one time. If there is one thing I should have done differently it is to buy or borrow 15 power binoculars and a tripod. My early efforts free hand glassing with my ten power Leica’s could best be described as morale support. Eventually I’m startled when what I think is a sheep actually stands up! I do get better at it and it starts to get fun.

Friday – December 29th
We leave camp in separate trucks driving for about an hour until we park and all pile into Tom’s lighter rig to make it up a steep sand dune. This necessity makes for some entertaining discussion about the relative merits of Dodge vs Ford trucks. Having arrived in my Toyota FJ Cruiser I elect to stay out of it. We leave the truck near some hills they call the three sisters.

Not far in we spot 2 legal rams bedded in parallel one above the other both facing left. They look like two sentinels guarding the entrance to their world and we give them a wide berth so as not to spook what giants might lurk behind.

We trudge through sand dunes with our wooden walking staff’s like sojourning desert pilgrims. The dunes are periodically pocked with some sort of rodent holes and every now and then your foot abruptly sinks way down giving you a stiff jolt to your back or knee. I try and follow Cliff through this mine field hoping he’ll clear my way but I seem to still hit just as many holes as he does. It’s alternatively annoying and comical as we each hit one hole after another.

On our long hikes I appreciated having the light Cooper Backcountry rifle and frequently forget it’s attached to my day pack until I try and sit down with it on. Soon Cliff informs me we are pinned down on a rocky hill between other sheep. We spend a long day on a hill covered with loose sharp jagged rocks trying not to blow a good ram out of the country. On our way out we all join up and see several rams put on a great show for us on the distant skyline. In silhouette they work a cactus barrel with their horns, butting it open, pawing at it, fighting over it. It’s a beautiful show.

Saturday – December 30th
We make the same drive in and this time we’re seeing rams again but nothing big. Cliff decides to go scout it out solo and see what’s behind the mountain and try not to spook anything. I stay glassing with Ben. This time i’m finally finding some sheep with my Geovids which makes it a little more exciting. I proudly announce to Ben as he returns from natures call that a ram has stood up. Just doing my part. Later in the day a single bee finds a drop of water on my drinking tube and pretty soon I have all kinds of bees hovering around me. Luckily the only plague I must endure. I manage to ignore them and after tucking my drinking tube in my pack they eventually move on. Again, as the evening comes more rams are seen on the skyline. Cliff returns and never saw any better rams. We appear to be done with this part of the country.

The rocks here often contain beautiful pieces of quartz crystals and agate. An earlier hunter even found an intact spear point. During down time many of us scour our rocky surroundings. My sole sorry find is a modern green sunglass lens. It reminded me of my first deep scuba dive off the coast of Monterey. As we descended into the mysterious dark deep and settled into the soft sea floor at 130 feet the mystique was broken when my dive light illumnates a crushed Coke can and Hot Wheels truck. While the desert is mostly pristine, more than one sparkling rock in the distance I’m told were metallic party balloons released and all seem to come to the desert to die. In the heights and depths of my adventures I’ve witnessed breathtaking beauty and all too frequent signs of human disregard. Hunters need to be recognized for their defense of our environment and the habitat of the game we cherish. No amount of millenia will elevate the regard for stuff we’re presently leaving behind to that of a clovis point.

Saturday night at dinner we’re graced with a visitor. A kangaroo rat brazenly enters the mess tent to check out the bounty inside. Calling him a rat seems uncharitable as he’s an adorable egg shaped fur ball with cartoon eyes, clown feet, and a leonine tufted tail. I dub him ‘Captain Kangaroo’ Surely our luck must now change. He seems pretty comfortable in our tent and Luke courageously allows the good Captain to walk on his open palm to retrieve some nuts. He would get his fill and speed out to store them somewhere and then be back again. Of course there’s a fine line between bravery and having to explain to someone at the ER window why you need rabies shots.



New Year’s Eve

We decide to head to another spot were another group of rams had been seen before. We drive to a plateau with a lonely old rod iron fenced grave. The crude wooden head board displays T-Bone Albright – railroad man 1933. Another rock pile grave with cross beside him is perhaps his wife.

We are seeing rams right off. There is a group of ten only a mile away on Cave Mountain. Ben, Cliff and I all sit and look through our binoculars and spotting scopes. There are two good ones in the bunch. They are close enough I can see them pretty well with my Leica’s and better yet with a spotting scope Cliff lent me. I start to get pretty interested in one. He’s a little bit broomed on the right side but seems heavy and wide. There is another pretty good looking one. After much discussion Cliff advises that he might go mid 160’s depending on his bases. Cliff also reminds me that he’ll be the only California Desert Ram I take in my life. I still think he looks great so we decide to take a closer look.

We drive down off from the plateau and get to the base of Cave Mountain. We hike in very slowly stopping often looking for sheep as not to get busted and blow out the rams. Ben leaves us for another vantage point and Cliff and I proceed to a ridge where we think we’ll see the rams. At this point they have moved off leaving a lone ewe on the other side. We backtrack to come up another way and get the wind on our side. We have a long trek up a gradual rocky ridge and finally we are at a point we think we’ll see them. Cliff slowly advances to see and sure enough they are there. I follow him slowly until we find a nice flat rock for me to use as a rest. We put my pack on it and slide my gun up. Additional pads are produced to try and get me comfortable in the jagged rocks. Cliff ranges them at 350 exactly on a rocky hill top in the distance. After looking at the rams Ben suggests the other ram is much better and cleaner and after getting a look up close I quickly agree.

I’m on him bedded at 350 yards trying to steady my gun when they all just bolt upright and start cavorting down the hill right to us like someone just rang a dinner bell. I had feared when we peaked over the ridge they would all alert and I would have an urgent distant shot. Now they are closing the distance to us fast. Cliff says 260 and I’m out of the scope adjusting my turret. Now I’m trying to get on the right ram again. Cliff tells me he’s rubbing a bush with his horns. I finally locate him. So glad to have Cliff by my side, calm and cool giving me all the necessary info. Soon they are all just walking and feeding together, I wait as a small ram stands behind. I’m on him and as soon as he’s clear I’m squeezing and boom he’s hit. My shot was good and took him in the right shoulder. He stands a little longer than I like so I put in another slightly higher and he’s down.

I can’t believe it. I’ve shot my Desert Bighorn. So happy to have taken a beautiful mature ram with an exciting stalk and clean shots. He’s down in a sandy wash. I get up to him and there is no disappointment, he looks perfect, holding his heavy horns. I can’t believe my good fortune to have drawn this tag and been able to spend the past five days with such a fun group of hunters. The rest of the crew eventually join up and Tim says some touching words of thanks. I echo his sentiments and thank the Lord and our team. So grateful to everyone that helped me make this happen. Night falls as we head back to camp and New Years eve fireworks are bursting colors in the distant horizon. This hunt truly exceeded some very high expectations. I can only hope I’ll draw Desert Sheep once more in another state and share this experience again with Tim, Cliff, and the great Dry Creek team.

 

STALK IS VIDEO 4 / WARNING KILL SHOT AT 2:55

Video Playlist from My Hunt