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