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.
While at the Boone & Crockett Big Game awards I shared a breakfast table with Randy Newberg. While telling him about all my preference points and no idea how to best use them he recommended Wagonhound in WY for an archery elk hunt. Taking him up on it I drew the Unit 7 tag and eagerly awaited my hunt. Spent a great deal of time preparing both physically and at the archery range. Made the 2 day trip out by car to retrieve the meat if successful. I arrived Sunday and my guide Cougar Sanchez and Eric Mares went out that night. We climbed some steep hills and he would occasionally bugle to see if we could pin point a bull. I was admiring two 3×3 mule deer with my binos when Cougar says, one’s coming get ready! I get with Eric down in a strand of timber and wait. Soon I see antler tips emerge over the hill in front of us and soon a bull elk is standing in front of me at 40 yards. No shot but it is so exciting and happens just like you have heard it might. He’s with a cow and as they circle around they wind us and take off. This is pretty encouraging for the week ahead.
Lodge at Wagonhound Outfitters
The next day we have breakfast at 4:45 and are off to hunt by 5:30 arriving in the elk woods around first light. Each morning usually involves a challenging hike up some steep hills but I find I can stick with my 20 something guides and get to the top with just an accelerated heart rate. This first day finds another bull elk coming and he emerges off to our side at 42 yards. He stops broadside and I let loose, my arrow flies above his back. I used the orange 60 pin instead of my 40! Pretty rattled but glad not to have wounded him. We regroup and decide to spend lunch back at the lodge. Monday night is another incredible experience. We see a monster on the opposite side of the mountains but he’s not coming. We hike up and then down into a narrow draw. This ends up being a great spot as first a bull comes from the wrong side and winds us. Then two raghorns emerge from the upwind side and proceed to feed within 15 yards of Eric and I who stay motionless. Hope to get his video of that. Soon after a 5×5 comes in within 20, I could shoot but he’s too small. We head back down and now the big bull starts coming. He even walks right by where we were set up earlier but now the wind is wrong and he never comes in. After that four big bulls way up top in some aspens start coming to us. I can’t believe it as they are so far off yet with my binos I see one actually trotting down the mountain. We set up and first it’s raghorns again and some cows with the big one behind a large group of trees. We hear him raking but he doesn’t come in time before the elk get behind and wind us.
Tuesday morning starts out the same. A steep hike up the mountain until we emerge into some sparce timber. We set up again as there are bugles in the distance. Eric is right behind me with Cougar set up 40 yards back this time with a Montana Decoy cow. Soon we hear a bull coming but he passes across 50-60 yards in front of us. Eric and I decide to move forward 40 yards. We get settled and soon that big bull comes back to us. He’s facing us with a cow and soon spooks off. I’m thinking maybe this spot is now blown but Eric tells me to get ready, ‘some are coming fast’. He’s not kidding. It sounds like a stampede the crashing coming close and I draw as two bulls literally crash into the woods and stop right next to us. They are both good bulls. I try to shoot the closest one and he spooks a little and I shoot behind him. Amazingly they don’t bolt off. I knock another arrow. Now they are a little behind us. I’m able to draw and rotate my body and shoot the rear one at only 25 yards. My green nockturnal lights up perfectly behind the crease and he runs off. I can’t believe it. We both think it’s a perfect shot. Deep penetration. We just sit still and for the next 45 minutes the show continues. Not long after my shot at 7:17am another bull comes in to my left with a cow. We just sit and video with our phones.
After 45 minutes we decide to look for blood. He left with my arrow but we soon find a good blood trail. After about 75 yards we crest a rise and see him laying in the distance. I am overjoyed, my first bull elk with a great shot and clean kill. We take lots of pictures and then Cougar and Eric skin and quarter him out. They are intent on packing him out in one trip which seems nuts to me but to their credit we somehow do it. It’s about a mile down to a road that we can bring the truck to. We rest every 100 yards or so with them doing the lion’s share and me with only a shoulder precariously on the bow holder of my day pack.
Scene of my 2017 WY archery elk
We get my elk meet back and hanging in the Wagonhound cooler within hours. Am so pleased as getting the meat is a big part of the experience for me and I know it will be perfect. Many times in archery if the shot is not perfect you need to leave the animal overnight which would have made a big difference for the meat. Am so pleased with this experience, greatful for Randy’s advice, all the great help from Wayne and Roger at Archery Only, without them I would not be a bow hunter. All the people at Wagonhoud. I leave Thursday morning and spend the night in Wendhover, NV. Up early and back to Los Gatos Meats & Smokehouse by 3pm. They know me well there and wrap up the tenderloins for me to cook that night. So grateful for another incredible hunting first. Now turning my attention back to rifles and prep for my California Desert Sheep hunt in December.
My big blacktail from August we called The Lightning Four is starting to get officially recognized by several of the record keeping organizations. He is officially the new number 2 typical Columbia Blacktail taken by bow for Safari Club International. They scored him at 154 3/8 ranking him 23rd overall.
Here is the display from the SCI site showing his new ranking.
The Boone & Crockett Club has also officially recognized Lightning Four as scoring 156″ which will crack their top 100 list in their all time record book. Should he still be in the top five at the end of this three year scoring period I’ll need to submit him for a panel judging. That would be exciting and he could receive an award for his species in that scoring period.
And lastly, Pope & Young, the bowhunting organization has asked that I ship the horns for their panel judging in Arizona preceding their Convention in April. Unfortunately I can’t attend the convention however he may end up in their Top Ten all time list for Columbia Blacktail Deer. It will be interesting to see what the panel scores him as there was a big difference between SCI and B&C. So exciting to have taken such a great buck with my bow and to receive the distinction such a great animal deserves.
Incredible time this year on my annual August bow hunt up in Humboldt County, CA. Hunting for my tenth year with Dylan Carr of Diamond C Outfitters. We had lots of trail cam pics with lots of great bucks on the watch list this year. I was focused on a very old buck nicknamed ‘brisket’ for his prominent one. The week before I arrived he shedded his velvet and then was not to be seen on the trailcam. We decided to focus on another area where a huge 4×4 was a regular. He is ‘Lightning Four’ as a 4×4 first spotted in another area of the ranch called the lightning rough.
My hunt began Sunday night August 17. Only a few does showed up that evening. The next day improved with some small bucks also making appearances, doing some mock fighting, and just grazing around in the clearing next to the blind. Tuesday morning does begin to appear with the usual small bucks and then out of my left there he is. I can’t even believe it. My heart starts pounding. I wait for him to get to about 30 yards broadside and I draw back. Just as I do a fawn walks right next to him covering his vitals. I wait and wait and then have to let down. Somehow that doesn’t spook them. Waiting and finally the doe clears. I draw again, aim, squeeze, the arrow flies. Right under him. I can’t believe it! I miss him at only 30 yards. He starts a little at the sound but doesn’t really spook. I watch him walk away slowly with my binos. Looking at his right side, no sign of contact. I can only pray I’ve not blown my chance. Wednesday I see the usual suspects. Also some other great deer that are too young to be on the hit list but look like great future prospects. Thursday morning, more of the same. Thursday night I’m seeing more deer. Sun set is at 8:09 with legal shooting to 8:39. At about 8:50 he comes in with two other great bucks. Way too dark to shoot but can see him clearly in my binos. He is HUGE. Soo much bigger than the other great bucks. I’m glad to see him back but hopefully he’s not gone nocturnal. Friday morning is slow. A couple does in and out. I decide to stay longer just in case. At about 10am two does come into view from the left of the blind. Then I see a bunch of deer are following them. Small bucks and there he is right in the middle of them! He moves to almost the same spot as the first time and I’m ready. Heart pounding again and pretty shaky as I draw back. He’s at 25 yards and I hold with my 20 high in his vitals. I release and connect dropping him instantly. I hit high and have spined him! I quickly put two more arrows into his vitals and he dies 25 yards from the blind. I was so excited I wasn’t thinking straight and held way too high for my current bow. I think I reverted to my first bow training when my arrow would probably fall into the vitals at 25 yards. My bad shooting aside, I am so excited to have taken this buck. He is a giant blacktail anywhere! Easily a Boone & Crocket buck.
Dylan had a picture of the buck from the year before. He also collects many of the sheds each year and gave me Lightning’s sheds from last year. When I hold them I can hardly believe we didn’t shoot him last year. Dylan has done a great job of managing the deer on his ranch and only taking mature bucks and letting the young ones reach their potential. In our ten years hunting together I’ve seen the quality of the deer improve incredibly. I’ve taken a lot of great bucks but this is the first time I’ve held out for five days to take a true trophy such as this!
Here he is bedded down last year:
As if my luck couldn’t get any better, on our last morning we went out with his son Clayton in a yamaha viking to see if we could find another super old buck called ‘Whitey’ that was on the list. Incredibly as we approached his usual haunts there he is. Dylan and I were able to ease up to 100 yards. I set up with my Remington custom ADL and made a perfect shot on the shoulder. My second CA tag filled with another great buck. He’s a 4×4 with a sticker on his right that may get scored. He’s a great buck as well, not in the same leagues as the lightning but one of my best.
Headed out to western Colorado to do a combo archery hunt for trophy mule deer and elk near Rangely, Co at Twin Buttes Ranch. The six day hunt ran 8/31 to 9/5. Hunting with my friends Dylan & Holly Carr, Rodney, Jim, and Eric. I’m driving out in hopes of bringing back coolers of elk meat. We all connect at Cabela’s in Reno and caravan from there to spend the night in Tooele, UT. We make Rangely early the next morning. Our tags are waiting for us in town and we get all our licenses in order and head up to the ranch.
During the course of the hunt we seem many great bucks. Some I just can’t get close enough for a shot. Early in the hunt I get within 55 yards of a pretty nice 4×4 but end up passing on that shot. It ends up being the buck I take on the fourth day. They had some scouting footage of him from earlier that they sent me below.
Eric draws first blood on the third day with a tall 2×3. I end up getting a shot the morning of the fourth day at the same 4×4. I shoot from just under 40 yards. It’s a good shot but we’re concerned he’s headed off a pretty steep drop. I put another into him from behind at 32 and he beds down on the steep slope. We see his head go down and then he rolls another 75 yards down but stops before the drop. It makes for a challenging recovery and messed up the velvet. Luckily we have lots of help. Dylan and Owen dress and quarter him right there on the hill side. I’m super happy to have taken my first mule deer with a bow.
Jim shoots a very nice tall 4×4 on day five and Dylan shoots a great buck that night. The last day Rodney scores on another great buck and we watch the drama from a adjoining ridge. After taking my deer I sat on water in a blind for elk but no luck. It was beautiful country, great accommodations, food, lodge and wonderful hospitality from the Robertson’s family.
August and I’m back to the Diamond C Ranch for a blacktail bow hunt. I’m after several bucks, some we’ve seen previous years. Moose, a big non-typical, Johnny a nice 4×3, Stubby a thick based 4×3, and AP a super wide symmetrical 4×4. Moose is the primary target. Friday I’m in a blind looking for him to come in. At dusk a super tall buck appears. I’m thinking of taking him but further scrutiny shows he’s aptly named ‘Off-Limits’ a big 4×3 that’s too young. Saturday night while heading to the Herf blind we spot a big buck walking in the woods below us to our right. It’s ‘Johnny’. Dylan and I are after him, walking above him parallel to his path searching for a good shooting lane. Finally one develops. Dylan ranges him at 38 yards. I hold my 40 pin on his body, he’s quartering away, I release. I hear my arrow impact a branch on the way. It deflects my shot but we hear it impact. He’s off and we decide to cross the creek bed and see if we can head him off. While on the opposite side I can hear him walking through the woods. We cross back and at the creek bed we can see him bed down above us on the side I shot from. We recover him there. My arrow went through both back legs and hit an artery. He’s a great buck! Nice 4×3 with his velvet intact. My best bow buck by far.
My August blacktail bow buck “Johnny”
With so many great bucks on the ranch I decide to sit the Herf blind Sunday night in hopes of seeing AP. While I’m getting into the blind a tall 4×3 stands up from under an oak tree and slowly walks off. I thought it was Off-Limits again but Dylan texts me that it was Stubby and I can take him if I want. He looked pretty good but I’m thinking of holding out for AP the huge 4×4. Around 6:30 a doe walks in. She’s pretty spooky, starting at the slightest noise from the blind and staring in. She leaves eventually. Later another doe comes in and same thing, slightest noise has her full alert. Sunset is 8:18 and at 8:20 a young fork horn walks in. Around 8:30 Stubby is back as well. I give him a good look with the binos. He looks pretty good. Taller than Johnny but not wide. Super thick bases. Finally at 8:40 he stands broadside at 23 yards looking my direction. I decide to take him. I draw and can make out his back line. Lower the green 20 pin below and slowly release. I hear the arrow impact and the black silhouette of a buck walking out and away to the left. I grab the binos but not in time to identify which. I think I see movement in the grass. I call Dylan and tell him I shot Stubby. I think the shot is good. Possibly he’s ‘dead right there’. We give him 30 minutes and then the truck pulls up. I’m out of the blind. Stow my gear in the truck and then go look for my arrow. There is Stubby lying dead where he was standing. Too good to be true. He’s a super buck with 6″ plus bases and patches of white velvet. A great double for the weekend and my two best bow bucks by far.
Over my past few bow hunts my guide Dylan Carr has encouraged me to shoot heavier arrows. After having some pretty mediocre penetration on even medium sized pigs I decided to take his advice. I ordered a dozen Easton Axis Full Metal Jacket arrows from Bowhunter Superstore. They will cut and ship you arrows to your specified length, fletching type, colors, knocks.
I recently had my bow restrung and it was shooting a little high with my old arrows. I left it as is knowing it might be fine for the heavier ones on order. After receiving my new arrows I took them to Kings Mountain Archers to sight them in. My first shot at 20 yards was dead on. It also went right through the hay bale and the quarter inch rubber backstop. After a few minutes dislodging it I decided to skip 20. I shot some nice groups at various distances until I was too fatigued to shoot well enough to still make adjustments.
I shot some respectable groups and was feeling pretty good about my new arrows. Especially their energy and penetration. My deer target was pretty shot out and even my old arrows were going right through it. My new Cabelas target arrived so was anxious to try out the new arrows on it. The evening I went out to shoot a doe was checking him out from the other side of the fence. Well was able to get almost all my arrows into the smallest circle on the target.
So following weekend decided to head back to Kings Mountain to make sure my initial sight in was accurate. I always want to see how I shoot fresh and that first shot I always consider the most important one. The one I would be taking in the field. Had the range to myself so I did my usual 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 from the right side of the range. My 40 I could tell I flinched a little but the rest felt like good form. This turned out to be one of the best strings I can recall shooting. I think it bodes well for my hunt next month.
Hunting up at the Diamond C this week. The plan was to try and take a buck with my bow, however, I’m always willing to pull out the rifle when there is a buck that we simply want to take ‘by any means necessary’ right now! On Dylan’s ranch that’s not an unusual circumstance and pretty much what happened.
Wednesday I had a couple close bow opportunities. First with a bedded 3×3 that by the time I decided to get serious wisely evacuated the area. Later that night we came on a band of pigs and got to 50 yards. There were two black sows with a bunch of little ones. I found a lane in between the low branches of the oak we were under and put my 50 pin on one of the sows. My arrow sailed just over her back and they milled for a few seconds and then scrambled off. The next morning I shot three arrows at 50 on Dylan’s range and they grouped six inches high! Adjusted the pin and was good to go.
Thursday morning it was foggy up top. We weren’t seeing many deer out below and headed up there just as it was breaking up. Dylan had been guiding a very accomplished bow hunter before I arrived that tried for a big buck up here they named ‘Hightower’. He was pretty smart and they could not get within 100 yards of him.
It turns out he was the same buck standing next to my 5×7 last year when I shot him. After the 5×7 dropped he just stood there for the longest time and without the 5×7 next to him Dylan and I realized what a great buck he was too. In fact I was just about to shoot him when he moved off. We agreed if we had a chance at him we’d just pull out the rifle.
Well Thursday morning when we were checking out the ranch up top we came on a buck and a doe in the middle of a big clearing with no cover at all. We got up to a big oak tree. When he picked his head up I could see he was the tallest buck I’d ever seen. Dylan confirmed it was Hightower. The wind was wrong and the doe next to him had already busted us so we didn’t have a lot of time. Dylan handed me my Sako 30.06 and I jacked a round. He was about 120 yards and fell dead at the shot.
Was using the new Hornady Superformance ammo with a 150gr SST. I recovered the bullet from just under the hide on the offside. These shoot great through the Sako and it’s great to see they perform so well in the field too. The expanded bullet is actually wider than the .410″ three shot group from my ‘zero check‘ preparing for the hunt.
Thursday night we headed back out to hunt the pigs. We found that same band not far from a pond in a grassy clearing. We were able to sneak through the woods and get to about 30 yards as they fed towards us. I was able to shoot two of the smaller ones pretty quickly. They didn’t really spook and one of the larger black sows came right back into the middle of the field by us at 40 yards and I made a good shot on her as well. Having Dylan next to me with his Leica range finding binoculars made it seem easy. I really like my Hoyt Carbon Element bow. I will try again for my second bow buck when I return in November.
I bought a new bow over the holidays. I had originally planned on getting the Mathews Z7 after shooting it over at Archery Only and being impressed with how easy it was to shoot. Also it shot my same arrow 15 fps faster at 60 pounds than my PSE Enforcer was shooting at 70. When I finally came back in to buy, Wayne had me also try the Hoyt Carbon Element. I didn’t expect to like it and thought it’s design was a little strange, kind of organic, like twisting tree limbs. I was really surprised. I liked it much better than the Z7. It’s lighter and just felt right. I also shot the one he had set up much better than the Z7.
I finally was able to take it to Kings Mountain this afternoon. It was a little wet and foggy but I shot better than I ever have with the new bow. At times I could barely make out the 60 yard target but tried to just hold in the same place and did a pretty good group. I have the bow set to 60 pounds so it’s a pleasure to shoot and I don’t end up rushing my shots.
I’m really looking forward to practicing with the new bow and taking it hunting this summer.