Time for my annual Blacktail hunt with Dylan Carr. Had been practicing with the bow every night in hopes of taking a huge buck from a blind again. Well got laid off from work the day before I left so plans adjusted to management buck to be thrifty in case my job search goes longer than planned. Part of me hoping it doesn’t happen too quickly. Still Dylan had offered a try at Q-Tip a huge 5×4 so a little disappointed to let that chance go. Still hunting a management buck is often much more fun. Have been sighting in my rifles to prep for my Sheep hunt and selected the Sako 30.06 as the most reliable. It’s still set up for lead rounds which I can use in B Zone, 150gr SST Hornady Superformance.
I get to Dylan’s mid day Thursday. Alan is there and had taken the big 3×3 “Lopper” the night before. They weren’t sure of the shot and left him overnight. He was done but the coyotes got to him first ruining the cape. I end up donating mine for his mount. That night cruising we see a group with some huge bucks. Wart Head is the star along with Inline and Skyscraper a super tall 3×3. So cool to see these bucks out and about. Up by the gate we find a buck people had been telling Dylan about. He’s a 4×4 with kickers on both sides. I am sorely tempted to shoot him but keep to my plan and budget.
The next morning we are out again. It is so nice and cool for July. Wearing a light jacket even. Fog down below so we head up top. It’s not long until Dylan spots a buck feeding out on one of the golden hills in the distance. He puts the spotting scope on him and says he is a management buck and a good shooter. Almost a 3×3 but older buck. We decide to make a stalk on him. We back the truck out a ways so we can leave under cover and make our way down the hill. As we’re closing he’s eventually staring our way and we think he’s busted us. We decide we really can’t go one more ridge and set up by a dead three that gives us some cover. The range is 370 yards. I settle in and dial my turret. Set to 14 power I have a great view and am on him. He’s facing me so I wait and wait for him to turn. Finally he’s showing a lot of body and I start to squeeze holding right on him. At the shot I get the ‘who’s your daddy’ from Dylan and know he’s down at the shot. Those SSTs really drop em, kind of like the ballistic tips. We find him dead right there and the shot is perfect. Alan takes the truck to the road below and we have a fairly easy quarter mile drag at least mostly down hill.
We put him on the gambel and he weighs 130. We recover my bullet from just inside the hide and Clayton finds the separated lead core while skinning him. I’m super happy with him and glad to have tried a longer shot in prep for the sheep hunt. 370 is my farthest shot on a deer to date. Hopefully I’ll get a great new job in a few months and be back for a giant Blacktail next time.
Hunting with Dylan Carr for a late rut hunt at the Diamond C in Humboldt County, California. We were looking for several big bucks, one in particular called ‘The Teacher’ but the weather wasn’t cooperating. Much of the ranch was socked in with thick fog. The first day we spotted this very big fork horn which captured my imagination. Late the second day we spotted him again from far away. Confirmed it was him through a spotting scope and then decided to try for him. We made a quick drive to the lower part of the ranch, hiked a ways, crossed a rocky creek bank, and eased up to a large rock formation. Dylan eased up and saw his doe in some trees. He put his pack down and had me come forward to set up saying the buck’s coming out any minute. I spun the power setting on my scope up a little and settled right in. Just as I did the buck emerged and then stopped broadside. Had him lined up perfectly and took the shot. They both ran over the ridge and we were pretty certain he was hit hard. We headed up to where he was at the shot but couldn’t find any blood. We walked just beyond the ridge and there he was down, shot perfectly behind the shoulder.
Couldn’t be more pleased with this old ‘management’ buck. You don’t see too many big fork horns since they are usually shot as management bucks. I have always wanted to take a big fork horn. He’s a great trophy in my book. We set up to take some pictures and the sun even came out for us. All the pics here.
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.
Went to the range today to check the zero on two of my rifles. Going hunting next week back at the Diamond C ranch again. I’m hoping to use my bow but like to have a rifle handy in case this year turns out to be anything like last year.
Went up to Los Altos Rod and Gun Club off of Skyline. Had one of those perfect range sessions where I only need to take three shots with each rifle and I’m good to go. Started off with my Sako M85 Stainless Hunter in 30.06. I have added the Leupold CDS Turret to the 4.5-14 scope indexed for the Hornady Superformance 150gr SST load.
First shot just outside the circle and second in the same hole. I shouldn’t have looked through the spotting scope as the prospect of shooting a one hole group is usually enough to get you too excited to finish it off. Third shot just to the left for a .410 inch group.
Second up is my prized Cooper 52 Custom Classic in .270 Winchester. Trying out some hand loads with 140gr Nosler Accubond bullets over 53.5grs of IMR4831 for 2910fps. My CDS scope is indexed to the same load at approx 2900. All three shots in the circle for a .896″ group. I wish every day at the range went this well.
I received my confirmation from Safari Club International on the score for my big non-typical Blacktail from August of last year. He’s officially their new number 18! The non-typicals score much better SCI as they don’t make the deductions for asymmetry like B&C. What an incredible buck!
Saturday I went to the annual 200 yard shoot hosted by my local chapter of Safari Club International. We usually have about 15 guys show up to sight in their rifles for hunting season at the Chabot 200 yard range which we have to ourselves for the day.
I started out with my prized Cooper which I received last year in time to take my best Blacktail Buck to date. I had the rifle custom made in .270 winchester and waited almost two years for it to arrive.
I had bought some of the new Federal .270 with a 110 gr Barnes Tipped Triple Shocks which are rated at 3400 fps. This load was very interesting as it approximates the extremely flat trajectory of the .257 Weatherby out of a .270 Winchester. This load sighted dead on at 200 is only 5″ low at 300 yards and with a slightly higher adjustment could be a great deer load out to 400. My main concern is can the twist on my barrel stabilize such a light bullet. After a few groups I think the answer is, not well enough. I was able to shoot a couple 2″ groups however it’s not as accurate as I had hoped. The rifle is so accurate with more typical .270 loads I’ll probably just go back to 140gr Accubonds.
Next up was my Sako 85 in 30.06. This is a great all weather rifle and my go to gun for when I don’t want to carry the Cooper around, like in rain or snow. I have it set up for the Barnes 180 gr Triple Shocks so that it’s legal for pigs in the California A Zone which does not allow lead in an attempt to help save the endangered California Condor.
The Sako always seems to deliver great accuracy. It was also my best group of the day at 1 1/2″. Many of the guys out there shoot nice groups but I’m always curious how far they are off from their ‘Point of Aim’. While I’m trying to shoot under 2″ at 200 yards, most all of my shots all day were within 3 of my Point of Aim and most were under 2.
My last rifle of the day is my Sauer 202 in .300 Weatherby. This is a finicky gun for some reason. I took a nice elk with it in New Mexico only after coming up with a good handload. Today I’m just sighting in a box of 180 gr Nosler Partitions. It does about what I expected which is around a 3″ group at 200 yards. Still all three shots are within 2″ of my ‘point of aim’ and it’s still a great elk rifle with that level of accuracy.
Was a great day, always enjoy shooting with these guys as many of them have exotic hunting planned for the fall. I shot next to Mike Borel our chapter president. He always does some amazing groups with his Browning A-Bolt in .280 with a carbon fiber wrapped Christensen barrel. He’s off to Switzerland for Ibex this fall.