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Old 10-12-2010, 02:19 PM
Beartooth Regular
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: NorCal
Posts: 512
Central CA deer hunt

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I hunted the second to last weekend of the Coastal A zone season and bagged a nice fat little 20" Blacktail forkie at our San Benito Co ranch. The weather was very nice, with early morning fog and moderate daytime temps.
Here, you can see the predawn fog in the San Benito Valley in the foreground and the Salinas Valley in the distance.

The roads around the ranch can be quite steep and rough, but the little Yamaha Rhinos that we sometimes use get around nicely.

We hiked a couple of ridges, but saw no bucks worth taking, so we decided to head across the upper reaches of the property to another drainage that we had seen a nice buck on earlier in the season. This was an excellent water year which left the shrubs extra green and the grass over 3' high. There are also some small streams flowing intermittently that provide water for the animals. This tends to make them travel less and remain hidden when bedded. It was 0930 when I spied a buck's horns protruding above the grass where he was bedded. He wasn't far away, about 80 yds, and he hadn't moved, so I pulled my .45-90 1886 Winchester from the bag and walked toward him. As soon as I stepped over a log he stood up and I tagged him behind the shoulder with a 250 grain Barnes TSX traveling at a hair over 2300 FPS. At the shot, he dropped, but disappeared from my sight. My buddy was watching the action through his binocs and told me it was a perfect shot. Walking to the place where he was hit I saw nothing. I moved in the direction he fell and saw the blood trail where he had fallen from the bench he was standing on and slid down into a small ravine and under a fallen oak branch. Wouldn't you know it, he couldn't have stayed up on the flat. No, he had to go down where he was hard to get out.

He was a fairly good sized buck and probably was at 150 lbs live weight. After I dressed him it took both of us to get him dragged up where a rope could be lassoed to his antlers and pull him up to the Rhino. The bullet entered right behind the right shoulder, turned his lungs to mush, and exited to who knows where through the ribs on the other side. The entry wound was 45 caliber, but the opposite was huge. The bullet performed perfectly, making DRN deer.

I didn't take a photo of my Winchester because I was deadly afraid of getting blood on the 1906 vintage, very rare, .45-90 WCF Extra Lightweight Take Down. I was nervous enough using the gun as it was intended, but wanted to not let it become an unused safe resident. Now that it has made blood it will probably get out again, but not this year.

I left the buck hanging in the walk-in cooler for a week and went back to cut him up the last weekend of the season. All skinned out, fully cleaned, no head and legs, he weighed 95 lbs. We made jerky and salami out of the deboned meat. Sorry, no photos of the hard butchering work, but here's a pan of ground and spiced meat ready to go back to the cooler for the next day.

Before I forget, here are a couple of pics of a nice little forkie that we watched get himself a morning drink from one of the stock ponds that still has water. After refreshing himself he walked slowly back up the hill.

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Old 10-12-2010, 03:47 PM
Beartooth Regular
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Mooresville, IN
Posts: 12,044
That's a big-bodied blacktail with wide, deep forks. In the years I hunted there, I only saw better bucks than that on a very few occasions. You must have good habitat for them to be that large and healthy. Congrats on beating the odds and tagging a decent buck in CA.
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Old 10-12-2010, 04:08 PM
Beartooth Regular
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: NorCal
Posts: 512
In past years we have had a 3 pt or better rule for the 9 adults that hunt the roughly 15 square mile ranch. Youngsters could take forks but even some of them were horn hunters. This season we only saw one 5X5 and we couldn't get within 800 yds of him before he melted into the brush. There is also a huge lion problem in the area, with evidence of 4 animals. On more than one occasion I saw big tom tracks on the high roads that we had traveled the day before. There were also the tracks of a lioness and at least one cub on another trail. We have found where they have killed deer, calves, and a pig and covered them with leaves and sticks. Drastic measures will likely be taken soon.
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Old 10-12-2010, 05:37 PM
Beartooth Regular
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Mooresville, IN
Posts: 12,044
Yeah, that moratorium they passed on mt. lion hunting was the worst thing imaginable for the deer herds, to say nothing of the sheep...I imagine those are about wiped out by now, huh? I knew more than one rancher out there where just about every mt. lion they saw developed a bad case of lead poisoning...maybe that's why they passed that law about lead-free bullets? Somehow I don't think it's going to help much, in a lot of cases.
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