Memories & Visions

My favorite memory as a child was standing up in the back of my grandfather’s 1963 Willys CJ-5, holding onto the roll bar, and looking for bucks. California’s A Zone hunting season was definitely my favorite time of year. I never missed a weekend hanging out and learning everything about the outdoors.

As I grew older, I carried on this tradition with a passion. The first thing my grandfather would ask when he saw me was, “Been hunting?” Then I’d share all the pictures and stories with him.

This last May, my grandfather passed away. I decided to set a goal to shoot a good buck in the backcountry with him watching over me. While I trained for this adventure, I kept visualizing the rack of my buck spread out either side of my pack while I was skylined on top of a mountain. It brought tears to my eyes every time I thought about it.

Trouble

I knew this hunt was going to be mentally and physically demanding, and I was right. The physical part started early when my cameraman had both soles of his shoes come off and he got altitude sickness on the pack in. This wasn’t the way to start a rigorous hunt.

Knowing my camera guy was in trouble, it was obvious this hunt wasn’t going to last long. Panic started to set in and my mind raced considering many scenarios.

A Good Break

Luckily, I spotted two good bucks feeding together early in the hunt. With the situation we had encountered, I wasn’t going to waste time deciding if I was going to make a stalk or not. It was on.

My camera guy was basically walking on slippers at this point. To avoid any further suffering, he stayed back as I went on the stalk.

I had marked a leaning dead tree as my goal to reach; that would put me within 30 yards of the willows where the bucks were bedded. Just before I reached the dead tree, I took my pack off. Then I moved in.

As I got close, I heard hooves thump the ground and saw the rumps of the two bucks trot uphill through the willows. I had no idea that the branches of the willows were thin enough that I could get busted, but it had happened.

By the way that the bucks trotted off, they didn’t seem too spooked, so I decided to get on a vantage point just on the other side of the willows. I climbed up on a barrier of rocks that was just on the other side and heard the sound of hooves again.

I looked up above me and saw a big velvet-clad buck slowly going uphill. Just before he got out of sight, he stopped and looked down toward me.

The terrain was straight up and down, so I’m sure he was farther away, but my rangefinder read 52 yards, so I trusted it and let my arrow fly. The arrow seemed like it was in slow motion as I watched it hit its mark. Soon, the buck was down just 20 yards from where he was hit.

Respects

As I approached this awesome animal, my emotions kicked into high gear. I lay down right next to him, looking into the sky in total disbelief of what had just happened.

When I finally got back to camp after packing this tremendous buck out, there was a beautiful sunset that seemed to be pointing its last rays right at me. It brought to life the goal I’d had in mind all summer. That’s when I yelled to the sky out loud to my Gramps. “WE DID IT!”