I put in my time that is for sure. I had applied for an X zone tag in Northern California for 6 straight years. Each year looking at maps and planning a trip that would be unique when compared to other hunt trips. Not that I would be farther out in the wilderness or physically challenged more so than in other years. But a trip that would put my bow hunting skills to an ultimate challenge, a spot and stalk hunt in the Northern California Wilderness. I have hunted here before and the deer seem to be a whole lot more educated that anywhere I have ever hunted. Mainly Blacktails with a few Mule Deer that migrate from Nevada, they are simply ghosts of the early morning, seldom seen and never heard.

So it started in the summer of 2007 when my X zone tag appeared in my mail. I was so excited I darn near started packing my truck in June. The hunt in October I began again doing my research in the hundreds of dollars of topo maps I have acquired of the area over the years. I called my Dad who lives near the hunt area, and asked him to do some scouting in the areas that I liked on my maps food, shelter and water, where you find that you will find deer just a matter of time.

Finally after a few agonizing months wait, one scouting trip the month before and a truck full of supplies, I was on my way. I met up with my father, my long time hunting partner and best friend, at his home 2 days before season. We threw together our pack and headed for the mountains. The night before opener I cold front blew in and dumped a foot and a half of snow on our base camp. I was quite pleased as I knew there would be deer up and feeding now that the storm had blown over. What I was not pleased about was how many people I saw, we had done our scouting but never took into account what prime location this was. After running into two other camps I decided to go over to the next side of the mountain, there was still good feed and with all the activity on this side the deer were likely to be headed over there.

I spent the first three mornings glassing a ridge line of oaks about 4 miles from camp that had seen quite a bit of activity in the last few days. I was seeing lots of deer, but that is just it, the ghost I was looking for was still absent. I spent the fourth day hunting near camp as there had been a large herd pushed through there by nearby hunting pressure. Again I never saw anything worth taking none of these deer were mature.

The deer I was looking for I found in September while I was scouting. A respectable four by four that had been the biggest one I saw in 3 days of scouting. He appeared as a ghost in the mist of the early morning and just as soon as hear showed his majesty, he was gone. Really I was getting discouraged. I had only planned 5 days of hunting, I have a job to get back to and I was right in the middle of my busy season. It seemed that all hope was lost. I could have taken a number of younger bucks, but I could do that back home. It was mid day when I decided to pack me a day pack with a tent and all my supplies and head on a hike to were I figured my deer might have went. I trekked out and headed northeast 9 miles, it was now or never. I finally made camp about 11:30 and set down for a good old dehydrated dinner. I had decided that I would shoot the first legal buck that I could with the short amount of time I had left.

I woke about an hour before dawn, had a bit to eat and slowly made my way to a ridge to glass that I had found on my map. What I found that morning was absolutely amazing; it was literally a deer haven. No one had made it out this far to hunt and just a mile east was all private. I had hit the jackpot, my deer had to be here somewhere, food water and shelter, it was just a matter of time. I slowly went from vantage point to vantage point and spent time glassing. By about 9 AM I found him. I would recognize this deer anywhere, the ghost, he deliberately and carefully made his way from mighty oak to mighty oak browsing on falls bounty of acorns, me in toe just a few hundred yards away, I watched as he wisely chose a bedding location to lay down for the day and that is when I made my move.

I went South around him and headed up the next ridge to position above him for a kill. Anyone that has hunted spot and stalk in the mountains knows just how far a few hundred yards really is. Two hours passed as I got behind him and above him. I pulled out my range finder and he was 250 yards still, I was hunting with my trusty Pearson recurve so I knew I needed to be less than thirty yards to kill, and that was pushing it. I spotted a rock outcropping that sat just above and to his right that would be perfect. The next 2 1/2 hours were the longest most agonizing of my life. I couldn’t move to fast or the ghost would pick me off and head out. I couldn’t move to slow because he would be getting up to feed or water soon. Every sound I made hurt, I wanted this deer bad enough that my patients was being tested to the max. I slowly made my way down the ridge, 100 yards to go. I took off my boot and threw on some extra sock. I painted my face, rolled down my sleeves and was ready to make a stalk on the ghost.

I slipped though the grass sticks and acorns undetected and at a snails pace. I closed the distance to 50 yards in no time, my heart started to beat a little faster, my breathing was quickened. I steadily made my way towards the rock, stopping every time he would twitch his ear or turn his head. I got to the rocks, my heart was uncontrollable, I leaned around them to get a range and he was 23 yards, close enough I thought, “Don’t mess this up it is your only chance.” I leaned out around the rocks once more I had a good broadside shot on the ghost that was still bedded down, I grabbed my bowstring drew to a solid anchor and let my arrow do it’s work, the 125 Magnus on the end did what it was supposed to, the buck ran 30 yards and piled up. I had done it, and now my heart and breathing was more out of control that it was before, I fell/sat down on the ground and let the adrenaline rush through me. The ghost was dead, the hunt was over, and the only thing left was the real work ahead of packing him out. But no bother, I would gladly pack him out again, guess it will just have to wait till next season.

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