Here’s the long story of my deer season (not including my elk hunt which is in the Out of State forum). It was a long, frustrating season for me but in the end it was successful and rewarding. Opening Day and The First Week The night before the opener Matt, Daryl and I camped out at the trailhead of one of my productive spots. We had some beers and simple food and called it an early night. Opening day found us at our glassing spot before graylight with hopes of getting something on the ground that day. Last year the rut action was non-stop and I was really thinking it was going to be similar this year. We saw three bucks that morning and many does. The first buck was a small fork trailing a doe and a fawn. I wasn't convinced this was really rut behavior, as small bucks travel with does at times. They were on the move and we really had no play other than to try and run over a ridge and hope they were in range. Generally we try to bed a buck down and then make a move. After initially deciding we'd run up to the ridge, we opted to wait as they were really moving fast. Next buck I spotted came up out of a canyon and down into another little draw. He was big bodied with a small rack. He was also really moving fast. He looked to be scent checking, not the slow, methodical movement I generally see in the morning. He quickly was out of sight also. I though for sure he would pop-up over the next hill closer to us at about 350 yards, as we've seen deer do that several times before. But, he never showed. Last buck we saw was glued to a doe. They were out at 500 yards or so and again disappeared over hill giving us nothing solid to make a move on. After that the movement slowed way down, with just some does on shady north facing slopes to keep an eye on. Early afternoon we decided to make a play on a bedded doe since Daryl had a G13 tag and we hadn't seen a buck or any movement for a few hours. Matt and I kind of blew it for him. I don't know why we all came over the ridge together. Matt and I know better. We should have sat down and sent Daryl forward to set up for the shot. Anyway, long story short she had us pegged and as Daryl set up on a rock at 200 yards for the shot she trotted up the hill. She paused at the top briefly but no long enough for Daryl to squeeze off a shot. I should also mention that this would have been Daryl's first deer. Daryl had to leave that night, Matt and I stayed the night again and hunted Sunday. No bucks were found at all on Sunday, just several does. I hunted every day I wasn't working through the mid week. I had a really nice buck spotted on November 1st. When I first spotted him he was with a group of does on public land. He then flirted with the public/private line for the rest of the day. Mid-morning he was bedded under some oaks right on the property line. I decided to move down and wait within range in case he got up and moved back on to public. He never did end up doing that, to my frustration. He was a beautiful big fork with, I think, a little third point on his right side. Here's a pick of him I took through my spotter pretty far on the private side. November 4th I took Daryl to another productive spot of mine that I had been seeing a lot of deer at while I had been hunting solo through the week. Daryl has a two year old and a new job, and he can really only hunt one day a week. I grew up hunting quail with Daryl and his dad and I went to school with Daryl through high school. He went to Afghanistan for a year in, I believe 2013. When he got home he got married, finished school, bought a house, bought a dog and had a kid. Talk about keeping busy! I've really been wanting to get him into big game hunting but with his schedule that last few years its been tough. After Matt and my flurry of success last year I think he got more serious about it and this year he got a G13 and a D16 tag. Right off the bat at graylight we are seeing a lot of does and spikes at my spot. We had agreed that with Daryl's limited time to hunt that we would fill whatever tag we could for him, doe or buck. So, with all these does out in front of us we decided we better get one down! We made a pretty easy stalk down the hill so that we were just across a little draw, about 300 yards from where the deer were. The setup was such that the deer were coming over the hill towards us to get into the shade of the draw, and as they would move down the hill, they would get closer, into 200-250 range. the first group of about 6 or 7 does had moved down while we had been getting into position and they were out of site under some oaks at the bottom of the draw. Not to worry, there were 4 or 5 more just at the top of the hill opposite of us and they would soon want to move into the shade too. For Daryl's first deer we wanted it to be 250 or less, So I told him to keep an eye on those does while we waited for them to get a little closer, and I would look around for anything else (hoping my big buck from the other day would come around to check the does). Daryl was all set up on his pack, ready to shoot. Well, it didn't take long before another deer crested the hill. At first I thought it was another doe but then I saw a glint of antler on it's head! I checked quickly with my 10's and then to be sure with my 15's. it was a small buck, but forked on both sides and definitely legal! I told Daryl to shift and get on that buck. The deer started meandering down into the draw and the shade, stopping to feed here and there. Daryl asked if I was sure and I said "Yes! You should shoot that buck!" Daryl had a hard time getting on him at first as we were facing southeast, and it was only a little after 8 in the morning. The glare from the sun was harsh. I ranged the deer first at 260, and we let him come down the hill a little more and, when he stopped broadside Daryl squeezed off a round from his Ruger M77 Hawkeye chambered in 6.5x55. The shot caused a little cloud of dust to kick up under the gun and I couldn't see for a second but as it quickly cleared I didn't even need binoculars. That deer didn't take a single step, he fell over dead and rolled down the hill a few yards and then was still. We sat there for a moment and I let Daryl take in the experience of harvesting a first deer. I gave him a fist bump and we did our congratulations and just kind of talked and took in the morning and the events that had just taken place. As we sat there, inside I hoped a little that another buck might show itself so that I might also fill a tag. As 15, then 20 minutes passed, I realized that probably was not going to happen. However, I also noted that the does were still kind of milling about. I began to think about the rest of the season. I was supposed to go to Arizona for my Coues hunt the following weekend, and with Daryl's schedule, there was probably only one, or maybe two days I could hunt with him before the season closed. I told him what I was thinking and I said, "why don't you shoot a doe and tag out right now? You never know what will come up in the future, and I have my tags to fill." I could see the wheels turning in his head and he soon was back behind his gun. Within a few minutes he squeezed off another shot on a doe, I thought she might go down right away, but she circled, looking sick and bedded. I told him as soon as he was comfortable to put another one in her, which he did in short order. That shot was a heart shot and she expired in seconds. What a morning! What a ridiculous first success in San Diego! We gathered our things and headed over to begin the work of taking the animals apart. After photos and tagging I began to show Daryl how to take apart a deer, first gutting the animal, then removing the hind and front quarters, the backstrap, the tenderloin, and the flank and rib meat, then flipping the animal and repeating that process and finally taking the neck off. Meat was bagged in game bags and rested on the stout lower branches of a Laurel Sumac to air out in the shade while we worked. When we were done, we loaded down our packs with a whole deer each and all of our gear and began the 2.5 hour climb back to the truck. The Birthday Buck November 8th is my birthday. I make a point of not working and doing something that I want to do on that day. It's always hunting season so it's almost always hunting that I find myself doing.... This day was no different, my wife was working all day (we are both in healthcare and generally work long hours), so I decided to put a full day in in the deer woods. I got to my glassing spot right at graylight and started looking for bucks. Pretty early I spotted a deer on a distant hillside and immediately saw that he was a really nice buck. He was facing away from me and all I could see was that he had big mass and he was as wide as his ears. That was all I needed to see. I settled in to bed him down. As he moved up the hillside I saw that he was moving toward another group of deer, it was three does and another buck. This other buck was smaller but still a good buck that I would be happy to put my tag on. I kept track of both of them for a while but the second buck was following the does and they were moving downhill, not really toward me, but in a downhill trend that I could potentially intercept. I decided to stick with that buck because I felt the odds of killing him were better. After a while though, the does started side-hilling away from me and of course the buck followed. I lost them in a deep canyon a while later, never seeing where they made their bed. At this point I was feeling dejected. I had found two nice bucks and lost them both. I glassed back to where I had last seen the first buck and to my surprise I saw his antlers gleaming in the sun where he had bedded down. I immediately felt confident again. I kept my 15's on him and waited. I knew that he would re-bed because he was going to be in the full sun in short order. I didn't have to wait long, maybe 20 min before he got up moved up the hill a bit and found a large Sumac that would have shade behind it for the remainder of the day. I watched him walk behind it, and then I saw his head dip and his body disappear and I knew he was bedded. The buck was at 1200 yards on the other side of a canyon, up a mountain. If I was to go after him, it would be the only play I would make that day. There really was no decision as this was a nice buck, and I had him bedded in a place I knew he would stay in. I started packing up immediately and checked one more time to make sure he wasn't wandering off... and then I started down the hill through the sage on my mission for the day. I was to the south of him, and the wind was a West wind, so fortunately I could move more or less straight to him. I moved down my side of the canyon quickly, at that distance I didn't need to worry about noise much. As I passed through the remote canyon, I noted that there was still water in it, valuable information going into the future. Moving up the opposite side of the canyon I moved slower, and I circled around to the the east before I began moving up the hill. The thermals were strong uphill and I worried that he might wind me, although I was still 5-600 yards away. As I moved up the hill I realized that I was probably safe. although the thermals were going up from the bottom there was still a good west wind up higher that was likely scouring my scent away before it got to the buck. About 2.5 hours after I left my glassing spot I got to the point where I wanted to set up. I ranged the bush I had left the buck behind and I was at 190 yards. I was so unsure of what to think. On the one hand I was sure he was there. There was no reason a big mature buck would get up out of his shady spot on a hot day without goo reason. On the other hand, I had been on the move for hours and due to the nature of the stalk, there was no way for me to check up on him while I was moving. In my head, he could have left 2 hours ago. But my gut told me he was there. So I started to set up, quietly. Of course, I decided to leave my spotting scope at home on this day. I thought, if I kill a deer I won't want to pack it out. I had my 10's and my 15's, and while those 15's are amazing glass I could not for the life of me make out anything discernible. I could see a gray mass that I thought was him, but everything is dead and gray out there and I couldn't be sure. I thought I saw a tail flick but with the grass swaying in the wind it was really hard to be sure. As I got water and food out, got my gun ready etc, I kept checking my glass every 15-20 seconds, not wanting to miss my opportunity. It didn't take long and I turned and looked up the hill and saw that yellow rack looming above the brush. I got my gun up quickly but all I could see was his head and antlers. No good shot. He dropped into a little gully on the right and I lost him. I though he would start to feed out and I'd shoot him but he never came out of the gully. I started agonizing over it all over again. I could see about 90% of the places he could leave that gully from, but he could slip out unseen uphill to the left. Did he ghost me or did he just re-position? He wasn't moving like a spooked deer… Mistake number 1: Instead of sitting tight and waiting another hour for this big buck to get up and start feeding out, I decide I need to know if he's still there or if he gave me the slip. So, I decide to back out a bit, drop down the hill, move further east (downwind) and then move up the hill and come back west above him. All of that went well. I got above him and I can see the bush that he was bedded behind, and I can see the gully snaking down the hill in front of me. I quietly chamber a round. I'm moving super slow now. every step I stop and glass, I'm hoping to see an antler tine, an ear, anything, but there is nothing. Mistake number 2: I keep moving! I'm already going to hike back to the truck in the dark now whether I kill this deer or not. I should have just sat down and waited. Mistake number 1 was forgivable, but now I'm less than 50 yards from where this buck is and I have no reason to push it further other than to prove to myself that he was still there... stupid. As you know, everything is dry and dead out there at this time of year. I have my scope set to 4 power, in case he gets up. At 20ish yards from the gully I am watching the ground to place my boot into my next step when I sense movement and look up to see this big, mature mule deer exploding out of the gully. Looking back I acted well on instinct. I had my binoculars back in my chest harness and my rifle shouldered with the safety off as he crested the gully. I saw his chest pass through my crosshair as he stotted away and I almost pulled the trigger, but thought better of it. He never stopped within sight of me. When I think about the moment I am at the same time regretful that I didn't shoot and glad that I didn't depending on the outcome that I imagine... It was kind of heart breaking but also really just a fun experience, to get so close to a nice deer like that. Maybe I should start bow hunting.... Arizona On November 12 my buddy Alex and I headed out to Southern AZ for our Coues hunt. Alex is big into Waterfowl hunting up north of Sacramento but this would be his first deer hunt. Even though AZ is physically demanding there are a lot of animals there so I felt it would be a good hunt for him. We got to camp and set up before dark, had a fire and some drinks and discussed the possibilities for the next three days. It was quite a bit warmer this year than it was last year, and I was expecting to see less deer movement. Matt and I killed a couple of nice bucks here last year, and we saw a ton of deer and bucks every day. Here's a pic of our bucks from last year: We hiked out of camp in the dark on day one and up to our glassing knob. Right as we get to our knob I spot some deer 250 yards out. It's a couple of small bucks and some does. At that point I didn't have any interest in shooting a small fork so I just kept an eye on them. We had agreed we were going to try to get Alex a shot at 200 yards or less as he was a bit nervous about taking his first animal with a rifle. Through the morning the bucks fed away from us across a hillside. I got a short video of two spikes sparring. We eventually lost them and, while we saw a dozen or so deer throughout the day we did not find anymore bucks. A good day nonetheless, Alex made a couple finds with his glass on a tripod and got the feel for looking for deer. Day two we went to the same glassing knob. It has a commanding 360 degree view. The morning started out very slow and we were both feeling a bit down when mid morning I spotted two deer feeding on a hill about 600 yards out. It was two bucks! A really nice framed buck, 3x4 with eyeguards and another small/medium fork. I located them for Alex and we bedded them down. After waiting for them to re-position for a while, they never did and we decided that we might as well make a move. In retrospect, the deer were in a horrible position for a stalk. We had to circle around this entire basin, and once we got to the hillside it was impossible to piece back together what we were looking at. If you'e ever been down to the border country of southern AZ you know what I'm talking about. It is a sea of yellow grass and Juniper, Oak, and the occasional pine tree. And it all looks the same. Long story short, we spent all day on an unsuccessful stalk and never saw those deer again. I suspect they moved mid-day while we were on the move. Day three, our last day to hunt, I decided to go to a new hilltop that I hadn't hunted before but looked really good. It over looks a partially wooded basin and had 360 degree glassing potential as well. Right away I find a doe, for about 10 minutes I though she was alone, then I glassed up the hill and saw another deer, a nice buck! he was a good framed 3x3 with eyeguards, not as big as the buck from the day before but still a beautiful Coues that I would be happy to put my tag on. A few minutes later I saw that he had a small fork with him too (I've seen that several times with Coues deer, a big buck running with a smaller buck). We were back in business and these deer were in a much better position than the deer from the day before. We glassed them for about 90 minutes as the sun/shade line chased them down into the bottom of the basin. I got some nice pics through my Kowa 77mm spotter: We lost them for a few minutes as they crossed a little gully to get on a north facing slope with shade where I assumed they would bed. I kept tabs on the big buck and eventually lost the fork but I bedded the bigger buck behind a big Juniper. After waiting for him to re-position for about 45 minutes I decided to make my move down the hill. This stalk was much more straightforward than the one from the day before. I left Alex on the hill with instructions to not take his eyes off of that Juniper. The Mexican cell service we had been getting at times was really spotty so there was no guarantee we'd be able to communicate at all once I dropped down the hill. I told him to put his hat on a bush in front of him if the buck left and to put a glove out if the deer had moved. I got down to the hill I planned to shoot from and got a text from Alex saying he had moved about 30-40 yards essentially straight left from where he was to behind a group of thick pines and junipers. I had to do a little moving around to get to where I felt I had the best view of the exits from that group of trees. As I got to about where I wanted to setup I saw an ear flick and glassed the doe. I froze while she got up and re-positioned in the shade. I then got set up and waited, I had been on the move for 2 hours. I ranged the open areas around the trees where the big buck was and everything was about 150 yards. Pretty quick I saw movement again and watched the small fork get up from his bed and start eating acorns. I texted Alex that I had found the small fork and that he should come down. That was a mistake. I should have just told him to get back on the glass and get ready. As the fork moved down the hill I realized he was going to nudge the big buck out of his bed soon to start feeding out. I took my binoculars off of my tripod and put the shooting V on it. I glassed again and saw the small buck go behind the trees where the big buck was and I saw movement as he got out of his bed. My heart raced as I cursed myself for not getting my shooting rest setup earlier. I didn't really need the binoculars on the tripod at this distance. Another fatal mistake.... last year I shot all of my animals off of a set of Easton shooting sticks and felt very confident and stable shooting off of them. This year I figured out that I could take the "V" off the shooting sticks and put it on my tripod head with a plate adapter. So I figured I'd have one less thing to carry and a very similar shooting position, right? Wrong. The shooting sticks are very quick and easy to set up, the only thing to adjust is the two legs and they are really easy to adjust to get the right height to match the position you are sitting in. I never bothered to try shooting off the tripod but I found out really quick that it wasn't so simple. There are three legs, plus the center post, and the tilt and pan functions on the head. That is six things to adjust. I fumbled with all of this as I missed the perfect opportunity to shoot this deer in a wide open spot between all the trees. When I was finally ready the deer was still in the open but now quartering away severely, almost facing straight away. He turned back down the hill, still slightly quartering away and with some small branches between him and me and I squeezed the trigger. Because of all the trees there was no opportunity for a follow-up. I saw a deer running down hill, it was probably him. I sat there and texted Alex to hurry down. Because of the range I felt that there was probably a dead deer over there on that hill. But something was nagging at me that that might not be the case. Had Alex been on the glass he probably could have confirmed a hit or miss and kept eyes on the deer, potentially allowing for a follow-up. Instead, I gave the deer 30 minutes as I waited for Alex. When he got to me he tried to give me a congratulatory handshake and I told him to save it until we found the animal. We then headed across the gully to investigate. There was not a single drop of blood or hair anywhere on that hillside. I searched for an hour. Blood is very easy to see in the yellow grass too, and on the light colored rock in the gully bottom that he ran through. Feeling dejected and depressed, but confident it was a clean miss, we headed back to camp to pack up and head home. To The End After returning from Arizona I had to work for several days and then we were into the last week of the season. I hunted the 19th and 20th and found nothing to go after. And then it was the last day, or my last day at least. Friday the 24th was my last full day to hunt. My in-laws were coming into town on Saturday the 25th at around 1 in the afternoon, so technically I could hunt for 4 hours or so Saturday morning but the 24th was pretty much it for me. I had hunted really hard all season, and I was coming to terms with the possibility of not filling a tag in D16 this year. I decided to hunt one of my good productive areas again, but to switch my glassing knob a bit. As usual, I started seeing deer pretty quick after graylight, and at 645 I spotted a deer that I immediately thought was a buck. He was still in the shade but I could make out his light colored face, and he moved like a buck, they just move differently. It's hard to explain. He was up on the same hill that the birthday buck had been on, maybe 200 yards away from where that buck had been and I thought it might be him. I needed some sunlight on him to tell though. I watched him bed in a patch of grass a few minutes later, pretty early but if you all were hunting that day you know it was hot, the forecast called for a high of 86. As the sun continued to rise I could see he had decent antlers. Here's a shot of him from 1300 yards through my 15 power binos: I continued to glass him for quite a while, waiting for him to make his final bed. At around 830 he had enough of the sun on his face and he moved into the shade, and what I thought would probably be his final bed. I knew how long and hot this stalk was going to be because I had done it two weeks earlier on my birthday, but it was my last day, I had a good buck bedded and I had no good reason not to go for it. I watched the spot he bedded (I could only see an occasional ear flick from this angle) until about 915 and then decided to go. I checked on him once or twice to see if he was moving but never saw him. To get to him I would drop into a canyon and then circle around him up the mountain he was on. The wind was essentially the same as on November 8, Thermals rising but with a West wind up higher. I moved very quickly for the first hour, being on the other side of the canyon from him. Once I dropped through the canyon and started moving around the base of the mountain I slowed down some. I jumped a doe on my way over there, luckily she didn't head uphill. I also found a nice little 3 point shed antler. Halfway up the hill I stopped for water and food. It was really hot and I was glad I had decided to bring an extra liter of water (4 instead of 3) that day. I finished up my climb and then started traversing back west above where the buck had bedded. When I got to where I thought I might be able to shoot from I started glassing a lot, with every step. As is always the case, everything looked very different once I was actually over there on the hill. I kept glassing and ranging where I though he was bedded but it was way farther than I thought. I was thinking I'd be about 200 yards from him here but the bushes I was ranging were 450. He was essentially bedded on a rounded ridge that came down from the top of the mountain, as the ridge descends it has these benches where the angle flattens out and then it drops down again to the next bench. So I was thinking he was two benches below me. I kept moving west, slowly, and glassing all the time, just trying to work my way around to where I could get eyes on him again. I kept examining the terrain and the bushes, trying to piece back together where he was, when all of a sudden it occurred to me that maybe he was on the bench right below me. As I had this thought my eyes shifted to the lone sumac on the bench below me and there he was standing up to turn around and re-position in the shade. I muttered a quick "oh sh*t" under my breath and froze. When I saw him bed down again I knew how lucky I had just gotten. I almost blew another stalk on this same hill, but not today. He had made the fatal mistake this time. I slowly sank to the ground right where I was standing and did not take me eyes off his bed. I ranged him at just 150 yards, and glassed him with my 10's. It's amazing how well these things can hide. All I could see was his head and he was otherwise completely hidden in the brush. For the next probably 15 minutes, I ever-so-slowly got situated. It probably took me 5 minutes just to get my pack off. I would wait for a gust of wind and slip an arm out, then the next one, then as quietly as I could slide the pack next to me, open zippers a few teeth at a time. Then I got my gun off the pack, slipped the cover off, chambered a round, everything taking 10 times as long as it should for the sake of silence. I learned my lesson in Arizona and was carrying my shooting sticks again. It was now 1 PM and I was pretty much set up. There was still tall grass and a few little brush top twigs between me and the deer. I tried to brake what I could off when the wind would blow but I couldn't reach it all. It would just have to do, I couldn't get up and I couldn't do anything about it. He was facing uphill and if I wanted to make this happen I couldn't move. I was prepared for the long wait. This buck had just gotten up to re-position and it was now the hottest part of the day. I really wasn't expecting him to get up for several hours when the sun dropped lower in the sky, but I stayed ready. I had my gun up on the sticks in front of me and I alternated checking him through the scope and with my 10's and 15's. At 1:20 a gust of wind had him looking around and all of a sudden he stood up. I was on him quickly and thumbed the safety off. He wasn't really spooked, just kind of looking around. He was quartering to me moderately but I was fine with the presentation. I squeezed a round off and watched him just stand there. I racked another round in and touched another one off and he made a big jump straight up, took a couple half steps and fell dead not more than 2 yards from where he had just stood. I chambered another round and stayed on him. All I could see now was some of his shiny body through the bush he fell behind, but I could see he wasn't moving. After a few moments I felt sure he was dead. I checked the time and decided to wait another 15 minuted before heading down. I just stayed on him, alternating between my scope and binos to be sure he was there. I resisted the urge to send a "buck down" text to my wife and buddies until I got down there and put my hands on him. At 15 minutes I got up, packed up my stuff and headed down, rifle at the ready. When I came around the bush I saw that he had piled up body over head with his antlers buried in the earth. I gave him a nudge to be sure he was dead and then I righted him. He was younger than I thought he was. He was kind of wide and kind of tall and the length of his beams had made me think he was a more mature deer from 1300 yards in the morning. Not that it mattered, it was the last day and I would have shot a spork had one stepped out in front of my knob that morning. I moved him to a more secure position so he wouldn't slide down the hill and took some photos and tagged him. I sent some messages out to my hunting buddies and my wife and let everyone know that I wouldn't be getting out until very late. At around 2 I started breaking him down. I was still on a bit of a slope and he kept sliding down, which was annoying and caused the whole process to go on for longer than it should have. It took me two hours to break him down and I've done it in a hour by myself on the ground before. I switched to Barnes Vor-Tx ammo this year and I was pleased at what I saw. I shot him through the shoulder and with his quartering position the bullet angled back through him, a lung/liver shot. The shoulder blade caused that bullet to expand immediately and the hole in the rib cage just behind the shoulder blade was massive. It was a pass through and I did not recover the bullet. At 4:00 I loaded my pack, put my head lamp around my neck and started hiking. I wanted to get through the bottom of the canyon before I lost day light but I knew that most of the packout would take place in the dark. I had some podcasts downloaded and I stuck my phone in the sleeve on the top of my bino harness and played them as I hiked. The hill coming up the other side of this canyon was tougher than I anticipated, and it took me around 90 minutes just to get up that hill. Once I gained the top of that rise it was fairly straightforward. All said and done I started hiking at 4:30 and got back to the truck at 8:00, delirious and exhausted but still with a stupid grin on my face. I worked so hard for that buck! I was really happy and proud that I was able to meet my goal of maintaining consistency in D16. Killing bucks here isn't necessarily so hard, but doing it every year on public land is something I think someone can be proud of. I hope you all had an equally rewarding season!