Three Beat Odds
What are the odds that a teenaged brother and sister and their mother would bag their first big game animals in the same year and that the animals would be a California elk, pronghorn antelope and deer? About 240,000 to 1, says the Department of Fish and Game.

That's what Jim Betts and his family were up against last year when dad Jim, mom Janine, son Ryan and daughter Rechelle individually submitted their applications for north state deer, elk and antelope tags, according to the DFG.

By the time the northwestern B-zone deer seasons were over, Ryan, 18, had shot a Roosevelt elk west of Dorris near the Oregon border; Rechelle, 14, had bagged a pronghorn buck in Butte Valley; and, Janine had downed a blacktailed buck deer near the Klamath River.

The animals became the first big game kills any of the three had notched in their lives, they said. And, it is the first time the Betts family's two freezers have been full of elk, deer and antelope meat at the same time.

"I think the antelope meat tastes the best," said Rechelle, who hit the buck twice with her .223 rifle on the first day of the late August hunt — the second shot at a distance of over 200 yards.

Her mother, Janine, agrees, diplomatically saying the elk meat "is like beef," but that the antelope is "very mild, not strong tasting like people have said it is."

Ryan, a student at College of the Siskiyous near Weed, said he hunted "every day I could" during the mid-September Siskiyou Elk Hunt, bagging his 3x5 bull on the last day of the season at a distance of about 350 yards with a .30-06 rifle.

He said he missed a shot at an elk in a group on one day and saw two other elk bagged by hunters. He brought down his bull on the morning of the last hunt day.

"It was exciting — my first big game animal," he said.

Not to be outdone, Janine, like her husband a native of Siskiyou County, was riding with Jim on a mountain road above the Klamath River when she spotted her "forked-horn" buck. She got out of the truck, trotted out of her husband's sight and brought down the blacktail with her .243 rifle.

"He was walking at a distance of about 100 yards," she said. "I wish he had been bigger, but it was a thrill."

Janine said she came close to downing one of two larger bucks earlier in the season at almost the same moment her son killed his elk. But, before she could squeeze the trigger, two hunting dogs appeared and scared the deer away.

Jim Betts, who said he has bagged "my share" of deer in past years, was present when his wife and two children — they have five youngsters altogether — dropped their animals.

He called the experience "more of a thrill" than any of his own successes.

Betts said he also is astonished by the fact his two children beat stiff odds to draw hunting tags and then additional odds to bag animals.

"I've never drawn an elk or antelope tag in California," he said, adding that he has been applying for a pronghorn tag for 30 years.

Fish and Game said the odds Ryan faced drawing an elk tag for the Siskiyou elk hunt were about 44 to 1; and, to bag an animal, roughly 3 to 1. The odds Rechelle faced in the pronghorn tag drawing were about 74 to 1; and, her kill odds were about 5 to 2. Tags for Janine's deer hunt area were readily available, but the odds against her success in bagging a buck were about 5 to 1.

For the future, Betts said, wife Janine "plans to be a deer hunter for the rest of her life" and has become especially fond of archery equipment. Daughter Rechelle "has her sights set on an elk tag" for next year.

Betts said he has another daughter about to take up hunting and two more sons waiting in the wings. "And, I am looking for a crew cab pickup," he added.

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