Hunting Memories

California Antelope Slam

The Tejon Ranch antelope hunt was the second and final hunt of my California antelope slam. (Click here for my first hunt, Lassen County Antelope Hunt)

The reason I call it a slam is because it is very difficult to obtain two antelope tags in California in the same year. The only way to do it is to draw a California antelope tag, which is next to impossible, then to buy a second tag from a private lands management ranch, like the Tejon Ranch. The Tejon Ranch is located in the hills just south of Bakersfield.

I had made my hunt arrangements with Don Gievette, Game division manager of the Tejon Ranch, for September 1, 2002. What better time to get started…

I began on Saturday morning by picking up my tag at Cody Plank's house, which is on the way to the area I was going to hunt. Cody would join me later in the morning after checking some watering holes which had been developed to enhance quail habitat.

The area on the ranch which holds antelope, covers about 35 square miles — quite a large area for a population of about 50 head of antelope.

I pulled through the gate at 6:30 a.m. and instantly spotted a herd of six antelope. One mature buck of about 13 inches, one small buck which the bigger buck was chasing all over the flat, and four does. I thought to myself, "This hunt is going to be a snap if I'm finding lopes this fast."

I watched the herd for an hour and then decided to check another area to the west where Cody had seen antelope earlier. As I was driving to the area, Cody called me on the phone. While I stopped to talk to him, I noticed an antelope in the distant hills to the south about four miles away. Cody asked me if I wanted to look at a couple of nice bucks, and I told him about the one I was watching. I had my spotting scope on him and could see that he was really nice. I told this to Cody and he said, "Never mind about these, I know where they are. Let's go check yours out."

We drove within a half-mile of the buck, then eased up to him in his bed at about 80 yards. What a buck! High, wide, perfect horns. Man, what a dilemma — two hours into my hunt and here is a buck of a lifetime! Not wanting to end my hunt, I opted to back away and look some other bucks over.

We spent the rest of the day looking at different bucks, but none came close to the buck, which we named the Bull Field buck.

Monday, Labor Day, I went back out to look for more antelope in a different part of the ranch which we hadn't had time to check on Saturday. I drove to a high vantage point in the Bear Canyon area and instantly spotted a buck antelope bedded about a mile away. I backed out of the area and drove around the mountain behind the buck. I had the wind in my face as I eased over the top of the hill. The buck was still in his bed chewing his cud and had no idea I was close. I sat above him for the better part of an hour. I could see he was going to be a real monster in a few more years, but still no match to the Bull Field buck.

I went back to the hills which held my dream buck, and spent the rest of the day on vantage points looking for Mr. Big.

It was 4:30 p.m. and I had not seen a sign of this great buck. I decided to go back home through Bear Canyon and see if I could harass any coyotes. About a mile into the canyon, I noticed a doe antelope moving off the top of a big open hillside into the canyon to water. She was about a half-mile away and hadn't noticed me so I parked the truck and moved along the edge of the canyon toward her. When I peeked into the bowl I had seen her enter, to my surprise it was full of antelope. One doe, two does, a small buck… Whoa! a big black-faced buck with heavy horns! They were tall and past his ears. The prongs were a good two inches above his ears and they curved up and well over the top.

"He's better than the Bull Field buck and he's here right in front of me." Well, that's all I can take. I'm ready, the custom .300 Winchester, built on a Weatherby foundation, six-power mill dot Leopold scope at the ready, laser rangefinder, click, 310 yards, same as my Lassen County buck.

I hold right on his lower front shoulder as he is quartering to me. Boooom,------ Whaak! I recover from the recoil, "Where is he?" There he is, still standing in the same tracks as before the shot. Two seconds, three, he begins tipping, and down he goes.

I can't believe it, I have done it! Two antelopes in the same state in two weeks, and they are both wonderful trophies. I walk up to see my beautiful buck. His horns are 14 inches high, with six-inch bases, and four-inch prongs. He is totally different from my other buck in that his prongs are in the upper quarter of his horns. This gives him a look of being extra tall, no matter, I love them both.

I can't wait to try both of them at the dinner table. They will sustain my family for many months.

Yes, both of these bucks qualifiy as trophies and they both will grace my home as mounted heads for the rest of my life. What a memory, and I must give thanks to those who have helped me, for without their help none of this would ever have happened.

Thanks Gerold Blankenship, my neighbor and hunting companion on the Lassen Buck Hunt.

Thanks Don Gievette, for without ever having been able to be in your camps chasing elk, wild boar, and deer, this would never have come to be.

Thanks Cody Plank, for being my friend and hunting partner over the years on the ranch.

Thanks to my dad for taking me hunting, teaching me gun safety, how to track, how to spot game, how to use the wind in your favor, how to stay off the skyline so you can't be seen by game, and how to shoot. No one on the face of the earth is a better shot than he. And thanks for making me love the out of doors.

Most of all I thank God for giving us these wonderful creatures to sustain our health, and giving us pleasure in life.

Submitted by Matt Johnston

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