Hunting Memories

Trophy California Muley

I’ve been applying for the X3b tag for the past six years or so without success. I knew going into the 2004 season, my odds were pretty good of at getting a tag with the new point system California had started.

About the 3rd week in May, I purchased hunting licenses for myself and my two boys, along with the deer tag applications. My youngest son was putting in for one of the junior hunts.

One week before the draw deadline, I received a call from the Department of Fish and Game. I was told that my youngest son's hunting license number was incorrect. Somehow when I purchased the licenses, the gentlemen at the sporting goods store sold me an adult license for my son instead of a junior license. This made me a little curious about my license so I looked at it and my oldest son's too. We both had junior licenses. Somehow everything got mixed up and I hadn't caught the mistake.

The gentlemen in the licensing department at the DFG told me I need to exchange the licenses, then call back with the new and correct numbers in order to be put into the draw. Within 48 hours of receiving the phone call, everything was correct and I was back in the draw.

When the draw was completed and the results posted on the DFG website, I was excited to see I had finally drawn the X3b tag.

Now the fun began. This would be a hunt on public land, so I purchased the necessary maps, checked aerial photos and scouted the area I was going to hunt.

Opening day couldn’t come soon enough for me. My party and I went out to one of the canyons that looked like it would hold some deer, we hunted hard the first morning without seeing even a doe. We headed back to camp for lunch and to discuss the evening’s plans. It was pretty warm, so we went to another draw that held water. About halfway into the draw, one of my buddies connected on a small forky. We spent the rest of that afternoon getting his deer out and taken care of.

Sunday started off just like Saturday — not a deer to be found for the entire day. By this time, some of the guys in our group were getting a little discouraged about not seeing any deer, and were discussing the possibilities of moving to another area. I had pre-scouted this area and knew it held deer, so we agreed to stick it out for a few more days.

On Monday morning, we found a canyon that held some big buck sign and a nice creek running right through it. We split up to try to cover the whole area — with so much sign, we knew it had to hold deer. I had hiked about two miles down the canyon, and then decided to turn around and head back to check out another part of the canyon that was to the east. As I was heading back, I noticed one of the other guys in our party heading in the same direction. At this point, I decided I would head back down into the main canyon and hunt it all the way back to camp. After about a mile or so, I was walking the top of some rim rock looking down into the creek. As I came around a cedar tree, I noticed the white rump of a deer getting a drink. I knew it was a buck, and it looked to be a pretty good one. I dropped to one knee, put the crosshairs behind his shoulder, and dropped him in his tracks. While approaching the buck, he just got bigger and bigger the closer I got to him.

When I reached the deer, I realized I had just killed the biggest buck of my life. He taped out at 28" wide, and has a perfect 4x4 frame with about 2" eye guards. He gross scored at 173 2/8" and netted 168 4/8".

I am truly fortunate to have taken a buck of this caliber here in California. Without the help from those folks at the DFG finding the mistake with the licenses, this hunt never would have happened.

Submitted by Mel Carter
Stockton, California

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