September 18th 2021
Don got drawn this year for one of California’s special draws for deer. This was one of the hunts I had been drawn for last year. Last year we almost didn’t make the hunt. All of California’s National forests had closed due to the fires that were burning in the San Bernardino, Los Angeles and the Sierra National Forest. Because of these fires and even though the National Forest we were planning on hunting in didn’t have any fires burning in it the state closed down ALL National Forests in California even ones without fires. This closure lead into hunting season. But by the last week of my season they opened up the forest and we were able complete a successful hunt. This year was no different, a week before our zone opened the state called for a closure of all national forests again due to 20 fires burning in California. And once again, even through the forest where our zone was at had no active fires, the state closed all the forest just like last year and it left us wondering when we would be able to make it up to our zone. But unlike last year the day before opener they opened our National Forest so our trip was on.
I have to tell you that even though there isn’t an active fire where you are heading the smoke from the fires that are hundreds of miles away sure can make you feel like you are in the middle of that fire. As we headed up the 395 we got to Lone Pine and saw what looked like fog rolling over Mt. Whitney and as we began to get closer and closer to Bishop the day turned to night as we drove into that rolling fog, but it wasn’t fog it was smoke from the Windy Fire in the Sequoia National Forest. If you ever watch the movie Dante’s Peak it felt like a scene from that movie once the mountain exploded and ash was falling everywhere. We got to the start of the dirt road that would take us to our zone. I drove the side by side up the trail and Don drove the truck up. I had to wear a mask and goggles just so that the smoke and ash didn’t keep me from seeing the trail. The road is rough and long and you have to take it pretty slow so you are not beating up your vehicle. After about two hours we made it to our camping spot and set up for the night. The moon was full and was the color of old dried blood from the smoke.
The next morning was opener for the zone. We woke up early and headed out to set up for first light. The smoke was still thick in the air leaving the usually vibrant landscape muddy and muted. We found a ridge that looked over a cut of trees that lead to a meadow. As we sat there and the sun started coming up a couple does magically appeared from the forest line where there was nothing a second ago. You can’t help but be mesmerized by their beauty. They swept in and out of the tree lines with ease, grazing on the grass below them looking up often as they heard every noise of the morning. The sun finally showed its full glory and the land before us light up allow us to see more deer in the distance, however everything we saw were either does or fawns. After sitting in our spot for an hour and making sure the deer in front of us had moved on we begun to make our way to the line of trees where the deer came out of. Pushing through the trees nothing was hiding in there so we headed back to the side by side and drove to the next spot.
The morning turned to afternoon and then into the next day. With the smoke cleared up the next couple days we made our way around the whole mountain side only stopping to have lunch. We explored miles and miles of trails and hike miles and miles of forest. We explored mines and old hunting cabins and saw views that would take your breath away. We saw so many does and fawns all over the mountain but we never saw any bucks. We split up and our friend became successful on the second day. And finally on the third day at the last hour of shooting light we spotted a group of deer moving along the shadows of the hills with a beautiful 3×3 buck. Don was able to get on him right away and take a shot. He went down within seconds. It was a clean shot.
We were able to dress him before the sun went down and get him back to camp where we were able to quarter him up and get him on ice. The next day we headed down the mountain just in time to see the smoke coming back again. Once again we had a successful harvest with our x9b tag with many great memories.