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Even the Best Laid Plans

by George Visger, "The Wild Guy"

California marks the official beginning of deer season on the west coast, with the opener of the archery A zone coastal season beginning the second week in July.

Archery hunting is all about preparation to consistently be successful. But even the best laid plans have a way of veering off course while hunting with a stick and a straw.

I have been a die hard archer since I was forced to retire after a short stint in the NFL in 1982. I took my first deer on my first archery hunt that season and have been hooked on archery gear ever since.

During the course of my 23 years with W.U. it has been my pleasure to meet and hunt with some excellent archers, and it brings to mind a special hunt on Ridgewood Ranch with Bob Scruggs and Jim Stuart. We had booked the second week of the season, and Bob had tagged out on the 4th day of the hunt. As was our custom, we would head out before first light, each heading in a different direction, and meet back at the truck around noon. When I arrived at the truck on day 5, Stuart stated he had slipped an arrow in a buck at 9:30, but it had jumped the string and he hit it a little further back than he would have liked. Stuart was the California State Broadhead champ two years running in the early 80’s and as fine a shot as I have seen. He gave the buck an hour but finding very sparse sign, decided it best to back out. I always go by the motto “When in doubt, back out.”

We went back to camp, gulped down several quarts of lemonade and strategized a good 4 hours before we all headed out to find the buck. We drove back to where Stuart shot the buck and started at the last sign of blood. Within 50 yards. all sign had dried up so we resorted to cutting ever widening circles hoping to find something. Two hours went by with no sign, so we quietly fanned out along the creek thinking the buck would head to water. By 7:30 still no sign and I decided to check a large pile of downed logs for the umpteenth time. The logs were 3 to 4 ½ feet in diameter and stacked at least 7’ high at the center. I snooped around the perimeter and thought I found a tiny smear of blood on a 4’ diameter stump. I hopped log to log till I got to the top of the pile and there nestled in a crevice looking up at me was the buck, very much alive.

He came boiling up out of the jumble of logs, as I fought to maintain my balance and simultaneously nock an arrow and draw. By the time I got everything under control the buck was 40 yards out and heading for Willits before I center punched him “stem to stern” and he piled up within 45 yards. Upon closer examination it was determined that Stuart’s shot had just creased the liver, and the buck probably would have left the county if pushed.

The pressure was on me now, as I had the only tag left, and I took a buck the next day. Three for three archery hunt in California, a state that historically shoots around 10-20% success, which includes rifle hunters. Though none of the bucks were what you would call wall hangers, we earned each one.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Ask the Wild Guy

George Visger aka “The Wild Guy” is an original Wilderness Unlimited member and now also serves as Principal Wildlife and Habitat Coordinator for the Wilderness Unlimited Foundation. The “Ask The Wild Guy” column is based on George’s outdoors experiences, presented in a light manner intending on illustrating the use of strategies to help members with their outdoor success. He has been a Wildlife Biologist for 20 years including several years owning his own environmental consulting firms, Visger & Associates and The Ranchers Group, where he specializes in wildlife management plans, habitat management plans, grazing plans, threatened and endangered species, habitat restoration, water quality and quantity improvements and storm water management.

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