California's New State Record Blacktail
By Bill Lentz
A distinctive oak aroma filled the warm and dry foothill air in Shasta County, California. It was Sunday, Aug. 20th, the second day of the general archery season.
Anthony Wysock and his wife, Brittany, were creeping along the head of a shallow draw on a 3,000-acre tract of private land west of Redding when a flash of antler caught the bowhunter's attention at mid step.
Was it the big, wide-antlered buck Wysock was looking for? The buck he'd first seen during the spring turkey season? The answer was...maybe.
When he first spotted the buck in spring, it was scraggly, still shedding its winter coat and feeding at the edge of a manzanita patch. Only the bases of its antlers had begun to grow. But they were big bases, nearly five inches around.
The terrain on the property is flat to rolling, with many shallow, brushy draws - some of which hold water year 'round. Five ponds also help create great deer habitat.
The blue oaks, having a good acorn mast year in 2006, provided additional food for deer. Wysock said the area has moderately thick cover with a few open areas offering good spot-and-stalk opportunities.
This was Wysock's second year of hunting the property, he's patterned a few buck there.
'During the archery season they're always on the fringes,' Wysock told California Game and Fish.
It's typical for bucks to avoid thick cover when they are in velvet and their antlers are tender. Wysock is a firm believer in treestands for bowhunting blacktails, but said most of the trees on the property aren-t situated well for stands.
Wysock, an awarded competitive archer, has been shooting a bow since he was only three. The Shasta Lake City resident is part owner of 'The Bow Rack' in Redding, along with his dad, Mike.
On opening day (Aug. 19th), Anthony was graciously trying to find a buck for his wife - a first-year bowhunter. He guided her to a fine buck, and she took a shot.
'I didn't even bring my bow,' said Wysock. 'My wife missed a young three-point... she was disappointed. She told me afterward that I needed to take my bow out and go huntin' tomorrow.'
Anthony and Brittany camped out on the property that evening and were in their pop-up ground blind a half-hour before daylight. The blind was strategically placed near a bedding area at the head of a draw, where it shallows and starts to fan out, eventually flattening to a small ridge top. The Wysocks could see for about 70 yards in a few directions - most importantly to a brush line just below them that edges the draw before it breaks over to the bottom.
'The bucks will come out of the bottom at first light and head to the bedding area' said Wysock. 'I saw the big buck (there) a few times during the summer.'
They watched a three-by-two come out of the draw and walk to within 40 yards of the blind. That was all the deer movement they saw there. At about 8:30 a.m. they left the blind and still-hunted across the top of the draw and down the other side.
Brittany trailed 10 yards behind Anthony as they used the trees and other available cover to conceal their advance. The noisy, tinder dry grass, thistle, and leaf mixture made it necessary to deliberately place evey step. They could see for about 50-70 yards in most directions.
'We were creeping along and had gone about 70-80 yards,' Anthony said. 'In the middle of one of my steps I caught a flash of antler through the brush to my right. He was slightly below us about 50 yards, down toward the edge of the manzanita. He was standing broadside, and looking right at us. I knew it wasn't the big one because his velvet was too red.'
'I kept on looking for a second buck through the oaks,' he continued. 'I'd seen the big one hanging with a pretty good three-point a couple times this summer they'll travel in pairs that time of year.'
Straining to see beyond the low-hanging live oak branches and tall thistle, Wysock suddenly made out parts of another rack. It was a bedded buck, with brown-colored velvet, the same as the big buck.
He nocked a carbon arrow and ranged the first buck at 50 yards. Hoping that his wife had a better view of the second buck, Anthony slowly turned and whispered to Brittany, 'Is it the big one?'
'He's wide,' she whispered back.
Suddenly, the second buck stood up.
'He was getting curious about the reactions of the first buck who knew something wasn't quite right,' Anthony said. 'He (the first buck) was stomping his feet and looking in our direction... he got nervous and started to head off toward the brush.'
Fortunately the big buck stayed put and had turned broadside, looking in the direction of the two hunters. His vitals were still hidden behind the live oak/thistle entanglement.
'All I could see was his rump and a rear hock,' Wysock said. 'I ranged his hock at 55 yards. I kept thinking to myself, come on, move!'
The first buck was leaving. Anthony couldn't wait any longer. He had to do something. He started easing backward, hoping to find a shooting lane. Brittany, who could see the buck's head, told him when to stop.
It took a couple of minutes to go only five yards, but finally Wysock could see the back of the buck's rib cage. He drew back while taking one more slow step backward.
'I had to crouch down to get a shot because of the oak limbs,' Anthony said. 'It was an uncomfortable position, but I was confident I could make the shot from that distance.'
The big buck's attention was seemingly torn between the first buck, which had now completely disappeared into the thicket, and over to where whatever had made that buck leave. Wysock came to full draw and placed his 50-yard pin on the buck's left front shoulder.
He knew it was now or never. He released the string, and could tell in mid-flight that the arrow was going to hit the buck's vital area.
'I knew that it was a perfect shot but it didn't make the impact sound that it should've, said Wysock. 'I was a little bit concerned but he immediately dropped his head and started grabbin' turf. His head was only inches from the ground. He acted like he'd been hit.'
'He took off running. He went maybe 70 yards, when to my amusement, he accidentally ran into a little, four-foot tall, live oak. It spun him around, and then he ran straight backward a few yards and then disappeared over the hill.'
'He couldn't steer clear of that tree, and caught it with his right front antler. He was frantic. I've never seen a buck run backwards before. It was quite comical, and I would've started laughing if not for my concern over him damaging his antlers.'
Then the full weight of the moment hit him.
'I sat on the ground in silence and started shaking,' Wysock continued. 'My wife came over and said, 'You got him!'
'I hope it was where I wanted it to be,' replied Anthony.
'I think I can hear him thrashing. He's going down,' said Brittany.
The two hunters sat there together and talked for a few minutes, letting the trophy animal fully expire.
Instead of going to look for the buck right away they decided to walk back to their truck and drive to a friend's house, and pick him up - basically to brag.
They got back to the property and walked over to where the trophy was standing when Anthony shot to look for blood.
'I found part of the arrow,' said Wysock. 'It was broken off about 10 inches down from the nock. It didn't have any blood on it so I knew that the arrow didn't pass all the way through, which was a little concerning.'
'There wasn't a lot of blood, but we saw where he dug in, and were able to follow tracks. We followed the tracks, and mozzied over to the brushy little tree that he ran into. There were a few small specks of blood there on the leaves, no larger than an eraser head. But we were confident that we'd find him... even if it took all day.'
The weather remained favorable for tracking as the trio walked over toward the oak-covered edge where the great buck had disappeared.
'My friend was the first over the edge, and according to him, one of the buck's antlers that was sticking up through the weeds first caught his attention before he noticed the entire body,' Wysock reported.
The magnificent trophy blacktail was down in the shade of a blue oak.
He had gone only 15 yards after running into the tree.
'We immediately started taking pictures as we walked up on him,' Anthony said. 'I was feeling pretty good then... I was thrilled I'd made a good shot on him. It's easily my best bow buck ever.'
The Wysock buck, an amazing symmetrical blacktail specimen, has deep-forked tines, great mass, and an overall antler spread of 24 inches. Its bases measured 4 5/8 inches on the left antler, and 4 4/8 inches on the right. Its G-2s measured 10 3/8' on the left and 11 5/8' on the right Maybe most importantly, however, are the buck's brow tines, that measured 2 2/8' on the left, and 3 1/8' on the right (adding 5 3/8' to the total score). Brow tines are often overlooked, or a seldom mentioned antler attribute, but are definitely important in antler scoring. They helped Wysock's buck surpass the old state-record of 156 7/8 net Pope & Young points, by only an eighth of an inch.
The buck officially netted 157 0/8 P&Y points, (164 5/8 gross). It is now also the #1 typical Columbian blacktail in the California Bowhunters record book, and in the California Records of Big Game's 'coastal Columbian blacktail' category. The CRBG recorded the buck's official score at 164 5/8 ; they use the SCI scoring system - in which no deductions are made. Wysock's blacktail was estimated to be 5 years old.
For hunting videos, score sheets and more info on the California Records of Big Game log on to www.catcreekproductions.com