A Dream Come True

By Dustin Robben

A Dream Come TrueDustin Robben
California, 2007, DIY, Public Land

Like most of you who religiously read Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal, I am addicted to hunting, specifically bowhunting. In the past four years, I’ve taken up backpacking for my bowhunting trips. Blacktail deer and bear are my intended quarry. I also enjoy sharing this experience with several close friends who accompany me on DIY hunts in our home state of California.

A few years ago, a buddy from work told me about a spot in a northern California wilderness where he had spotted good groups of blacktail plus numerous signs of bear. This is an area you can only access on foot or by horseback. Since I’m not fond of horses, backpacking became the mode for our hunts. His suggestion gave us a reference point to begin our scouting trips. Hunting while backpacking is now in my blood and I recommend it to anyone who wants to expand their hunting experience.

My first year in the area didn’t produce much. We had only a few deer sightings and some digested signs of bear but little else other than fond campfire memories.

In year two, we located several good watering holes and high altitude meadows, where we spotted 135+ Pope and Young bucks. A few of us got in some nice stalks but no animals were taken. Later in the season we went back for rifle season and my good friend Justin harvested a nice 3x3 that scored 133 B&C. By now, the group was “zapped” by this wilderness experience and it gave us more incentive to tweak our backpacking loads and continue to scout for the big boys.

In year three, our scouting trips were paying off. We located greater numbers of animals and more “bachelor groups” containing some big bucks. We came away with a lot of pictures but no one got a shot with a bow. I told myself that next year would be my year and put everything into planning the backpacking hunt for year four.

By mid summer 2007, I made five scouting trips into our hunting zone. These trips marked about half a dozen prime locations where we spotted deer.

My group set off on our nine-day backpacking hunt the day before the opener. It began with a 6-1/2-mile trek from the trailhead to our camp. During my scouting trips, I had been drawn to one particular bowl situated at around 7000 feet. It’s an area that has always held deer, and earlier in the summer I had spotted several 3x3s and one wide 4x4. This spot had my name on it and it was where I was going to start the bowhunting season.

My thoughts raced that night, and I couldn’t sleep. What approach should I take? How far from the meadow should I set my stand? What points of cover would I take depending on where the deer grazed? I tossed and turned until the alarm went off at 3 a.m. I don’t even remember dressing in my hunting clothes.

This was also the year that I brought my buddy, Bob, who was on his very first bowhunting trip. He would accompany me to the spot, where we would hunt back-to-back and have a 360-degree view of any approaching animals.

A Dream Come True

For a full account of Dustin's adventure, go to page 40 in the September/October 2009 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.