Blessed with Blacktails

By Chris Stone
California, DIY, Private Land

Chris Stone - Blessed with BlacktailsSeptember/October 2012 EBJ (Issue 73) - I am very fortunate to live in northern California where some of the biggest blacktail bucks call home. Growing up in the area I hunt has allowed me opportunities to meet a lot of people which has resulted in gaining permission to hunt several quality ranches and properties with trophy buck potential. Hunting blacktails over the years has turned into an obsession for me year around. From shooting my bow year around, staying in good physical shape, scouting every chance I get, I have been rewarded with my efforts in the field. Hunting early season bucks due to the state’s regulations, the deer can somewhat be patterned if you scout correctly. By patterning bucks, I hunt from treestands and if need be, I can get down from the stand and put on a stalk. This method has rewarded me with several successful hunts in the past. With the sighting of several bucks before the season opener in August, this year had potential of being a great year of hunting pending the birth of my daughter.

After returning home from a successful antelope trip in California, I had to tend to my wife, Juniper, who was due any day. As the beginning of archery season started, my wife was still pregnant and I was going to try and get in as much time in the field as I could. During the first week of the season, my trail camera took photos of a freak buck that had a double main beam and droptine the size of a grapefruit on his left side. This buck was definitely unique and I named him "Hammer”. He was using an oak studded ridge that led down to water and a couple of wild apple trees about three hundred yards away. He bedded on the north side of a ridge and with scorching temperatures near 100 degrees, I knew if I was to see him I would need to be close to his bed until it got dark. Stands were set and the wait began. Four afternoons in a row, I was in the stand and only saw does and a few young bucks. Trail camera photos showed Hammer was being the predictable nocturnal mature buck emerging down the ridge during the night.

On the fifth day, the temperature dropped dramatically to the seventies with a northern front approaching. A high of seventy degrees in August, in California, is weather I dream about but rarely ever see. With me was my buddy, Joe Frater, who was armed with the video camera. Throughout the afternoon we saw a few does move through the brush and saw a young basket racked three by three bed sixty yards away on the ridge top. As the sun was starting to drop down to the west, I caught a glimpse of a deer to the east through the manzanita and scrub oaks. The deer walked out from behind the brush and I saw it was Hammer with two smaller bucks. I told Joe that he was closing the distance and I patiently waited. Hammer took his sweet time and walked to within 15 yards of me; however, due to my stand position I could not move without being spotted. The freakishly heavy horned, velvet-clad buck eventually worked his way down the ridge right in front of me and he presented a 30-yard shot. Without hesitating, I came to full draw and released my arrow, which I saw pass right through his sweet spot. I was so excited that I turned to Joe and all I could say was "Hammer time! Hammer time! Hammer time!” Joe and I got out of the tree and after some trailing, we found Hammer down for good. He was a unique buck that definitely took my breath away. He had lots of character and one heck of droptine.

Chris Stone - Blessed with Blacktails

For a full account of Chris's adventure, go to page 28 in the September/October 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.