Sierra Surprise

By Gene Smith

Gene Smith

Gene Smith
California, 2009, DIY, Public Land 

While everyone claims there are some big bucks up in the high country in the Sierra National Forest, my husband, Gene, our son, Kaymen, and I went through the 2008 season and were 39 days into the 44-day season of 2009 without seeing one. We were putting in five miles or better of walking every weekend in hopes of finding one, too.

When we got to within the last two weeks of the season, we decided that if any storms came in, we were going to take vacation time and head to the mountains. Kaymen had turned 12 and sat out of football just so he could hunt as much as possible. I figured it would also be a nice reward for all his hard schoolwork.


The first storm came, so up the hill we went. We did see one nice buck, but no shots were fired.

The next storm came eight days later and back up the mountain we went again. We had just climbed up a ridge and split up when a gunshot rang out. Knowing it might be Gene, Kaymen and I started heading in his direction.

We met up with Gene, who was still combing the ground looking for signs of a hit. He looked up into a heavily treed area and could see a deer’s body standing, and finally made out a heavy rack. Gene shot and saw him roll to the right and disappear instantly.

He surveyed the area for landmarks to find him in the heavily timbered area, but came up empty once he got up there. After an extensive search, Kaymen spotted blood and we knew we were on the right track. From there it was only about a 20 yard trail of blood before Gene came upon the large buck lying below him.

When we all saw the rack, we couldn’t believe it. We just stood there staring and my son had tears in his eyes. I asked him what was the matter and he replied, “He got one mom! He finally got one!”

The buck had a 26-1/2-inch spread, was very massive, and had an awesome droptine on his left antler. It was a very special day that turned out to be way better than any day at school - or work, for that matter.