Sitka Gear
California Dreaming
Mule Deer
Contributors to this thread:
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
kota-man 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
Treeline 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
TGbow 04-Oct-21
Scoot 04-Oct-21
Treeline 04-Oct-21
Scoot 04-Oct-21
HUNT MAN 04-Oct-21
JTreeman 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
t-roy 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
Treeline 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
Beginner 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
[email protected] 04-Oct-21
bigeasygator 04-Oct-21
Zackman 05-Oct-21
pav 05-Oct-21
BULELK1 05-Oct-21
orionsbrother 05-Oct-21
midwest 05-Oct-21
njbuck 05-Oct-21
elkmtngear 05-Oct-21
Surfbow 05-Oct-21
Scoot 05-Oct-21
SDHNTR(home) 05-Oct-21
Brotsky 05-Oct-21
Whitey 05-Oct-21
Oryx35 05-Oct-21
IdyllwildArcher 05-Oct-21
BOWNBIRDHNTR 05-Oct-21
otcWill 05-Oct-21
t-roy 05-Oct-21
Jaquomo 05-Oct-21
BC 05-Oct-21
bowhunter24 05-Oct-21
bigeasygator 06-Oct-21
iceman 06-Oct-21
bigeasygator 06-Oct-21
bigeasygator 06-Oct-21
goelk 06-Oct-21
Old Bow 06-Oct-21
HUNT MAN 06-Oct-21
GhostBird 06-Oct-21
deerhunter72 06-Oct-21
huntinelk 06-Oct-21
trkyslr 06-Oct-21
Drop tine 06-Oct-21
txhunter58 10-Oct-21
txhunter58 10-Oct-21
From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

bigeasygator's embedded Photo
This crew is trouble. Especially Troy.
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
This crew is trouble. Especially Troy.
It’s been awhile since I’ve recapped a hunt here on Bowsite. When you’re just a so-so bowhunter (on a good day!) and only kill an animal every couple of years, it can lead to some rusty storytelling. But having read a number of great recaps here recently, I felt inspired to pick up the digital pen again and recap my recent trip to northern California.

After managing to take a Sitka BT (something about a blind squirrel and a nut) in 2019 with a bunch of bowhunting/Bowsite legends (in their own mind, anyway), it put me two deer species away from closing out my archery deer slam. After doing some research and talking to some folks, I booked a hunt for July of 2021 for one of my remaining two species - Columbia BT with Arrow 5 outfitters.

From: kota-man
04-Oct-21
Cool! Bring it…

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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The drive into camp was spectacular.
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The drive into camp was spectacular.
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My home for the week
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My home for the week
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Camp was comfortable and filled with energetic dogs and great people.
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
Camp was comfortable and filled with energetic dogs and great people.
July came around quicker than expected, and before I knew it, I had touched down in Eureka, CA and after a quick, beautiful drive through the redwoods, we had arrived in camp. I settled into camp with the Arrow 5 crew - the one-of-a-kind Schaafsmas, Jim and Tinamarie, guides Tessa and Cody, and a rotating cast of camp help - confirmed my bow was still good, and started discussing the hunting plans.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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Trailcam photo of my target buck from the year prior.
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Trailcam photo of my target buck from the year prior.
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Another view of #1 on the most wanted list.
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Another view of #1 on the most wanted list.
Jim mentioned there was a unique non-typical that was regularly showing up near camp. It is a buck they had some history with, and were unsuccessful in killing the last few years despite having a few hunters chase him. With his antler growth this year, Jim said he likely wouldn’t score well but he was a once in a lifetime kind of buck. I love unique deer and couldn’t care less with how he scored. That buck became my target buck for the hunt.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo
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For people that haven’t visited this area of the country, do yourself a favor and book a trip. The terrain was absolutely beautiful. Old growth redwood forests in the lower elevations give way to mixed terrain of open meadows interspersed with pockets of buckeye, pine, bay, oak, and madrone trees. The landscape varied from rolling to rather steep in spots, with distant peaks looming through the breaks in the trees.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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The ladder stand we hung to give some idea of the surrounding terrain.
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The ladder stand we hung to give some idea of the surrounding terrain.
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View from the stand of the orchard with the lights of camp not far in the background.
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View from the stand of the orchard with the lights of camp not far in the background.
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View directly in front of the stand (with obligatory boot inclusion). The apple tree in front is less than ten yards away.
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
View directly in front of the stand (with obligatory boot inclusion). The apple tree in front is less than ten yards away.
When Jim said the buck was running close to camp, he wasn’t kidding. We went to the spot where he had been spotted, which was about 150 yards from camp in a small orchard of apple trees. Deer trails criss crossed the area, coming down from a bluff above the orchard as well as up from some ravines below. We picked a tree, popped up a ladder stand, trimmed some shooting lanes in preparation for the opener the following morning.

From: Treeline
04-Oct-21
It is certainly beautiful there! They do have one of the best outfits for blacktail deer for sure!

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21
If anyone has any suggestions on how to rotate the second and third pic in a group of pics, let me know! Or else, those are just going to have to remain cockeyed and I'll post the pics one at a time from here on out. Lunch break is over and back to work...will work on getting the rest up in the next day or two!

From: TGbow
04-Oct-21
BEG, thats some beautiful country..awsome

From: Scoot
04-Oct-21
My suggestion is to only include one pic in each thread. The site can't handle multiple pics in one post- fixing one screws up others. It's kinda a mess...

Good luck- I hope #1 comes looking for apples!

From: Treeline
04-Oct-21
What scoot said. Also, it seems like it was having problems even with editing one picture. I was having hell just getting one to rotate on my thread. It rotated them hours later.

Also, if I tried to edit or add a picture after I had written, I kept getting an error and getting kicked out.

From: Scoot
04-Oct-21
Yes Tavis- it's frustrating as hell. Definitely discouraging to those who are thinking about sharing a story. It's a lot of work to pull a story together and it's a lot more when you have to wrestle the site the whole time to do it.

One thing I've found is different devices display some pics differently. On my phone a pic will be in portrait and on my computer it's displayed in landscape. So, there's really no way to get it right for all people/devices.

From: HUNT MAN
04-Oct-21
This ^^^^

From: JTreeman
04-Oct-21
I know how this ends! But I’ll read it again! Keep it coming Jason.

—Jim

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo
Days in northern California are LONG in July. Legal shooting hours run from roughly 5:30 AM to 9:15 PM on average, and the deer while somewhat patternable, are moving at almost any time during the day. I’m not built for 16 hour sits in a stand, even though the stand was very comfortable (translation = lots of naps). But being so close to camp, The first day I was able to sit for a few hours at a time, take a break and come back to camp, and then go back out for a few more hours. It was early in the hunt, and the relaxed pace and setting was perfectly fine by me. With that said, the first day brought a goose egg in terms of seeing any deer. The day did close with a Boone and Crockett sunset and great camaraderie around the campfire.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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The deer absolutely loved the green leaves on the apple tree.
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
The deer absolutely loved the green leaves on the apple tree.
The morning of Day 2, we decided to give the orchard a break and sit a ground blind located in a different part of the hunt area. This also brought nothing in terms of deer, and after some quick strategizing, we thought it best to head back to the orchard by camp and focus our efforts there. That afternoon brought the first visitor of the target species – a young forkie that came up from below the road directly in front of the stand. While he got a pass (though it is really hard when they are sitting there clueless and broadside inside of 10 yards), it’s always encouraging having activity in front of you and it was useful in seeing where the deer (at least this one) came from and how they used the terrain.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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While the deer action might have been a bit cold, I had a hot hand with the fishing pole. During a break in the action I managed to take home the coveted bass tournament crown fishing the pond outside of camp. Five casts, 5 fish. It probably was the same dumb bass each time but I’ll take it.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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The trophy. A one-of-one Arrow 5 hat.
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
The trophy. A one-of-one Arrow 5 hat.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21
Early hunts with Arrow 5 are only five days, so day three would take me past the half way point. Given that I had only seen the forkie up to that point, I was starting to think about lowering my standards. The plan was to hunt the orchard all day, and while I didn’t plan to sit all 16 hours, I was committed to putting a lot of time in the stand. There were some trail cam pics of some other bucks, including a different forkhorn the target buck was running with from 10AM the day before, so I planned to at least put in a solid half day and sit until around noon.

From: t-roy
04-Oct-21
^^^It ain’t the Stanley Cup, but it’s something, BEG!

Following along….

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo
About 10AM a different, a 2x3 showed up from in front of me. He pulled the same routine, nibbling on the leaves of the apple tree.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

bigeasygator's embedded Photo
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
He started to look better and better as he munched away, as most deer do when they’re standing there unaware inside of ten yards!! I had my bow in hand and clipped my release to the string…

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21
…and decided to hold off. While I really wanted to punch my tag, I also wasn’t ready to quote end things. I felt like I’d have another opportunity of a deer that class, and wanted to hold out for ol’ crazy horns.

The buck stuck around for about 15 minutes before moving off to my left. He went up and over a small rise and I lost sight of him for a brief moment. I stood watching in his direction for a bit and saw a flash of brown through an opening on a far ridge about 80 yards away. I didn’t think it was the buck I was watching, so I kept watch in that direction (basically my 9 o’clock relative to how I was normally facing while sitting) to see if it might be a different deer - and possibly my target buck?

As I was staring off, I caught motion out of the left corner of my eye much closer. Up the rise that sat behind my stand was a 2x2 coming down the deer trail directly toward my stand…and my target buck was right behind him.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

bigeasygator's embedded Photo
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
You can see about where I spotted the deer at the red circle in the pic. Even though I was about 10’ up the tree, given the rise of the hill behind me, they would actually be approaching from above eye level right on the path you can see.

The 2x2 was in front and walked directly down the path and broke off broadside down to the apple tree about three yards in front of my stand.

The non-typical was following on the same path when he got to eye level with me, locked eyes on me, and stopped. At this point he was about 10 yards away, but there was nothing I could do.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21
We engaged in a staring contest for what felt like hours, but I’m sure was only a half a minute or so. Now I noticed that Columbia BT behave a little more like Sitka BT than mule deer or white tail in terms of their skittishness. So while the buck knew something wasn’t quite right with the ugly thing in the tree, he didn’t fill on bolt. He did start to move off in a way that suggested he didn’t really wanna hang around too long, though. As he disappeared behind a tree at about 12 yards, I brought my bow to full draw.

He took a few more steps and stood broadside within top pin distance. I settled the pin, squeezed the trigger on my release, and dropped the string.

I made sure to pick a spot back off the shoulder, and the arrow disappeared right where I had aimed.

The buck didn’t jump or kick, but took off down the hill in front of me. I gave it a minute, found my arrow, and walked back towards camp to give the buck some time to expire.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21
On inspection, there was minimal blood on the ground despite the pass through, and the arrow smelled a bit sour. While I was 100% sure I made a fatal shot, the evidence suggested the spot I picked was a little further back than ideal. We decided to grab lunch (I couldn’t eat, imagine that) and give the deer well over an hour before taking up the trail.

We had an army of people helping with the trailing, which was slow going. Blood was hard to come by, but a few of us stuck with the blood while a few others grid searched the ravine it appeared he was headed.

After about 300 yards, one of the group yelled “he just jumped up” and my heart sunk. But he was laboring bad, and didn’t go far. I was actually able to get another arrow in him and put him down for good.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21
This guy made my heart pump more than any other deer I’ve had inside of bow range. He is certainly a special deer. You can see how his rack developed from the previous year as well. Even though he probably would have scored better the year before, the second and possibly third main beam are much more developed and up the uniqueness factor.

We admired him for a bit in the spot that he fell, and then it was time for some obligatory pics on Tinamarie’s hill.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: Treeline
04-Oct-21
Congratulations! That is such a wicked cool buck! Well done!

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: Beginner
04-Oct-21
Congrats on a great hunt.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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The trees on the skyline behind the pond was right where it all went down.
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
The trees on the skyline behind the pond was right where it all went down.
That evening we enjoyed another great sunset and let’s just say more than a few adult beverages were consumed.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

bigeasygator's embedded Photo
bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21
We now had two hunters out of three tagged out and camp, and that freed up one of the guides, Cody, to take us salmon fishing. In Louisiana, this would be called lagniappe - a little something extra.

We spent a day on the water in Shelter Cove. The scenery was spectacular. Not sure if I’ve fished a spot more picturesque.

The fishing started off hot…Drew, the other hunter, reeled in a nice salmon literally five minutes into the trip. We actually had a double hooked up in those five minutes, but the second fish spit the hook - and that became the story for the day. My bass fishing skills didn’t carry over to salmon, and despite hooking up with probably seven fish, they all got off - a few right at the boat which is particularly frustrating. Nonetheless, it was icing on the cake of what was a fantastic trip.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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The tractor towing us down to launch off the beach.
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
The tractor towing us down to launch off the beach.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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Drew with the only salmon of the trip five minutes in. I hate barbless hooks.
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Drew with the only salmon of the trip five minutes in. I hate barbless hooks.

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo

04-Oct-21
Sounds like a fun hunt. Nicely done. Paul

From: bigeasygator
04-Oct-21

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bigeasygator's embedded Photo
I can’t say enough good things about Jim and Tinamarie Schaafsma and can’t thank them and the whole crew enough for a spectacular week. That area of the country is spectacular, and I’m already looking forward to returning to the dogs, laughs, food, and hospitality of the Arrow 5 camp. I hope the good luck sticks with me and I can close out my deer slam with a Coues this January. Regardless, I’ve got some special memories to enjoy until then.

From: Zackman
05-Oct-21
Nice blackie J! Good luck on the Coues and finishing the deer slam!

I think we should do another Kodiak trip...

From: pav
05-Oct-21
Congrats on the nice blacktail...that rack just screams character. Thanks for sharing!

From: BULELK1
05-Oct-21
What a fun and successful trip ya'll had for sure.

Thanks for sharing,

Robb

05-Oct-21
Congrats! Good luck on your Coues hunt.

From: midwest
05-Oct-21
Way cool buck...congrats and thanks for the story and pics!

From: njbuck
05-Oct-21
Very cool buck and congrats on a great hunt.

From: elkmtngear
05-Oct-21
Wow, what a cool velvet nontypical !

Kudos, for holding out for that buck. Congrats, BEG !

From: Surfbow
05-Oct-21
Cool buck!

From: Scoot
05-Oct-21
Man oh man does that buck have character! What a cool buck! Congrats on a great deer and what sounds like one heck of a good time.

From: SDHNTR(home)
05-Oct-21
Spectacular buck Jason! Congrats. I love it when it comes together for one of the good guys! Great story too. Thanks for sharing.

From: Brotsky
05-Oct-21
Love that buck BEG! Great hunt and story to go with him! Congrats!

From: Whitey
05-Oct-21
Congrats BEG. Don’t forget about the Colombian whitetail in your slam.

From: Oryx35
05-Oct-21
Congrats, and thanks for sharing! Good luck on the Coues. I just need Sitka blacktail to finish mine out.

05-Oct-21
Grats. Great dear and sounds like you had a great time. I agree that Northwestern California is an incredibly beautiful place.

From: BOWNBIRDHNTR
05-Oct-21
Awesome buck and beautiful country! Congrats!! I'll be chasing Coues in January too, good luck!!

From: otcWill
05-Oct-21
Good stuff! Thanks for taking the time

From: t-roy
05-Oct-21
Great thread, Jason! Incredible character on the buck. I’ll bet you get a smile on your face every time you look at him, once you get him up on the wall. I’m just a little disappointed that you didn’t get to employ any of your finely tuned tactics, you honed to perfection in Kodiak…..UNBELIEVABLE! ;-)

From: Jaquomo
05-Oct-21
What a cool buck! Thanks for sharing the great story with us!

From: BC
05-Oct-21
Great buck. Shot placement looked good too from what I could see in one pic. Did you get into guts?

From: bowhunter24
05-Oct-21
Congrats on the great buck! Sure looked like a great place thanks for sharing!

From: bigeasygator
06-Oct-21
Thanks for all the kind words, everyone!

Zack, you know I'm in. In fact, I might just have to make a flaming donkey right now...

Troy, it might have been hard to executive "the Shove" in California...my gout was flaring up haha! UNBELIEVABLE! It was nice to be on the "Troy Schedule" this hunt, being tagged out with multiple days left made took some pressure off things! Might have to take that approach again...

From: iceman
06-Oct-21
Congrats again, ole boy!

From: bigeasygator
06-Oct-21

bigeasygator's embedded Photo
bigeasygator's embedded Photo
BC, if you look at the first few pics I posted of the buck on the ground, you can see two arrow holes. As mentioned, I was able to get a second arrow in him and tucked that one a little tighter to the shoulder (about where I put the green dot on the photo above).

The first arrow struck a little further back (where the red dot is). This was actually the spot I was aiming as I wanted to make sure I gave myself a wide berth from the shoulder as I felt like that would be the only way I could screw things up. I just picked a bad spot.

At the end of the day it definitely caught stomach but likely also a bit of liver, and no doubt was a fatal shot on its own - but I was a bit upset that the arrow wasn’t placed better than that. Another bowhunting lesson learned.

From: bigeasygator
06-Oct-21
Thanks again, JRod...just trying to keep up with you!!

From: goelk
06-Oct-21
wow i love reading everyone stories. Feel like American Sportsman show with Curt Gowdy keep them coming everyone

From: Old Bow
06-Oct-21
Congrats on your buck and California does have spectacular scenery and people.

From: HUNT MAN
06-Oct-21
Great post. Thanks for taking the time. Amazing buck !!

From: GhostBird
06-Oct-21
Congratulations... good times. Thanks for taking us along.

From: deerhunter72
06-Oct-21
Congratulations! Great looking buck, thanks for sharing.

From: huntinelk
06-Oct-21
Congratulations on a super buck

From: trkyslr
06-Oct-21
Congrats!! Awesome buck and sweet character!

From: Drop tine
06-Oct-21
Great buck, story and pictures. Congrats and thanks for sharing.

From: txhunter58
10-Oct-21
Good thread

From: txhunter58
10-Oct-21
Good thread

  • Sitka Gear