I was born in a coastal town on the central Oregon coast called Florence. Florence is an old logging town that turned into a retirement and tourist town. I was raised on a cattle ranch bucking hay and feeding cows. I learned at a young age how to work hard all day and how to be patient working with the cows. Little did I know that both traits would come in handy when I was old enough to hunt. Ever since I can remember during October the only two memories I have are football during the week and Black tail deer hunting on the weekends. It’s kind of funny, now that I am older and have hunted and harvested a lot of different animals, I have kind of lost touch with my rotes and why I hunt. In my 20’s I was all about the trophy, I would pass up on a lot of deer to maybe get a shot at a trophy. I guess you could say I was a cocky young man with a “I am better than you” attitude. The older I get the more I get back to my roots and realize just what hunting is all about. Sometimes I catch myself while I am driving in the coastal mountain range just thinking about the men who taught me how to hunt and how to respect the land and animals. In this blog we are going to go on a journey from my first hunting season at 12 years old to now, 32 years old, sitting in my camp trailer at my parents’ cabin for the weekend of June 20, 2020.
Ever since I was a little kid, I would dream of the day of being able to pack a rifle hunting and hoping for the opportunity to harvest my first blacktail buck. I started hunting myself when I was 12 years old, but I would always go hunting with my dad and grandpa. I remember being a young tike in the back seat of an old ford farm truck asking my dad “can I shoot a deer?” Hunting in my family was a way of life. We would all work our butts off all year until fall and then it was all about football and hunting. My dad was a high school football coach, I was an all-state lineman and won state in 2007 and my little brother was a 1st team all-state middle linebacker. You could say we were football nuts!
The year I turned 12, (which my birthday is in December, so I turned 12 after hunting seasons for big game were over…. I was not happy about that) On my 12th birthday, my dad handed down to me my first gun. It was an old Remington model 760 pump action 30-06. I was the fourth generation to have this rifle. It was my dad’s, my grandpas and my great grandpas first rifle. This rifle was a pump action, kind of a weird one but to me at that time it was the best rifle in the world! Yes, I still have the rifle and I will hand it down to my son someday. It was topped with a cheap basic Bushnell 3×9 scope, but I didn’t care if it was mine and I was so excited for the next season.
A few weeks after my birthday my dad took me and my brothers out shooting and I got to shoot my new rifle. Boy was I on cloud nine! I was hitting targets at 100 yards and wanted to shoot all day, but my dad told me “son, if you shoot a hot rifle too much you can shoot the barrel out and then you won’t have a gun.” Well that scared the crap out of me, so I decided I had shot enough that day. He would make sure to take us out shooting at least once a month to shoot our hunting rifles a few times to make sure we were comfortable and to teach us more about getting a solid rest and different shooting positions.
keeping up with chores
Let’s fast forward to September the next year. With deer season right around the corner it was all hands-on deck with ranching. Usually this time of year we were gearing up for winter which on the coast was rain, and I mean a lot of rain. We had to prep our livestock and supplies for the next 6 months of nothing but wet. Everyday during school, after school during football practice and pretty much every second of everyday all I could think about was hunting. I was so ready for this and have been looking forward to this forever! The night before opening morning I had my gun cleaned, hunting pack ready boots and clothes laid out and I don’t think I slept a wink that night.
Opening morning of my first rifle blacktail deer season. My dad and I were putting our boots on and making lunch. I remember the smell of hot coffee and PBJs for breakfast. About an hour before daylight we loaded up in the pickup and hit the mountains. How I was raised hunting blacktail was we do a lot of driving and glassing. Western Oregon is timber country, what we do is drive logging roads and look for logged units that are clear cut then replanted and we glass those units for hours. We also do a lot of hiking on closed roads and open timber. Opening day was kind of a bust. We spotted a nice buck, but it was too far for a 12-year-old to make an ethical shot on, so we took off on foot to get closer. On our way down a ridge we heard a gunshot, someone was on the same ridge as the buck and had shot him. Man, I was super bombed, but that’s public land hunting.
The next day we spotted some does and a small spike buck which was not legal. (at that time in Oregon general blacktail was a forked antler or better) The next few weekends were about the same, we saw a lot of does but no bucks. I was getting discouraged to say the least. I think my dad could see that and he kept trying to reassure me that he would find me a deer. The last weekend of the season, he did just that.
last day of the season
It was a very foggy morning; we were setting in the pickup waiting for the fog to lift so we could glass. If I remember right, it was around 9 am that the fog finally lifted. We got out of the pickup and hiked down a ridge a little way so we could glass. I remember how cold it was, I was freezing setting on a stump trying to hold my bionics looking for a buck. This was the last weekend, the last chance to harvest my buck the last time for a year I would be in the mountain’s deer hunting. What seemed like forever, my dad tapped me on the shoulder…” Hey! I got a buck!” my heart leaped from my chest and bounced off the moon and back I was so excited! However, I was young and new to this hunting game and I have heard all the stories about getting “Buck Fever” and I swore to myself I would not let that happen. I quickly calmed myself down, “Where at?” I asked my dad. “That middle ridge, mid-way down next to that big white old growth stump,” he answered. After a few minutes of looking (or what seemed like) I spotted the buck. It was a nice sized fork horn blacktail. At this point I referred to the training and practice taught to me by my dad, I found a good rest, loaded my rifle and was set and ready to rock and roll. “I am on him” I said to my dad, he was still standing there looking at the buck of all my dreams for the last year. He bent down and said, “if you want him take him, he is at 120 yards and aim dead on him.” Meaning hold the cross hairs of my rifle dead on him. I was dead solid; the rifle was not moving at all. I had the best rest I have ever had. I practiced my breathing, big breath in and exhale, big breath in and exhale, BOOM!
my first blacktail
What seemed like forever, everything I had practiced for and wanted, every dream for the last year was in reach and I had one job to do. That job was to make a good clean ethical shot on my very first buck at the age of 12. My very first year of being able to hunt and pack a rifle. To this day I do not remember pulling the trigger, I guess instinct took over and I did what my dad had been teaching to do. The Buck dropped! After I shot, I was able to watch in the scope and see the buck drop! I held right behind the front shoulder and I guess I was dead on. I could not believe it. I had just harvested my first blacktail with a rifle that had harvested an unknown amount of deer and elk and was a family rifle handed down from generation to generation.
Dad and I walked to the buck; there he was deader than the 80’s! you want to talk about a happy boy. I remember holding the horns in my hands and smiling, then I remember saying “ thank you Mr. Deer for giving me the shot” This is something my dad and grandpa have taught me was to be very thankful for every single opportunity I have to harvest an animal. After a few minutes of this we started to field dress the buck. My dad taught me how to properly take care of an animal and how to keep certain parts away from the meat. A few hours later we were at home skinning the buck and taking pictures. I must say this was the best time of my life at that time, I often reflect on this memory when I am having a bad day.
Let’s jump to October 27, 2017. Two days after I got married, we were on our honeymoon deer hunting general season for blacktail. If the last sentence doesn’t clarify, I married a saint of a woman who loves the outdoors and loves hunting so much she was ok with going on a weeklong camping trip for our honeymoon. I am the luckiest guy on the planet. My wife Kaila and I have been hunting hard for the last few days with little to show for our efforts. I called my dad that evening and asked him if he has seen anything and he said he has been seeing this one buck in an area that no one else goes into. The next morning, we loaded up and headed there. We met my dad at the gate to this logged unit and put or packs on and grabbed our rifles, “your boots tight?” I asked my wife of 3 days. “yup and I am ready to go” she said. We walked in 2 miles before daylight and were set up on the edge of the unit before daylight.
10 minutes after daylight I spotted a nice forked horn buck. We watched it for a while, and she decided she would like to take a shot at it. (I couldn’t help but think back to my first buck) I ranged the buck at 358 yards, a long shot for a first-time hunter but, Kaila has been practicing all year and has shot this distance with her gun several times. She got set up in the prone position, I told her where to set her scope. I still had a deer tag, so I was backing her up with my rifle. I too was in the prone position next to her, I told her “whenever your ready babe, do not rush it breath easy and let the rifle do the work.” BOOM! She fired, the buck stood there, I could not believe she missed! Now it’s my turn I was rock solid, BOOM! I missed…. I was dumb founded for me that was a chip shot. Then I remembered I did not dial my scope for the proper ranger. As I was adjusting my elevation, BOOM! The buck dropped like a sack of potatoes! She had done it, her first buck everything she had worked for and wanted happened 3 days after we got married!
feeling the reward
I am a very lucky guy for finding a woman who loves the outdoors as much as I do and lets me do all the things I love to do. She is a better shot, a better hunter and my hunting partner. The look on her face when we got to her buck was the same look I had when I was 12. I was so proud of her; I was teary eyed when we were taking pictures of her and her buck.
Here are two different stories of successful western Oregon blacktail deer hunting trips. If you put your time in and spend a lot of time glassing the clear cuts you will find a buck. I have harvested a buck almost every year since I was 12. Being patient and having good optics are a huge key in being successful in hunting blacktails. Drive the logging roads, every clear cut you see stop and spend at least 30 minutes glassing. Look behind stumps, next to stumps and on timber edges. You will find a deer. It does take time to find them but when you do and harvest a blacktail, it is one of the most rewarding feelings there is.
Today, June 20, 2020 we get our controlled hunt results. My sister in law who is 17 drew an antlerless deer tag in the hunt area I usually hunt in. This will be her first hunting season. Could there be another first blacktail hunt in my future? I sure hope so. The older I get the more I do not give a rat’s behind about shooting a deer, I would rather spend my entire season helping a first timer or a new hunter get their first animal. I have high hopes for the upcoming season. I only hope I am able to help my sister in law in the harvest of her first blacktail deer the same way I helped my wife and the same way my dad helped me harvest my first deer. I have came to the conclusion that this is the real meaning of hunting, the more people we introduce to hunting the better!
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