Monday, October 24, 2011

Product Review: Camp Dog Cajun Seasoning
As a hunter and grill master, I am always on the lookout for new and exciting things to try when it comes to BBQ. For months I have read reviews from my fellow bloggers on Papa Scott's Camp Dog Seasonings and I couldn't take it any more. I just HAD to try some of this tasty goodness they kept writing about!

Scott has quite a following on Twitter (@Camp_Seasoning) and after tweeting back and forth with him, I found out he offers samples to people on his website and only charges $1 for the shipping. How could I go wrong? So I ordered a sample and in a few days I had treasure in my mailbox. After opening the envelope, the first thing I noticed was the incredible aroma. Inside were two small plastic bags filled to capacity with spices. I opened each bag and deeply inhaled to get the full aroma and it was gooooood! I couldn't wait to try it out, so I took out a couple packages of venison and set to work.

Here are a few (bad) photos from my phone that I took during the process of cooking. You have to understand, I was hungry and the spices were truly making my mouth water.

Two bags of goodness just waiting to be tested.

After patting down the venison, I applied the dry rub. It looks fantastic!

On the grille and sizzling. You can't even imagine how good this smelled!

Excuse the terrible photo, but I was damn hungry.

After all was said and done, I will freely admit that this was the best Cajun spice rub I have ever used. Bar none! Trust me, I have used plenty of Cajun spices as I used to be a head cook at a bar-n-grille where grilling was a thing of beauty. I can't even call the spices I used there Cajun. They don't hold a candle to Camp Dog Seasoning.

Here's what I like about the rub:
  • Not full of sugar like some rubs I have tried. The spices speak for themselves and stick to the meat without any 'sticky' aid.
  • Flavorful and aromatic. 'Nuff said!
  • You don't have to marinade the meat overnight. You just apply the rub and put the meat right on the grill. Awesome!
  • A little goes a LONG way!
  • It goes on just about anything. I have used it on my grilled cheese sandwiches, in my tomato soup, on pasta and on my eggs in the morning. It is fantastic on ALL of it!

Now, I like both flavors, the mild and the original, but I do prefer the original much, much more. The original has a nice kick to it without being overpowering. It leaves a zing on your tongue, but it doesn't take away from the flavor. I think the mild would be good for a BBQ for a bunch of people that may or may not like spicy and it would probably go really well on chicken, too. I used all of mine on venison because I had it to use. If your friends and family like spicy, then I highly recommend the original blend. You can't go wrong!

Papa Scott sells it in different sizes and offers other products on his site. The 8 oz. canister of original Camp Dog Seasoning sells for only $7.50 and that seems like a steal to me. That's the one I bought. Like I said, a little goes a long way and this stuff is great. I even had some shipped to NY so when I get there to hunt whitetails we can grill some backstraps with it. I am sure they are going to go nuts for it! Be sure to get some!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Magazine Review: Bow and Arrow Hunting
Throughout the year, I can never seem to get enough reading material when it comes to hunting. I get a few magazines, read multiple online articles and I also belong to a few forums. The challenge that I continually find is finding a magazine that is a down-to-earth hunting mag. One that I can read and realize that I understand the content and feel that the hunts in the magazine are hunts that even I can do. 

Most of the magazines I come across, I browse through rapidly because they are dedicated to strictly whitetails. They focus on Eastern to Mid-west style hunting. As a country boy who was raised in western New York, I appreciate hunting the whitetail. In fact, I love hunting whitetails. I also love hunting lots of OTHER big game animals. Most of these hunting mags focus on treestand hunting, hunting different weather patterns and all of the gear you need for a successful hunt. Now, I love a good gear box full of new gadgets, but I really want to read about good, quality DIY, on your own style hunts where you don't hire an outfitter. That's just me, and from the guys and gals that I talk with it's what most of us want. Weather? Sure, learn to play it, but if you are like me you'll go hunting in just about any type of weather. When it comes to treestands, sure I like hunting out of them, too, but being a western transplant, I spend most of my time spot-n-stalk hunting my quarry.

So what's a guy to do when he wants good reading material that suits many different styles of hunting and isn't always trying to throw popular, big game names in your face? Luckily for me, I found Bow & Arrow Hunting magazine.

Bow & Arrow Hunting is a dialed-in, focused on archery hunting magazine with a put your feet up next to the firepit with a cold beer and swap stories feel.

Quality reading material for ANY bowhunter.

You'll find bloggers who get their article in the mag, too. The Weekend Bowhunter, Zack Walton is one of them. Here's one of his recent articles he wrote on mule deer hunting.

Another exciting tidbit is that a couple of my friends are soon to be published in the magazine. I am super stoked for them as they have worked hard at what they do. If you pick up the December issue, check out the article on Arizona OTC Mule Deer hunting by DIYBowhunter.com owner and Redhead Pro Staff member, Eric Welsh. It is sure to be a very informative read! Congratulations, Eric.

For $4.99 you get a great magazine chock full of information, good stories and a wealth of knowledge. I don't read too many magazines that often, but this is one that I truly enjoy. Pick one up and let me know what YOU think of it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Easton Opens Archery Center in Van Nuys, CA
In my inbox this morning was this press release from the Easton Foundation and I thought it pertinent to my SoCal readers involved in archery. Please read on.

The Easton Foundations has opened its latest archery center, located in Van Nuys, CA on 15026 Oxnard Street, just minutes from its corporate office. The Easton Van Nuys Archery Center is the second of the Easton Foundation run centers, which also includes the Easton Newberry Sports Complex in Newberry, FL. It is part of a system of archery centers that the Foundation is funding, which also includes the Easton Foundation Archery Center in Yankton, SD, a joint program with the NFAA (National Field Archery Association) and the John and Marnie Demmer Shooting Sports Education and Training Center at Michigan State University (MSU).

"The new Easton Van Nuys Archery Center is a fabulous facility and well adapted as an archery complex. Our vision for the center is to develop programs and opportunities for a variety of coaching courses, from beginning to elite, as well as coach and archer training opportunities. As we continue to grow the sport, especially among youth, we will need many more qualified coaches and archery facilities to handle the influx of new archers. The centers The Easton Foundations are developing are a strong and positive step in that direction. " said Don Rabska, VP of Programs and a member of the Board of Directors.

The Easton Foundation expands in Southern California.

The Van Nuys center is already home to a local JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) Club and is well utilized by archers from UCLA and California State University, Northridge for practice and training. The facility is also the center for the Foundations' OAS (Olympic Archery in Schools) Program and a league night on Thursdays. The center will be adding new programs in the near future as well. The facility also hosts coaching courses and currently has coaches and students of various levels training to improve their archery skills.

"The Easton Van Nuys Archery Center is a great resource for OAS. From its start we have been using it for coach and archer training as well as for OAS competitions," said Keaton Chia, OAS Program Supervisor, "The center has everything we need including a classroom, areas for parents to watch, and a beautiful indoor archery range. The range is fully equipped to host competitions and is also perfect for training archers and coaches. We have targets setup at 18 meters as well as at a shorter distance which is great for archers working on their form and technique. The center is also outfitted with large mirrors and other training aids. I am excited that this resource is available to our schools and youth. I look forward to the many events we will be holding at the center and for the impact it will make on the community."

This new facility includes a 12 lane, back to back 18 meter and 7 meter indoor range, eating and viewing area for guests and conference/training room as well as offices and a warehouse.

The training center will be open to archers and coaches involved in JOAD, OAS and other programs. Interested parties should contact Idida Briones at (818) 901-0127 ext. 202 or ibriones@esdf.org.

For more information on the Easton Foundations, a full listing of our programs, grant recipients, and / or information on the grant selection process please go to our website at www.EastonFoundations.org or contact Ms. Idida Briones at (818) 901-0127 ext. 202 or via email at ibriones@esdf.org.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tennessee Whitetail Down!
Friendships are truly valuable to me. Chuck is one of my friends who I grew up with. He's a lifelong military man who works hard and play even harder. He's also a very good hunter who recently got back into bow hunting. I know he hasn't had much time to get out over the years, so when he sent me this story I knew I had to share it. I hope you enjoy it!


Chuck with his hard earned 11 pt. Tennessee whitetail buck.

It was an afternoon hunt, I have seen nothing all day. The legal hunting day ends at 7:00 pm. It's 6:06 pm and while on my cell phone (texting), this buck came running through the woods. He basically caught me with my pants down and completely unprepared.

He came to a dead stop about 5 feet from the bottom of my tree. He looked left, then he looked right. I figured I had no chance of placing my phone back into my pocket, stand, grab my bow off the hanger and take a shot. To my surprise he moves closer to the bottom of my tree to eat acorns. At this time I place my cell phone in my pocket, stand up and grab my bow. The buck is directly under me. I pulled back aiming directly down the left side of my stand. Not an ideal angle! The only option I had was though the spine into the kill zone. I was worried about making an ethical shot at this point. I figured I could catch the kill zone as long as I did not hit the spine. But as I released, the arrow drove directly through the spine and into the chest.

The deer dropped on the spot before trying to make the attempt to move. He managed to screw himself over to the right side of my stand. After opening him up I realized that while the shot went through his spine, it was also a double long shot, and included the heart. It was a clean kill.  

What I thought was initially an 8-point buck, turned out to be an 11-point with the help of 3 kickers. He is a small 11-point and after taking this deer to the processor,  I actually felt a little bad. As this was my first hunt in the state of Tennessee, I quickly learned that my deer was probably only a couple years old. There were several deer in line for processing that made my deer look like Bambi. As it turns out, this county in Tennessee is known for its large whitetail bucks. The processor said deer with a large spread, big beams and big brow tines come in all day long from this county. Glad I can take two more bucks this season because now I'm holding out for a wall hanger!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Knives of Alaska Giveaway Winner Announced!
First, let me say thank you to all who entered and spread the word.

The winner of the Pronghorn knife giveaway is...
Dustin Jones!

Dustin with his older Shrade blade that he is about to retire.
Dustin worked his tail off retweeting the contest every day which gained him quite a few extra entries. Looks like it paid off for him! Dustin, best of luck this season and I hope you get to break in your new knife!

There are more giveaways to come in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Friday, October 7, 2011

An Adventure You Won't Believe: Episode Two
The alligator lizard woke us right up and there was little chance of either one of us dozing off again. We checked the temperature and it was 91 degrees. So much for it being 81 with some cloud cover! The chances of any deer moving was slim at best. Both of us being former ruggers (rugby players), we opted to pass the time with some good old boy stories. Let me tell you, we had some funny ones to share and they were hilarious. We literally laughed the time away. 

The shadows and hillsides were vacant of any wildlife. The only things moving were turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks. The vultures must have been anticipating us killing something because they kept coming right over us and circling. Sorry to disappoint you guys!

Seeing nothing, we devised our plan for the evening watch. We decided on two spots on a nearby hillside, about 50 yards away from one another. Michael would watch the upper side and ridge crest while I scanned the bottom of the valley and distant hillside. We knew once it was dark that we would have some hiking to do to get out. That's when we came up with the plan that would test our meddle.

The hillside we were going to be sitting watch on had a slope downward into a valley that led right out to the road. It would cut off a mile of walking and it wasn't as steep as the side we came in on. We must have talked about this two or three times and decided it was a great plan. We then waited for 5:00 PM and went on watch.

We each got to our respective spots and started glassing. The grass where I was standing was much taller than where Michael was, but I didn't think about it much. This would later come to nearly bite me in the arse. So we sat and glassed and scanned and glassed. Nothing. The sunset was beautiful, so I decided to take a few photos and text them back to my wife. 


What a beautiful sunset with Los Angeles on the left and the mountains on the right.

I sent them, told her I loved her and put the phone away. That's when the evening took a turn and the adrenaline started to seep into my bloodstream. I immediately noticed a black spot on the adjoining ridge that hadn't been there five minutes before. It was right in the spot where the two other hunters had posted up that morning. I slowly raised my binoculars and saw my first Southern California black bear in the wild. He was sniffing the spot where the hunters had sat and was taking his time. 300 yards away isn't very far when sitting on a barren hillside. My heart was racing! The bear was absolutely beautiful. He was very large and had a full coat of brownish-black fur that almost glowed in the sun. This bear was not starving either! I am no expert, but I would estimate him in the 250 lb. range. Hell, I am 205 and I assumed this bear would dwarf me.

The crappy photo from my phone does not do the bear any justice.
I stood up to give Michael some hand signals to tell him what I was seeing. We had discussed deer signals, but not bear, so he had no clue what I was trying to say. He probably thought I was doing the Thriller dance. We only had about 10 minutes of shooting light left, so I just hollered up to him, 'BEAR!' At first, I wasn't sure he believed me. So I said it again, 'BEAR!' That's when Michael grabbed his gear and started down the hill. As he made his way down towards me, I turned to glass up the bear again. I watched him slip over the far ridge into the thick vegetation.

When Michael reached my vantage point I shared my story. He couldn't believe it and we both decided we should start heading out while we had a little bit of light left. We stuck to our plan of heading down into the valley and out to the road. I was a bit on edge because if you follow my blog at all you know that I like to pack lunches that consist of peanut butter and bacon with a dab of honey. Gee, you think a bear might like to snack on one? Even though I had eaten my sandwiches, I still had the baggies in my pack. Empty, smelly bags of sweet, delicious peanut-buttery, bacon-laden goodness. Crap!

Down the hill we went, side-stepping along the way to avoid slipping. The grass was void of any water, which made it slick and tough to keep your footing. The earth suddenly turned to rock and sand in spots, which made it even more treacherous. We still felt good, but the vegetation was starting to grow taller as we walked downhill. Not a good sign!

I then stepped over an embankment to what could have been my downfall. Five feet away was a Southern Pacific rattlesnake moving away from me in the grass. I immediately shouted to Michael, who was only feet behind me to stop as there was a rattlesnake right in front of me. Now, to give you an idea of what I saw, here is a photo of a Southern Pacific rattler


Southern Pacific Rattlesnake - © Ross Padilla (used with permission)

See those rings that go up the body, dark to light to dark before they turn to the diamond-like pattern? Yeah, that's all that I saw. All one and a half feet of them. What does that say to me? It says that the snake I was watching slither away was probably a four foot, muscle laden fire hose with fangs.

This was about the time that I was very thankful I was a former Boy Scout and on each hunt I come prepared. People poke fun and joke about the gear I carry, but it doesn't bother me. I know that each item in my pack is there for a specific reason. My 150 Lumen headlamp and powerful flashlight are two items I won't leave home without when hunting. Using the headlamp to see well ahead (in case glimmering eyes should appear) and the flashlight to light up the immediate trail my confidence in seeing something before I stepped on it made me feel better. Sure, it was only slightly better, but it was something!

With the adrenaline traveling at Mach 1 through my veins, I scanned the land ahead of us. One way was a sheer drop off to no-man's land and the other was through a cactus patch. Seriously, I thought? You bet. A cactus patch fifty feet wide and ten foot deep. I was wearing the snake boots, so I went first stepping on the cactus, kicking it out of the way and making a path for us to get through. Every step was filled with thoughts of rattlesnakes or falling down and turning into a pin cushion.

Now, you might wonder whose bright idea it was to trek this route. While we both discussed it and came up with the plan, I humbly admit that I think I was the planner who conjured up this exit strategy in the first place. Brilliant, Al, just brilliant!

We made it through the cactus patch to the floor of the valley. Whew! We felt we were nearing the end of our hike, but little did we know this was where we would be tested physically, mentally and emotionally.

A few more steps brought us to thick brush with trails going through it. We chose a trail and began descending deeper into it only to be met by poison oak in small batches. We both knew this was a bad sign because we were both sweating a great deal from the hike, but also because the canopy of trees around us held in the humidity. The second part of the equation here is the most important - Michael is highly allergic to poison oak. He's so allergic that if he looks at it funny he gets it. Every move we made now had to be carefully calculated.

We discussed how we wanted to attack and decided to stick to the trail avoiding the poison oak and to get around it. We were only about 100 yards from the main trail leading us out, but we needed to hurdle the issues we were facing. The issues being the trail we were on was heading right for the ridge the bear was on and the trees around us were all fig trees. Bears LOVE figs! Then we had to be on our guard for rattlesnakes, loose rocks, poison oak and mountain lions.

We searched with our headlamps and flashlights and found a well used trail near the base of the dried up creek bed. It was on the far side, so we'd have to cross it, but it was away from the poison oak. We ducked under branches, over some rocks and into a very small clearing where I found a rattlesnake skeleton. Just great, I thought. What else was in store for us? We were sure to grab a drink of water each time we stopped to avoid dehydration. Our water levels were getting low, but with our careful planning we should have enough to make it out.

The brush got thicker and the trail led us to a steep drop into the creek bed. We looked down it and there was poison oak on one side, a huge boulder on the other and a trail leading out. Little did we know that this was to be the most intense, yet very simple deciding factor in our trek. We had to lower ourselves into the creek bed, about a five foot drop, in order to start down the trail again. Michael dropped his pack, slid down and I handed him his pack. I handed him my pack and I though he was going to lose an arm. 'Damn your pack is heavy!' I had to laugh because it hadn't phased me much on my back, but handing it over made me realize how much weight I truly carried.

With our packs secured to our backs, Michael took the lead. He climbed to the side of the boulder, only to realize there was poison oak all around it. He had to find handholds along it to be sure not to touch any of the leaves or branches. I followed the same way. What loomed in front of us not only shot streams of adrenaline through our bodies, but also had us very concerned. There were 6'-7' tall bushes of poison oak, full of leaves all around us. We hadn't seen them from the trail we came in on because the boulder had covered our view. There was no possible way we could go forward, so we had no other choice but to backtrack.

Keeping a level head was the key factor in getting us out safely. While we both had concerns, we stopped, drank some water and offered up ideas and possible options. Michael came up with the best calculated idea. As he was the guy who knew his poison oak like I know chocolate chip cookies, he lead the way up the hill. We decided the ONLY way around the oak was to head for high ground, away from the creek bed and to find a well-used animal trail to get us out. We didn't even hesitate. We found a way, hit the trail and hiked up the steep hillside. It didn't even feel steep at this point. We just hoofed it, climbed over branches and avoided any sign of poison oak. It was a glorious feeling climbing up and away from the poison oak.

We did have to trudge through another cactus patch, but we agreed that we'd take cactus spines over seeping blisters of itchy agony any day. We made it through the cactus and stopped in another clearing to get our bearings. The main trail could be seen from our elevated vantage point! It was then that I looked down and thanked God that I wasn't arachnophobic. Walking by my boot was a very large tarantula. It was the only one I have ever encountered outside of a pet store. Now I don't mind spiders, so long as they are not crawling on my skin. Seeing it on the ground was so cool! I loved it! We had seen just about every kind of animal, minus a lion. This was where Michael told me to bite my tongue as we really didn't want to see one. Right on!

Over the rise we hiked, into a clearing and a then quick break before heading through the very last cactus patch. Michael found a dog collar laying there in the clearing which brought an ominous, uneasy feeling. Someone's dog had probably died out there. Not wanting to touch it (the leather will hold poison oak oil all too well) we crossed over it and down the hill. Freedom at last!

When our feet touched the main trail we were ecstatic! We still had a mile to hike out, but it was away from any poison oak and cactus. We could see well ahead with our headlamps should we have encountered a lion, bear or rattlesnake. As luck would have it, the only thing we encountered was a cool breeze.

Our 'short-cut' took us one hour and fifteen minutes. Our water ran out right when we got to my vehicle. Talk about good planning! Make fun of the weight of my pack all you want, but I sure am glad we had plenty of H2O!
While we didn't kill any deer, we still had quite an adventure! Who would have guessed that it would turn out like it did. It was one of the craziest, but invigorating, adrenaline fueled hunts I have ever been on. I can now say we know much of the area that we didn't before and I have seen living creatures big, small, venomous, and carnivorous! Along the way we picked up a few Mylar balloons and spotted 3 more in other areas. We did our part to pick up the ones we did find and throw them away int he trash.

When I got home and took off my snake-proof boots, I realized that snake-proof does not mean cactus proof. Sticking out of my big toe was a very large cactus spine that I hadn't felt at all during our hike. I sure felt it now when I had to pluck it from my skin. Next time I'll be more careful.

In the future, we will stick to our original plan. Hike out the way we came in! Oh, and if a big  deer, or bear, is heading toward this spot, well, I may just pass up the shot so I don't have to haul an animal out of that valley... ever! Then again, adventure may taunt us with her soft, sweet voice and we may again find us in her grip. Adventure awaits and who am I to keep her waiting!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Adventure You Won't Believe: Episode One
The day has come and gone, but October 1, 2011 will be a day I will never forget. I am willing to bet that my hunting partner, Michael Giudici, won't let slip from his mind too easily either.

Michael and I have been planning on hunting together since late last year. Michael and I met through a mutual friend, Jeff Abell. Michael is very much a firearm guy and he is passionate about it. He is as passionate about firearms as I am about archery. Yes, we have an incurable sickness! He decided last year that he wanted to give archery a try and Jeff mentioned he should contact me. So, for the past 9-10 months, Michael and I have been getting together and target practicing, trying out new gear, scouting a new area for hogs (we found lots of ticks, no hogs) and shooting more arrows into the burlap. Over all of this time, we realized we have a lot in common and hunting together was going to be great!

We were stoked when we finally settled on Oct. 1 for our first deer outing. Both of us have been super busy, but this was going to be the kick-off to our archery season. The maps were printed, details exchanged and our hunt was locked in. We had four dates planned, this being the first, and we we ready to rock!

My pack inventory was a wee bit heavier compared to the usual for a day hunt. My pack weighed in at 48.5 pounds. Yes, you read that right forty-eight and one half pounds. There is good reason why though. First, my pack weighs 6 lbs to start. Then you add in a gallon and a half of water, a camera, food and your bow and it adds up. Why so much water? The weatherman said it would be 81 degrees. I didn't believe that for a second and neither did Michael. We wanted to be sure we had plenty of water, so we packed plenty.

Michael met me at my place at 4 am, we loaded the car and hit the freeway. We had left in plenty of time, or so we thought. About fifteen miles into the drive on the freeway we come to a complete standstill. We both thought, 'Crap, this isn't the way to start the day!' Twenty minutes go by and we finally start moving. All four lanes are now merging into one. The reason for the standstill was a big rig flipped covering all three left lanes. The crazy thing was that if we had left five minutes earlier we would have avoided it all because the rig was only a few hundred yards ahead of us. This was just the start of a day full of surprises!

The public land trailhead looked like a golden gate beckoning to us. As we geared up, two hunters pulled into the parking area and introduced themselves and asked our plans. We didn't want to run into them, nor they us and we didn't want to ruin any plans. The good news was we were going in opposite directions.

The hike to the base of the foothill is 2 miles in. Then there's the hike up the steep face of a sandy, grassy hillside. If you ever want a challenge, try this. Pack in 48 lbs. on your back and then try to get up a sandy hillside in the dark. There was no easy way about it, but then again, we weren't there for 'easy'. We were there for a challenge and this was adding to the fun! 


I am extremely thankful that I have been able to hit the gym so much this year. By working hard in the gym my leg muscles felt great during this hike. I also didn't sweat like I have in the past. I have lost nearly 48 lbs. so my body felt good! My lungs were strong, my legs were strong and I was loving life!

We side-hilled it up and were amazed at the sheer number of well-worn deer trails. Around 60 yards ahead of us, on the crest of the bowl we were hunting, I see a doe jump from her bed. We try to stalk silently, but the grass was super dry. When we reached the top, we saw the doe about 100 yards ahead of us going into the thickest brush. She was heading away from us, so we decided to find a spot in the shade to start glassing.

We quickly decided on the perfect vantage point, settled in and started scanning for deer. Twenty minutes in I noticed an odd shaped log about a mile out. Then the sun hit it just right and the log raised her head to feed. Deer! We watched this doe for about thirty seconds before I notice a bigger deer behind her. It looked like it had antlers, but I couldn't quite tell. The spotting scope came out and we surmised that he indeed was a buck. Then Michael spotted the third deer and we noticed he was a small spike horn. The doe and the larger buck were legal and fair-game. We can't take a spike in California (just ask Uncle Ted). The wind was not in our favor for a stalk and the deer were a mile away. Would the wind change direction in time for us to put a stalk on? We were afraid that if we made it down there, the wind direction would give us away. So, we decided to watch them bed down and then make a plan. Come to find out, they disappeared down a valley and three you kids with a dog walked down the road right by them. Our guess was those deer took off and were going to be spooked for a while.

All I can say is that ThermaCell rocks! Once the sun came up, the black flies were everywhere. I loaded up the ThermaCell and in seconds the flies dissipated. Ahhh, relief at last!

Some time later, around 8 am or so, two does appeared about 150 yards to our left. They were going straight downhill, away from us, but it was great to see deer moving closer to us. The great thing was they never caught our wind, or didn't appear to. They just walked down the hill and over the ridge. We figured them to be heading for the west side of that ravine for the shade. The sun was rising higher and it was getting even warmer.

We scanned and scanned, joked about the sun, discussed how awesome it was to be sitting where we were and just enjoyed the hunt. It was awesome to be outside enjoying the beauty of nature.

As we continued to view the drainages and hillsides, Michael locked on to three does feeding in the shade. Again, they were around a half mile away, and downwind. Not good for a stalk. The thing we couldn't quite figure out was what they were eating. There are plenty of scrub oaks full of acorns, so that was a possibility. We watched these deer for a half hour feeding away.

By now the sun was getting pretty high, we hadn't seen much movement and we were getting restless. That and the fact that it was hot! We wanted to check out the ridge where the first doe had vanished into and we made a plan to cover both side of the thick stuff, wander through it and look for sign. The sign was EVERYWHERE! Trails, beds, droppings, rubs on trees, you name it. Michael also found a great shed antler that had some incredible mass for a SoCal buck. Awesome! I mentioned that it would be cool if we found the second shed for a matching pair. We both chuckled at the idea and low-and-behold I found it! The other side was nice, too! It felt good to see a matching pair of sheds like that in our spot.

By this time, it was hotter than blazes and we needed shade. We made a plan, then changed it, and then changed it again. We wanted shade, but the best was a half mile down the steep side of the hill. If we wanted to hunt at the top of the bowl in the evening we'd need to find shade up here. Michael located a large bush with a canopy of branches that made for a perfecting resting spot. This would serve as our base camp for the next 6 hours. This was where we got a bit goofy and started acting like 4 year olds with the shed antlers. You decide who wore them better!


A couple of dorky hunters with nothing better to do. Thank goodness this is an archery only area!

Shortly thereafter, around 10 am, the two does came back towards us. The first one was a great sized doe, but the second was a yearling. It would make great table fare for sure. We anticipated them walking up a certain trail, but they fooled us and took one 50 yards from it. They disappeared over a lip and Michael went to check to see if they bedded down. He didn't see a thing.

We decided that nothing was moving and that after a quick bite to eat we would grab some Zzz's. We had already drank 2 liters of water each and it was only 11am. Good thing we brought plenty! For about 45 minutes we slept in the shade peacefully. I sat up and started glassing. I look over at Michael to see if he's awake when I see it... a slender bodied, tongue flickering reptile about a foot from Michaels head. Quickly, but calmly, I tell Michael to not move. He moves, sits up and asks why. Then he sees it and well, let's just say he wasn't too pleased with me telling him to not move.


Fortunately for us, especially Michael, it was only an alligator lizard. They do have a nasty bite, but they are pretty harmless. This one had balls, too. I took an arrow out, nudged him with the nock and he just lowered his head and flicked his tongue. Then he looked at me and just sat there. WTF! I had to poke him a few times to get him to move off and even then he stayed on the other side of the bush.

It was actually pretty cool to see some other wildlife, but little did we know what was in store for us during the evening watch.


Stay tuned for Episode Two!