Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Scouting for Success in Southern California

In the early morning hours, he restlessly stirs. He suddenly sits up, glancing at the light streaming in the bedroom window and fears he has missed his alarm. He reaches for his phone and laughs when he sees that he has woken up at 2:22 AM. A full eight minutes before the alarm is set to go off. It is time to get up and go on an adventure!

That is exactly what happened to me last Sunday morning. I was awake before the alarm went off and ready to scout for deer. Fortunately, I had my gear ready to go and after a quick cup of coffee I was out the door. I met up with my Friday night archery range buddies, Brett and Brandon, and we loaded the truck and hit the road.

We made the long drive to the trailhead in the Angeles National Forest only to find it still locked. It was 5:15 AM and it was light enough to glass, but we could not continue with our original game plan. We needed a new plan and fast. Disappointment quickly dissipated as we pulled out the maps to find another location to scout. We could have hiked into this area, but we also wanted to make a few phone calls and ask some questions before proceeding. After scouring the trails near our location, Brandon pointed out a promising trail guarded by hills. It didn't take long for us to pile back in the truck and beat feet to the trailhead.

After parking at the second trailhead we discussed our situation and devised a plan. The temps were very chilly and that was motivation enough to start moving. In the short time it took us to get our packs on and talk strategy, our hands got quite cold and that was motivation enough! It was a good day to be testing the Badlands Momentum Pants, too. We hiked in a short way and decided that the sun was coming up fast enough that we needed to get set up. The deer would be moving toward shade and we wanted to catch them in the act. We glanced around the huge bowl and smiled. Just the fact that we were out there made all three of us happy. Genuinely happy.

We glassed for an hour. The beauty of the hillsides was amazing. As the sun rose, they came to life and were filled with greens, soft reds and tan. High desert for sure, but it was beautiful. I was utilizing my KOWA SV 10x50s mounted to a tripod for most of my glassing. It makes such a difference having them mounted to a tripod. At other times I had my KOWA BD 10x42s up as I scanned the distant terrain. About halfway through the first set, I glassed a far hillside which I estimated to be a mile away. (We found out later it was only half a mile.) I saw movement barreling down the face. It was a very large coyote and he was running from something. It kept glancing back over its shoulder, but nothing ever crested the top. I have no idea what was chasing it, but that song dog was hauling some tail.

Beautiful hillsides with multiple hiding spots.

If you look close, you can see Brandon sitting in front of the bush on the bottom left.

Brett set up glassing the far hillsides.
On the hour, we met up, talked about all of the deer we had not seen and hiked further in. We made our way to where I spotted the coyote and calculated the distance to under a half mile. It seemed so far away! For me, it was good and bad. It showed me I need to judge distance better, but it also meant that if we did spot deer during the season we could get to them faster than originally thought. We just had to find deer first!

This bird had a beautiful song and kept his watchful eye on us.

We hiked deeper, set up and glassed. We repeated this a few times and saw nothing but big jackrabbits. I am talking some of the biggest I have ever seen. We started to regret not bringing our bows! We could have tried to put a stalk on one for some fun.

After the sun came up it warmed up rather quickly. No, that wouldn't be a fair way to say it. It was stinking hot! The heat didn't bother us though. We were thrilled to be outside, breathing clean air, hearing no traffic and having fun. I had wanted to backtrack to glass a hillside with multiple trees because I felt the deer would be sitting in the shade and once the sun rose they would be on the move. We all agreed to that and went back, found some shade of our own and started glassing. It didn't take long for Brandon to get his eyes locked onto a doe and her fawn about halfway up the hill in front of us. Our excitement level rose about ten-fold.

The deer Brandon spotted standing in the shade of a bush.

This all happened before 10:00 AM and it was getting toasty where we were. We viewed the shadows of the hillside for another ten minutes and decided that we wanted to check out one other area, so we hit the trail and started burning boot rubber back to the truck. At this point we were all fairly hungry, too. We had our snacks and trail bars in our packs, but our lunch sounded better. 

Back at the truck we devoured our lunch, hydrated and then made way to another trailhead. This new trailhead was also gated and locked. It was unfortunate, but a blessing nonetheless. With some things happening back at home, we had to pack it in and head back. It was hot, we were tired and family duties beckoned. We took a different route home and found a slightly shorter way to get to our second spot. Another blessing as everything happens for a reason!

No matter how you looked at it, our day was a success! We had found a new area to hunt and had spotted deer. We had put our minds and muscle to the test, and we had prevailed. Our new friendships were growing stronger, we cracked jokes, told stories and stayed motivated for upcoming hunting season. This year may turn out to be one of the best yet as I see that these guys are hard workers, good hikers and I can't wait to see them kill a deer with a bow and arrow.


  1. Wonderful post, Al. Getting out there, regardless of the outcome, is all that matters. I am so desperate to spend some time in the wilderness!

  2. Thanks, Mark! We were also desperate to get out. We needed that few hours of scouting to re-energize. Now we can't wait to do it again!

  3. Awesome post and great read, like said, it isn't all about the outcome. Don't matter what happens it is all about the outing. Good luck this year, I look forward to reading more of your adventures. Shoot Straight!

    Are you going to the SCI show down in Point Loma?

  4. I will not be going to the SCI show. If you go, have fun!