The two-hour drive to the San Bernardino National Forest was peaceful. I found my desired spot, parked, and had a full hour before sunrise. It was time for a nap. I slept on-and-off for about 30 minutes and decided it was time to get dressed. I knew there was bad weather coming in, but I hadn't anticipated the higher than normal wind speeds. Even so, I was there to hunt and was going to be on that hillside by sunrise.
The sunrise was anticlimactic as the cloud cover drowned any chance of seeing a bright, glowing orb in the sky. I settled in, locked in my MINOX BL 10x44 binoculars on my tripod and began glassing. I had quite the view from my vantage point. 700 yards in two directions and 450 in the other. For two hours I glassed and saw nothing, but I was incredibly happy. I had no one around me, no worries, and clean air to breathe.
At 9:25 AM I caught movement at 425 yards. Two deer had just burst from a row of pines. Binoculars up and I could see they were two doe and they were breathing heavy. I have to say, the 10x44 MINOX binos on a tripod are incredible. I was not only able to verify that neither was a shooter buck, but I could see their mouths open, breathing heavy, and looking behind them. They weren't on alert, so I figured a rutting buck was chasing them. He was smart though, as he stayed in the thick cover. I watched them amble along, slowly feeding, before they disappeared into a ravine.
Weekend off-roaders began to appear on the road. They spotted me up high and many waved as they sped up as not to disturb me. Then came the two yahoos in a white jeep. Not only did they slow down when they saw my truck, but they drove off road and directly into my shooting lane. Boy, do I have bad luck with inconsiderate people while hunting. Last year it's a guy walking right up to me and this year it's Tweedledee and Tweedledum. They park and decide it's time for coffee and breakfast. It must have been a good breakfast as they sat for an hour, not 100 yards from where the deer first appeared. I nearly packed up out of frustration, but I wasn't going to let them win. Instead, I waited until they started driving out before I stood up and made sure they spotted me glassing them. They moved on and I never saw them again. Public land hunting at it's best!
I glassed for three more hours. The wind got worse and the clouds rolled in lower, and lower, and lower. As I scanned the brush-filled landscape, I spotted a shape that was out of place. With the binos up I easily found the shape of a well-fed deer. Once it moved, I verified it was a doe and she had company. Two fawns were right on her heals. I watched them for a half hour as they fed on the vegetation, and then the young ones wanted some milk. There is something awesome about watching a mother in the wild and how it cares for her young. She let them drink for about 30 seconds and decided that was enough. They fed some more and when the wins picked up, they nested under a thick row of bushes and bedded down. It was a beautiful sight. It was also my cue to get out of the forest. You can tell a lot by watching animals and their actions. I knew the weather would be on me quick.
I drove out of the forest and the rain hit hard, as did the clouds. Driving down the mountain was slow going, but nice. I contemplated going to another area to hunt, but I knew traffic was going to be nutty, so I decided I had had enough for the day. Sure enough, traffic was brutal coming back (Californian freak out at a raindrop on the freeway). I was patient and couldn't wait to see my girls and spend a fun evening with them. Being tired wasn't going to win this day.
Public land hunting in California is tough, cutthroat, and can wear you down. I simply don't go in with high expectations and with an open mind. I want to hunt, but I don't always have to kill something. I love being out there, on the side of a mountain (or hillside) and scanning the vast area for wild game. Filling my freezer is great, too. It's all a matter of perspective.