Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Successfully Scouting the SoCal Backcountry

Did you hear the one about hunting in Southern California and how easy it is? Yeah, I didn't think so. Knowing the draw results were days away, my buddy Ramon and I were finally able to get out and do some scouting. It was a spot I knew well and we had lofty goals of getting back as far as we dared go on our bikes. That all sounds great when you talk about it, but when you actually do it and your bike won't cooperate, well it makes for a challenging day. I am thankful for my Rocky boots, Vortex optics, ibuprofen and plenty of water!

Right away we saw deer. In fact, as we drove to the trailhead, a healthy doe trotted across the road in front of us in no particular hurry. It got us both excited! After assembling the bikes and gearing up, we hit the trail. The first two miles are uphill, which actually worked out in our favor. I wanted to go in quiet and slow because I knew where I had seen deer before and where the best spots were to glass. Slowly and methodically we walked our bikes up the hill, all the while looking for deer. 

As we crested one of the curves in the road, I mentioned to Ramon that we should drop our bikes and glass the other side. In a few seconds I locked onto a fawn with a doe. I pointed them out and immediately said that if there were fawns there were bucks around. Excellent! We didn't glass this side very long and moved on another few hundred feet. I saw movement right away and spotted our first buck! He was bedded with a doe and they were facing us. He was up and heading for the ridge long before the doe got up. She stretched and followed him over. He was a nice forkie with a short, but wide rack in beautiful velvet. Our day was off to a great start!

About a mile up the road, I peeked over a burm to find the youngest, most spotted mule deer fawn I have ever seen. Oblivious to her surroundings, I motioned for Ramon to slowly inch toward the edge to view her. I knew a doe was close by, but she was invisible. A few minutes of watching the fawn and she decided she was off to play and follow her momma. We eagerly hopped on the bikes to get around the ridge to see if we could spot them. Ramon found the fawn quickly in the shade of some scrub brush looking right at us. She was so little! I saw the doe moving away slowly and eating along the way. A few more minutes of watching them disappear and we saw the fawn dashing up a trail with the doe close behind. We had already seen seven deer and it wasn't even 7 O'clock yet!

The next few hours were riding, hiking, glassing, and repeat. Unfortunately, my bike would not downshift on the high side, so I was stuck in high three all day. My quads were on fire, but we pushed on. 

After six hours of grueling exercise, we made it to an old hunting spot 11 miles in. I checked my water bladder to be sure I had enough for the ride out. I knew it would be close, but I had two extra bottles packed. I grabbed a bite of my greenbelly meal (which was excellent) and then drank some water. I settled in for a quick snooze while Ramon roamed around looking for sign. Two curious hummingbirds decided i looked like a chunky flower as they buzzed three feet over my head over and over. So much for sleep!

We packed up at 1:00 PM and decided to head back from whence we came. The temps were going to get a bit higher, but there was a 5 mph cool breeze that felt great when it kicked in. I knew we had two miles of uphill before there was any chance of a break. While it was tough, I was grateful to be out there and working hard. When we hit the downhill area we were stoked! We started cruising and Ramon ventured ahead when I heard a "POP" followed by a hissssssssssssssssssss as my tire deflated. I hopped off and hiked down the hill, all the while looking for Ramon. It dawned on my that while we had a great plan for our wives, we didn't discuss connecting with each other if we were to get separated. I always wear a whistle, so I blasted on that twice and again twice a few minutes later. Finally, I just hollered, 'RAMON!' and about a half mile down the landscape I spotted him riding back toward me. We met up, laughed, and changed the tire (I am thankful he had a spare as I opted to leave mine home due to carrying extra gear.) Never again will I leave without my spare(s)!

The ride back down was uneventful and while painful at times, was one of the best bike rides ever. The day was full of excitement, challenges, and deer! The entire ride back we couldn't stop talking about electric bikes and how this area would be ideal for one. Let me tell you that I am doing some deep research into purchasing one for hunting. It would help immensely and make it much more enjoyable. That being said, we had a great day all around and we can't wait to get back out and do it again!

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