by Erick Smith

Anyone Anyone can do that, your just lucky. I agree, but year after year I do it and harvest a buck. Hunting California’s central mountain region has to be the toughest deer hunting in the country. The average California deer hunter harvest one buck every ten years. That’s ridiculous, you have to posses a tremendous love of the hunt to hunt deer with those odds. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about applying those tactics, that reward me with a buck every year in California, to all of my deer hunting. Ninety percent of the success comes from just showing up. That’s getting up early in the morning, hunting all day, and staying out until dark. I mean DARK, night DARK. I laugh when I watch a hunter that’s been still hunting diligently for hours get up at thirty minutes to prime kill time so that he can walk out of the woods in the daylight. Carry a good flashlight. I’ve been turned around in the dark myself , batteries dead and my back up light to weak to tell which tree was which. GPS, today’s units are super. A hunters spend thousands of dollars on quads, 4X4 trucks, and a rifle, but don’t want to spend a few bucks on a GPS that will tell them where they are and where they want to go. Puzzling. A couple years ago my partner and I where hunting hogs on a ranch that we had never been on. We scouted an area that held water, finding hog sign. We marked a tree on the GPS and left the area. The next morning we walked to that tree in the dark, guided by our GPS and sat down. As the sun started to rise. the hogs came up the hill towards us as if the were on a string. I’ve killed deer at first light, straight up noon, and right at last light. The key is, the deer don’t turn into smoke after first light. They will go lay down in the morning, disappearing for awhile but they will get up and move around or change positions . That’s when a hunter can take advantage of them. I have watched areas for hours not seeing anything only to have a buck get up or move giving up his position. I hunt public land for deer. I compete right along side of you for those deer. I’m obsessive about luck. When preparation meets opportunity that’s luck. Two Thousand Three we watched a 24 inch 4 by 4 for four days before killing him. On day three I had an opportunity at this buck but I felt it was to dark to shoot. My partner frozen from sitting in the cold for five hours wanted to kick my butt. Five hours of glassing in the cold will ware on you. On day four the buck appeared just like every night before right at dark and I made the shot. That 24 inch public land muley looks good on the wall. Two Thousand Four we spotted a thirty inch 4 by 5 two days before season, a big toad. We hunted him the entire season. The last day of the hunt my partner sat nine and a half hours in the same spot knowing this buck was in the area. A 344 yard shot a half hour before dark collected this monster for him. Nine days of hunting, nine and half hour vigil, and a 344 yard shot what luck. This is public land with hunters everywhere around us. In fact I had four bucks killed right under me as I watched them. Surprised is watching a buck at 75 yards and it just falls over. What happened? then you hear the boom and crack of the round going by. I thought you were sleeping, one hunter told me.

Two Thousand Five, Wednesday, my day to be the shooter. My partner (Keith Williams AKA Fatboy) is spotting for me this afternoon. We set up under a pine tree where I had been glassing from for the last couple of days. At first light I watched a toad non typical bed down along with four other bucks. These bucks were on a sage brush covered hillside. The property the bucks were on is a private ranch that commands high dollars in trespass fees to hunt there. We had spoken with the land owner years earlier and capitalized on his bragging about the bucks on his property. Observing his property thru the 20-60 X 80 Swarovski spotting scope confirmed his stories. We also learned another secret from him that proved to be true in that those bucks could not read and were jumping the fence onto Govt lands. The toad non typical was bedded about 500 yards from us in the sage brush, two other 4X4s with does were bedded between the toad and us. There were also two huge 3 X 3’s that were bedding and feeding along this hillside. In fact the night before I had the cross hairs on one of the 3X3’s at 147 yards, but there is nothing like going home with a 4X4. Farther up the mountain this big 4X4 appeared with six does. Thru the scope he was impressive high, wide, and handsome. There was a small 2X2 dogging this bucks every move. Every time this buck would lay down the dink (2X2) would move in on his does pushing them closer to the fence. That would force big boy to get up run the dink off. We figured that by dark the dink would have the big boy over the fence. A chip shot of 358 laser ranged yards from us to the fence. It was a fantastic show, a big game survival chess game. It was early afternoon and Colorado weather was exceptionally warm with the sun beaming down on us, what nice day to take a nap. The next thing I remember was Fatboy hitting me and yelling “he’s in the field”, “shoot”, “shoot”, “are you going to shoot”? I sat up shoulder ed the 300 Weatherby Ultra Light Weight, shook the corn flakes out of my eyes, and thumb the safety. Looking thru the Leupold, a low hanging pine branch filled the scope. Fatboy is continuing his demands to shoot. I know the buck is there but I can’t see him coming at a dead run. Fatboy, who is to my right and in clear view, is looking at the charging buck thru the spotting scope confused as to why I’m not shooting. I shift to the left and yep there he is coming straight at us at a full run. I again shoulder the Lucretia Borgia, the buck now sees me and turns broadside at 100 yards. I put the cross hairs on the point of the shoulder and squeeze the trigger. That 300 Wby recoils violently barrel whipping up into the air. I work the bolt during the recoil and bring the cross hairs down on his shoulder squeezing the trigger. I see dirt flying behind the buck as the second shot is over his back. No need to shoot again he’s down the first and important shot hit right on the shoulder taking out the air tanks and pump station. LUCKY again, six full days of glassing these bucks, up early, out all day, and hiking out in the dark. All of the preparation prior to arriving in Colorado along with the opportunity created by our persistent pursuit paid off LUCKY again. Ninety percent of the success is in showing up. Success comes before Work only in the dictionary.



  • Weatherby 300 Ultra Light Weight rifle
  •  Leupold 4X14X30mm LR scope
  •  Swarovski SLC’s and spotting scope
  •  Bass Pro cold weather clothing
  •  Browning boots
  •  Stoney Point shooting stixs
  •  Crooked Horn bino straps and packs.
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