The 2008 hunting season got off to a great start. Rather than wait for spring bears and turkeys out West, we packed up the TV cameras and headed to New Zealand, where early March found the red stags roaring. We hunted with Gerald Fluerty of Wildside Hunting Safariswww.wildsidehunting.com, and had an incredible experience.
Wildside’s land is made for the spot-and-stalk hunter, and given the quality and number of animals around, there was no shortage of excitement. On the second day of the hunt, a shot opportunity finally presented itself as a big red stag came up the same trail Gerald and I were walking down. Quickly we dove into the brush, and moments later the 24-point stag took an arrow at 16 yards.
From there, we moved to the lowlands, where our focus shifted to one of the South Pacific’s most prized deer, the sika (see-kuh). After a day and a half, a long shot with the Thompson Center dropped the deer in his tracks. He’s one of the most striking deer I’ve hunted in the world, and made for great eating.
Another spotted buck would fall to the rifle, this time a fallow deer at 165 yards. I’d blown a chance at a monster buck earlier in the day, but connected in the final minutes of the hunt. His spotted coat and palmated rack were a beautiful sight to walk up on. I also connected on a curl-and-a-half Arapawa ram at 260 yards, one of the bonus animals hunters can find in New Zealand.
Two more red stags would be taken on this trip, including a 20-point monster. We followed this roaring stag for two hours, and finally caught up with him in a brushy ravine. There was only one opening in the bush, and he walked into it, giving a shot opportunity at 100 yards.
A final stag would be taken with the BowTech General, on the last day of the hunt. A long stalk found us within 36 yards of the drop-tine stag, and the Rocky Mountain Titanium 100 at the end of a Gold Tip Ultralight Pro 400 arrow did the rest.
Beginning in 2008, all of our hunts were filmed for Trijicon’s Game Chasers, which will begin airing in 2009, on the Outdoor Channel. As host of this new and exciting show, I’m thrilled to be able to share hunts from around the world, and from my favorite locale, the American West.
In May, I was fortunate to head back to South Africa, where we once again shot a series of TV shows with Tam Safaris www.tamsafaris.com. Since I was a boy, the number one animal in the world I always wanted to hunt was a male lion. On this trip, my dream became reality. The hunt couldn’t have been more exciting, where, on the third day, I connected on a beautiful animal. Despite having the lion within 15 yards at one point, we could not get a shot through heavy brush. The lion bolted, and the stalk was on. A few hours later we got in front of him, and had him walk right toward us. After watching the cat work our way from over 200 yards, the shot finally came at 60 yards. The big cat measured 10’1” from nose to tail-tip, and weighed 500 pounds. This hunt can be seen on Outdoor America.
After the lion hunt, another of the greatest hunts of my entire life unfolded, as we snuck to within 30 yards of a monstrous white rhino, and darted him. These “green hunts” have played a large part in the survival success of the white rhino, as much needed dollars go directly in to conservation efforts. As soon as the bull, which weighed 2.5 tons, buckled, wildlife personnel were fast at work, collecting blood and tissue samples. This hunt, and the others that follow, can all be seen on Wild Encounters.
While hunting with brothers Peter and Stephen Tam, I also took the springbuck slam. These are exciting animals to hunt, and we did all four species by way of spot and stalk. I also took a handsome gemsbuck, along with an African lynx, or caracal, a cat I’ve always wanted to hunt. We also took a huge lioness, on a management hunt. This was my seventh Africa safari, and we’re making plans to return, soon. This time, I look forward to taking the family along, so our sons can see just how special that part of the world truly is.
My final hunt of the spring found myself and buddy, Mike Jenkins, on a do-it-yourself black bear hunt on the island of big bears, Prince of Wales, in Alaska. We saw several bears, and took a couple of well-furred beauties. On Mike’s hunt, we used a Jones Calls Mini Mouth, and called it right in. After several minutes of irate chomping, jaw-popping and tearing up stumps, the bear finally came out of the woods. Mike made a perfect shot at 75 yards as the bear was coming at us.
After a long stalk, I snuck to within 30 yards of my bear as it fed on grass along the beach, then threaded a bolt through both lungs. The bear went 12 yards and tipped over. It was the first bear I’d ever taken with a crossbow, and I was amazed at the effectiveness of this hunting device. I love trying new things, and the hunt with a crossbow was a blast! We stayed at Thorne Bay Lodge www.thornebaylodge.com, who specializes in catering to the do-it-yourself hunter. They provide a vehicle and skiff, too, and offer excellent fishing around the island. This exciting hunt will air on Outdoor America.
The fall hunting season got off to a great start, and one of the highlights was hunting in northern British Columbia with Tuchodi River Outfitters (www.tuchodiriveroutfitters.com). It was here I took one of my lifelong dream animals, a gorgeous mountain goat. From start to finish, it was the toughest hunt of my life, but well worth it when that 10” billy was down. On the same trip we ended up with a nice Canadian moose and experienced the most incredible elk hunting of my life. Every calling setup found multiple bulls coming to the call, and hours of endless bugling in the canyons all around us. I ended up arrowing a nice bull at 30 yards, which was one of three bulls that came into that setup. I’ve never been around so many bugling bulls in my life.
After Canada we traveled to Idaho, where once again we hunted with Boulder Creek Outfitters (www.bouldercreekoutfitters.com). Heavy winds, driving snow and plummeting temperatures impacted the elk behavior, but we still were able to fill a tag. After passing up six mature bulls, and calling in a 6-point from over a half-mile away which we passed up at eight yards, we finally took a good bull in the bottom of a rugged canyon. The pack out lasted longer than the hunt, but it was well worth it. Two days after that, I experienced one of the most exciting mule deer hunts of my life. After nearly five hours of stalking we finally closed the deal on a beautiful, heavy-racked 4×4. Unfortunately he fell over 300 yards off a rocky cliff, which added another six hours to the pack out, but again, it was worth it.
After Idaho we traveled to California, where I hunted my favorite animal of all, the Columbia blacktail deer. We were near Redding, CA, with friend and outfitter Parrey Cremeans (www.justforhunting.com). The conditions were tough, high winds in the morning and temperatures over 90º in the day. Interestingly, the bucks were acting very rutty, which helped us close the deal. Parrey had seen a nice buck in the area, so we concentrated on that one animal, which added to the excitement of the hunt. We saw the buck right at dark on the first evening, but couldn’t close the deal. Then, on the third morning of the hunt, we found him again. He dropped on the spot and could be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, blacktail ever taken on film. He scored a whopping 152 5/8”. This great buck will adorn the cover of my new book, Trophy Blacktails: The Science of The Hunt.
The 2008 season ended as strong as it began. Late October found myself and International Marketing Director of SportHill clothing, JP Berg, traveling to Wyoming to hunt with good friend and outfitter, Jon Ball (www.jonsoutdoors.com). Here, JP took his first antelope on a great hunting experience. I took a dandy, wide, heavy-horned buck on the same day. I can’t wait to go back and hunt deer with Jon, as we were seeing between 400-600 deer each day! I’ve never seen anything like it.
After that, Travis Ralls, my camera man, and I, moved to Cody, Wyoming, where we were in pursuit of elk. I held a commissioner’s tag for Unit 58, one of the best elk units in the country. But the weather was terrible: warm, windy and no snow. Each day was spent hunting on horseback from daylight to dark. Justin Jarret, owner of Wapiti Ridge Outfitters (www.wapitiridgeoutfitters.com), worked his tail off. This guy is a hard-core sheep hunter, and likes pursuing trophy class bull elk. The conditions were about as bad as they could get, and though we didn’t get the 400” bull we had our sights set on, we did manage to get a solid, mid-300” bull.
Heading north, we hunted central Montana with Harold Gilchrest of Landers Fork Outfitters, for late season mule deer. Montana is one of the few places where a general season rifle hunt takes place during the rut. The action can be nonstop, all day long. I ended up with a dandy, high, deep-forked buck. Mel Morris, from CA, also took a dandy buck on film for the TV show. He was pumped, to say the least!
The final hunt of the year found me in pursuit of my favorite big game animal, the Columbia blacktail deer. Once again I was with Steve Lee, out of Shady Cove, the same place where I arrowed a big buck last year. Steve has an incredible piece or property that adjoins a huge piece of public land, so there’s no shortage of real estate to hunt. The rut was on, bucks were moving, and I was able to stalk to within range of a nice 4-point. We saw three bucks that were bigger, but could not get a shot. It was the perfect hunt on which to end the season.
Watch for all of our 2008 hunts on Tijicon’s Game Chasers, on the Outdoor Channel. Some of the hunts will air in 2009, with the rest schedule to air in 2010. It’s been a long and exciting season…time to get caught up on some rest, and writing!