Our spring season began with a bang, literally. We started in northern California, where my dad and I hunted with good friend, Parrey Cremeans. We were after turkey and hogs, and had a great time. We saw loads of birds and pigs, and both Dad and I took some nice animals. The most fun was putting stalks on multiple groups of hogs. We both ended up getting nice boars. It was great being in the field with Dad, again, and I never tire of hunting with Cremeans (www.justforhunting.com), he knows his stuff!
The following two weeks were spent in our home state of Oregon, where the entire family got after the turkeys. The highlight of the turkey season was seeing Braxton, my nine year old son, connect on a 10” tom. He arrowed his first turkey back east, at the age of six, but this was his first gun hunt for turkeys. Braxton and I called in his tom from nearly a mile away, and we got it all on film, right up to Braxton connecting with one shot. My Dad, Jerry, also took a nice tom, as did my wife, Tiffany, and myself. It was great getting the family out there, camping, enjoying the outdoors and experiencing what spring turkey hunting is all about.
The first part of May found us in Idaho, hunting bears with Boulder Creek Outfitters (www.bouldercreekoutfitters.com). I never tire of hunting with these guys, in one of my favorite places on the planet. Spring on the Joseph Plains is something I wish every hunter could see. The weather turned nasty the day we arrived. The temperature dropped nearly 40º and more than six inches of snow fell over two days. Bear movement slowed, but both my camera man, Travis Ralls, and myself, were able to take a couple good bears. I’d love to get back to this place in the fall, where seeing upwards of a dozen bears a day is not unheard of.
Most of May was spent with the family in Hawaii, where we filmed three TV shows for Trijicon’s Game Chasers. For the first time I hunted with noted outfitter, Pat Fisher (www.hawaiisafaris.com). He was great to hunt with, and knows the animals and the land extremely well. Though I took a whopper 32” ram and a nice goat, the highlight was going after free range axis deer on Molokai. This was the most impressive deer hunt of my life. Seeing over 400 deer in an evening was common, with some big bucks being spotted. The better shape you’re in, the better chance you have of tagging a monster buck on this trip. I can’t wait to get back for this hunt, I could hunt axis deer every year! I also caught a beautiful blue marlin, which we released.
We rounded out the spring season in New Zealand. This time we were on the South Island, going after tahr and chamois in the high pinnacles of the Southern Alps. The tahr hunts rival that of chasing mountain goats in North America. On this hunt, we climbed 4,500 vertical feet in one day. Both myself, and Andrew Chilkiewicz, from Trijicon, connect on dandy bulls. The pelts of these animals are a sight to behold, looking like a grizzly bear with horns! The chamois hunt was also a demanding hunt, more for the dangerous terrain the animals live in rather than the elevations we climbed to. My ace camera man, Travis Ralls, also took a nice red stag. Pulling off a successful hunts on these animals was very rewarding, and my body is in dire need of much rest before we start our fall filming season.
Because we got ahead in the filming of our Game Chaser’s TV show, our fall schedule was light. It’s been nice, as I’ve been able to stay closer to home, spend time with the family and work on book projects. But we have found time to hunt.
In late August I traveled to west-central Alaska, where I hunted and fished with the great folks at Stoney River Lodge (www.stoneyriverlodge.com). It’s here that friend and colleague, Tom Munson, from Trijicon, and I got two black bears. It was a spike camp, and on the second day of the hunt, both Tom and I spot-and-stalked our way to the bears high in the hills. The next five days were spent flying to the region’s rivers, searching for big pike, silver salmon and the tarpon of the North, the prized sheefish! We caught numerous sheefish in the 20-pound class, and some giant pike, on one of the most memorable trips of my life to Alaska. This is the REAL Alaska!
In late September we grabbed the bow and headed back to South Dakota, to chase antelope with good friend and outfitter, Reese Clarkson (www.millironoutfitters.com). On day two of the hunt, we stalked to within 25 yards of a good buck and used the decoy to get his attention. The 3-bladed rage made an impressive wound, and the buck ran only a short distance. We saw numerous big mule deer, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a tag this year. I’ll be back…next year!
A few days later we were back in Alaska, this time along the coast. It was here we were chasing brown bears south of King Salmon, with Bruce Halllingstad of Becharof Outfitters (www.becharofoutfitters.com). On day four of the hunt, we stalked to 128 yards of a nice bear. It was tough getting a shot through the long grass, but when the brute stood on his hind legs, I let him have it with the .375 H&H Magnum.
As he ran off, I hit him again, then nailed him a third time. All three shots hit the mark, but the last one broke him down for good. It was an intense hunt and we were fortunate to get a top-notch TV show from it.
After that we hunted red fox, ducks and geese…then the storm hit. Winds up to 90 mph kept us in camp for the next six days. On the day we did get out, another storm kicked-up, right when we were crossing the bay in our 16-foot skiff. With the boat nearly half-full of water, I bailed like mad to keep us afloat while Bruce expertly handled the craft, getting us into calmer waters. What should have only been a 20 minute boat ride lasted nearly and hour. It was a close call, but we made it. Gotta love Alaska!
Our blacktail season was exciting, and we captured 5 hunts on film for the TV show. The highlight, having my nine year old son, Braxton, take his first blacktail deer. Thanks to the Youth Mentored Hunting Program that Oregon has in place, he was able to hunt under my tag. That’s right, I gave up my blacktail tag, and for the first time in many years, I didn’t pull the trigger on a blacktail. Still, it was the best season hunt of my life.
Braxton hunted hard, for five days, on public land, and only saw a few does. Then, on the final day of the hunt, with only minutes left, we stalked to within 40 yards of two bucks fighting. Braxton dropped the bigger of the two, a young 3-point, with a perfectly placed shot.
The week prior, Braxton connected on a 236 yard shot, across an open hillside, on a blacktail doe. That tag was given to him by Zach Waterman of Nosler, Inc. Braxton shot both of his blacktails with a Nosler Custom .260 rifle, and their 125 grain partition bullets. We use that gun/ammo combination on a few more hunts, too.
My wife, Tiffany, made a great shot on a pretty blacktail, following a long stalk through rolling oak hills. The bucks were acting very rutty during the middle part of October, which made for great action. A few days later, Travis Ralls, my camera man, nailed his first Columbia blacktail, a tall, heavy 3×3. Yours truly, filmed the hunt, and though it wasn’t the best of footage, we got what we needed to make it a part of the TV show. Travis is having that buck mounted.
Finally, Dawson Batsch, son of one of my former high school buddies, dropped his first blacktail, on film for the show. It was a great blacktail season, and we’re already making plans for next year.
We rounded out 2009 by taking several fall turkeys. Tiffany, my dad, and myself, all filled each of our two tags. We had plenty of turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year!