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B Zone Deer hunting 2023, is it the End?

It’s that time of the year when my 2023 California Deer season is over and I’m already looking at my plans for next year.

This year’s Deer and Elk seasons were a bit of a mess for me as earlier during the California Big Game drawing I had originally applied for an X3A deer tag with B Zone being my second Choice, I had also applied for the Siskiyou Cow Elk tag. Unfortunately, or fortunately however you want to look at it, I had two of my Labrador retriever females bred and both breeding’s took, so as luck would have it, I would be caring for two litters of puppies during the elk season and the deer season, should I have drawn both tags. That being said at the last minute of the last day before the June 2nd, drawing deadline I ended up calling fish and wildlife and having my deer tag application for an X3A tag changed to a preference point and B zone. I left my Elk tag choice the same with a slight chance of drawing, I really wasn’t worried. Well wouldn’t you know it, I drew a Siskiyou Cow Elk tag.

Let the stress begin! It seemed like it was an uphill battle from the day I drew a tag till the last day of the season. One of my longtime hunting buddies that I applied with, and I began scouting early. The tag was only 2 hours from where we live so why not enjoy the preparation for the hunt as much as the hunt. I think we went up 6 times scouting and putting out trail cameras and by the time season came around on September 6th we were ready, or so we thought. Apparently, everyone else who drew an elk tag decided to hunt the same area as us, it was incredibly crowded. To the point of it being dangerous, way too many high-powered elk rifles in an area of mostly flat terrain. Plus, I think everyone who drew a tag decided to bring two or three friends to help. There were 30 cow tags for this zone, and I counted upwards of 25 vehicles in our hunting area all hunting the same herd of about 300 elk that were moving in and out of private land alfalfa fields.

On the first day, even with all these hunters there was not one shot fired in our area, not one! The elk moved out in the middle of the night. Too many hunters.

Over the next two weeks we only had three really messed up opportunities, two of the opportunities were not good because the elk were in a tight bunch moving through the trees at about 200 yards and although I could have shot, I may have hit a bull or got a pass through on a second elk, Not Good. The third opportunity was a late evening shot on a running group of three elk, one big bull and two “Bogeys” (unidentified elk) and I just didn’t want to take that chance. Some people may have taken the chance but not me and I have a reason for it and that would be, that I know better, and this was reinforced on the second day of the season when, unfortunately a young lady that was hunting near us with her husband and father made the mistake of killing a spike bull that was mixed in with a herd of cows. I’m not sure of the circumstances and I tried to mind my own business, but they ended up doing the right thing and calling a warden and she was cited for it and lost the elk and I am sure she felt horrible and deeply humiliated. They left the campgrounds shortly thereafter and I actually felt bad for her.

During this elk hunt I was also suffering from a significant left knee injury. I have a bad set of knees to begin with because I jumped out of planes for a living while in the military and after 10 years of that I ended up with a bad “everything”.

Prior to the elk hunt I had been working out walking, hiking, and riding a stationary bike. I would ride for a total of an hour every other day. I developed knee pain before the elk hunt but decided to charge on and take meds in the daytime and some drinks at night and was able to hobble my way through the hunt but by the last week I could hardly walk, it was bad, very bad.

So, after two weeks of very hard hunting and a bad left knee we went home empty handed with our tails between our legs, and although I was disappointed that we didn’t get an elk, I gave it 110% and then some, hunted every morning, every evening, and every day of the hunt. I hunted hard and I slept great. My hunting buddy Brian is the best camp cook I have ever hunted with, and it really made the hunt, and the camping experience was so much better than I am used to. I usually keep it cheap, and easy, lots of sandwiches and dehydrated foods. But with Brian it was Margaritas and steaks, huge breakfasts, bacon and tomato sandwiches for lunch and huge dinners every night. It really was a cool elk camp. His friend and now my friend Mark also joined us for a few days, and it was just a good ole fashion elk camp that I really needed in my life. Relaxation in camp just can't be compared to relaxing at home. At home the yard work is always calling, your neighbors are making noise, and your phone always rings just right at the time your mind is drifting off to sleep. Camp naps are “King” in my book.

My Deer Season was another story, as misfortune would have it, my hunting buddy Ben who was going to come up and hunt the Alps with me this year suffered a serious knee injury as well just days before he was due to leave his house and head up, a real bummer. Talk about a series of tough breaks. We decided not to hunt the Alps and we both decided to stay home most of the season and let our knees heal up. Both of us are not kids anymore, and when we were younger knee pain was just knee pain but when your pushing 60, knee pain can put you down for the count and if not taken care of can ruin several future years of hunting, so we took care of ourselves instead of hitting it hard.

I went out several times, road hunting and just taking it easy. Honestly, I didn’t even try to hunt the rough areas I used to hunt and didn’t look down into the steep canyons where a buck might be hiding because I was afraid, I might spot one!

The truth is I have a really busy bird season planned for this next year and want to let my knee heal up so I can hunt without too much pain so I forfeited most of my deer season so I could enjoy a better bird season.

Is this the “End of B Zone Deer Hunting” for me. Not likely, sure I didn’t get a really good opportunity, but it was due to my physical state and the inability to really get into the hunt, not B Zones fault. But I am disappointed at the lack of bucks in the zone and the significant increase in deer hunters who seem to be from long distances away.

My other concern, and it's happening everywhere in California, is the increase in homeless camps popping up at almost every campground or pull out. I feel very apprehensive about going off and leaving my vehicle unattended. You don’t want to come back and find your vehicle broken into or vandalized or completely missing and I’m very sorry to say, I heard more stories of hunter’s vehicles being broken into, than bucks being taken, and that is a sad state of affairs! I like most people used to have a soft spot for homeless people because I had it rough for many years. But now there are so many “feral people” that it's really getting out of hand. I will stop before I say too much. But I think you understand my position.

As of now, my knee is better, but I do have to have surgery on my knee soon and have that arranged for some time after February 2024, because I don’t want to miss upland and waterfowl season!!!!

Enjoy your hunt and I hope you did better than I did!!!

Something I wanted to add, always wear a headlamp at night when you're in the woods hiking in or hiking out. You never know what kind of obstacle or hazard you may find. Above is a photo of my Canam Commander for reference. The top of the roll cage is about 5' 10" from ground to the top of the bar.

Below you will see the "Ice Caves" these are ancient lava flows in the mountains in Deer Zone X-1.

As you can see in the two photos below these lava flows can kill a person should you wonder into them in the dark. These giant holes in the ground are all over in the mountains primarily North and East of Redding and you can stumble upon them without warning. Wear a headlamp, watch your GPS and hunt with a buddy. You could easily walk into a hole or off a cliff and never see it coming!

There is nothing to warn you or keep you from falling in but yourself!

What a drop !


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