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Two firsts, two deer and an alien abduction, almost.

asaxon

Well-known member
The Admiral was up country on “black ops”, i.e. dodging black bears with our granddaughter (I’d tell you about it but then I’d have to kill you), so I hopped the Fast Ferry to Avalon on Catalina where RK met me at the new Catalina Island Conservancy Trailhead building. Wow, what a stunner and the ribs in the second floor restaurant were to die for. While getting my Private Lands Management tags, I also requested a tag to allow me to shoot a “Boy Scout” (it is either sex now) as the island is crawling with them. Damn, they were all sold out. I dropped RK off at Middle Ranch and headed for Two Harbors where BJ had moored his lovely sailboat which was to be our high end hotel and restaurant. I was late in arriving as I got stuck in a Catalina Traffic Jam (PICTURE 1). Piss off one of these big boys and you will see real Road Rage.

Twice each day BJ and I would take the dingy to shore, pick up RK at Middle Ranch and go ahunting. As it was the height of tourist season, hunting was only permitted before 9 am or after 4 pm and limited to an area on the backside of the island where very few folks can get to. Indeed, in three days hunting, we saw not another person out there. That first evening we saw a few skittish deer either already fleeing or far far away. The next morning, fog enclosed the area. So we decided to walk a canyon bottom where there was less fog. While we saw only one big forkie who quickly vanished in the mist, our decsion turned out to be very fortunate one. While walking along, I spotted a 6 inch strikingly bright white blob on the truck of a fallen tree. I pointed it out to BJ thinking it was a fungus – wood ear. But then it moved; WTF! It was an albino Catalina Beechey ground squirrel. (PICTURE 2) Luckily I managed to snap a picture of the white beast as it climbed into some brush so we could prove we were not halucinating. I then tried to follow it down it’s hole but no, it was not the magic white one from Alice in Wonderland so all I got for my effort was poison oak. According to RK, a long time resident and a biologist by training, this is the first albino Catalina ground squirrel he’d ever heard off, much less seen. The Catalina Beechey ground squirrel is a larger subspecies than that found on the mainland. https://www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=news&p=article_180. Before deer and bison were introduced, these little critter were the largest browsers on the island.

That evening, just as it was getting dark, we finally saw a single shootable doe about 200 yds away across from us on an open hillside. As BJ only had this trip to get a deer, he took the shot. RK heard a solid hit and the doe disappeared into some nearby scrub oaks. We merrily went out to recover the animal but hello, where the hell was it. A 15 minute search in the gathering gloom finally turned up a moderate 8 inch blood pool. After another 10 min we finally found small traces of blood downhill and began following the blood trail. Using lights, we tracked the blood trail in the dark for probably 1.5 miles downhill over the next two hours. Then we lost all sign of it in spite of an intense search. We abandoned the search for the night with a plan to search again the next day after the morning hunt.

The next morning, RK had some work to do so BJ and I went out alone – sort of Dumb and Dumber. We argue who is which. Yet more fog so we again went down a less foggy canyon. Finally with 30 min. left before 9 am, BJ spotted a deer some 150 yards up a hillside standing right out in the open. We glass this animal and quickly saw it is a button buck – he clearly has small antler knobs on its head. These nascent antlers were in velvet, remarkably large in diameter and almost white so they stood out like beacons. We watched this animal and decided the little antlerettes were less than three inches which makes him officially an “antleress” deer for one can easily mistake them for a doe as seeing their tiny antlers at distince may be neigh impossible and specially so with the huge sizi of Mule deer ears. Over 3 inches and unbranched, it is officially a spike antlered buck and illegal to shoot. I say to BJ, “Let’s do a good thing and not shoot this young fella.” Feeling rightous, we then spot the head of another deer in the brush just below him. We glass this animal carefully. We can see no similar antlers/buttons, i.e. it is a doe. The mother? We decide I should take the shot for if we find Jack’s deer from the night before, that wouId be his second animal and he only has one tag. The doe is standing with its butt toward us; I can only see the neck and head. After a while, we and the doe are getting anxious so as she turns to look in our direction, I aim at the head and squeeze the trigger. Boom 30-06 168 grain bullet screams down range. The doe vanishes and the button buck bounds off. I hike up the hill and right behind the bush where the doe was I get a surprize. There is NO doe lying there. But there is a very dead button buck. I said something like “Oh bother how dreadful”. Its’ tiny antlers were not in velvet but were dark and thin so we had not seen them behind the huge “mule” ears in spite of our careful looking. A quick check with a tape measurer showed the longest was 2.75 inches, WHEW! It was legal and counted as my “antleress deer”. (Picture 3) Another first, the first time I had ever shot a button buck. The bullet had gone in the front of the head and blown out the back of the skull/neck. No amount of CPR was going to bring this animal back to life. As Edwards (Will Smith) said in Men in Black when he shot little Tiffany in the center of the forehead (Picture 4) ; “That was a good shot though, right?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhHSqaU9kqY We then went right back to where we had lost the doe’s blood trail the night before and spent another hour plus looking for any sign of blood or the doe herself. Nada.

Then while driving back to Middle Ranch we got another shock. A small space ship was hovering some 20 feet above the dirt road. (Picture 5) Holy Tarter Sauce, Sponge Bob!. BJ, an ex-pilot was hoping he’d get abducted into space (and probed by aliens). But as we got closer, our space ship turned out to be a gorgeous spider web covered with dew and glissening as with diamonds in the morning sun. (Picture 6) Beautiful but disappointing, there went our chance chance of going to space and appearing in the National Inquirer.

To make up for the disappointment of not going to be probed by aliens, Chef BJ made for fine dining for us back at the floating hotel with a surfeit of real cheeze and rack of lamb. Now that is what we call “glunting” = glamor hunting. (Picture 7 & 8)

Weds AM was our last planned hunt. I’d decided to stop shooting to save my second tag for hunting with the Admiral in late 2019. As the sun rose, there was clearly less fog but no deer anywhere. As we are dispairing around 7:30 am, RK sees a nice doe about 200 yds up on a small ridge. BJ is now feeling the pressure. He ducks behind a big bush, aims and pulls the trigger. Click! A freakin’ misfire - YMBK – in a modern center fire Tikka T3 lite. He jacks in another round, fires and Boom 150 gr. Hornady smacks into the dirt right under the deer. A clean miss and the doe bounds off. However, she made the mistake of stopping to look back before going over the ridge line. Boom, a 30-06 round slams into her neck. She dropped and lay still on the hillside. (Picture 9) We happily recovered this doe – we were done.

A quick trip into down to get our deer/tags validated at the fire station, back to Middle Ranch to break down the deer into coolers and then down to the boat were we loaded everything aboard and headed for home (Picture 10). We departed a pair of happy campers, it had been “another step toward total enlightment.”

No animals were unnecessarily harmed in the telling of this this tale although that albino squirrel is likely to have its solitude disturbed in the near future by island biologists.

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