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Coastal Blacktail

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Joined
Feb 19, 2019
Messages
592
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751
Location
CA
I filled my late season tag on Monday. I was about 5 miles back, hunting solo in a damp coastal canyon. There were numerous mishaps & unexpected events on the way in that all conspired to keep me out of my usual camping & hunting spot. So I bushwhacked my way to a backup location that had never hunted before. The only place I could hunt required me to hike about 500’ straight up a steep grade through poison oak (I only leave camp in coveralls) to a ridge finger where I eventually saw some deer. On day 3, I went ahead & took this young buck at about 60 yards to close out my stay. All combined, it was about a 90-lb load getting out. We had heart steaks on the first night back and had venison burgers ground up with bear bacon tonight. Great eating.

This is my third deer out of this place with a muzzleloader and my second with home cast bismuth alloy round ball. In full disclosure, my shot was terrible — must have caught a branch I didn’t see. I still can’t figure out how it all happened with the shot angles & such. But the ball hit him in the head and he was tumbling downhill toward me before the smoke cleared, dead instantly. That was pure luck and I’m just glad that it didn’t err on the opposite side of him.

But I’m glad to have filled both my tags this year. It has been a great year of hunting. Still have a bear tag to fill, though.
 

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How far a shot was it?

I hunted for blacktails years ago but struck out. Congrats to you.
I'm guessing about 60 yards. But it was a steep uphill shot so it always seems farther off to me. I was standing & had the rifle rested on a trekking pole. In retrospect, I was probably too eager and could have snorted him to a stop before taking the shot. Waist-high grass & various deciduous brush, it's often hard to see what's out there without lots of time to glass the exact shot beforehand.

I've run things over in my head many times over the last few days. I think the most critical error on my part came from not being patient enough to wait a while longer. He didn't know I was there and the wind was in my favor. He was behind a wall of brush for a while and I couldn't see him. After a while, I stood up to get a better view and to ease the pressure on my neck from craning around, thinking his head was hidden so it would be okay to stand up. But he saw me move. Stamp, snort... I could then see his head & neck from behind the brush, looking my way as he tried to figure out what moved downhill. Then he walked off, from behind that wall of brush to an open escape route, turning broadside as he left & that's when I took the shot. Had I been more patient, he probably would have moved closer and closer -- moving downhill as he had done the day before when I watched him with a doe. Then it could have been a 30-yard shot or less on a deer that was unaware. Oh well. Next time.
 
Congrats on a well-earned buck!

None of us are perfect executing every single time, despite our best efforts to do so. We take the good with the bad. :thumb:

Beautiful country and good to hear about the Bismuth alloy results. Minnesota has gone to zero lead on any Special hunts and I fully suspect they will gear up to zero lead anywhere sometime in the future. It always starts with a foot in the door.
 
That is a beautiful but rugged looking canyon. Great job on filling your two tags! I am in California as well and am very interested in any info you could provide on casting your own bismuth round balls.
It’s far worse than I made it out to be. I’ve told a few people about it and how success is about as easy as it gets in CA. There are deer back there that I’m positive haven’t seen a human in a few generations. Yet nobody is dumb enough to join me yet.

For Bi alloy, It’s easier than doing lead. Lower temps mean you can do it on an electric hot plate. It expands slightly when it cools so they’re tough to get out of the mould sometimes. I run .480 balls with a thicker patch. They weigh in right around 143 grains and punch deep like hardcast lead. .480 hole in and out. No POI shift for me out to 100 yards.
 
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It’s far worse than I made it out to be. I’ve told a few people about it and how success is about as easy as it gets in CA. There are deer back there that I’m positive haven’t seen a human in a few generations. Yet nobody is dumb enough to join me yet.

For Bi alloy, It’s easier than doing lead. Lower temps mean you can do it on an electric hot plate. It expands slightly when it cools so they’re tough to get out of the mould sometimes. I run .480 balls with a thicker patch. They weigh in right around 143 grains and punch deep like hardcast lead. .480 hole in and out. No POI shoft for me out to 100 yards.
Thanks for the reply. I will order some bismuth and give it a shot. I will most likely try it in a 54 caliber. I was out of state the last few years and just moved back. I hunted the B zones a lot in the past and am looking forward to it again. Public land hunting in California is like a quest, very low success rate but kind of addicting.
 
Thanks for the write up. I’m in Blacktail Country as well and they are my favorite deer. I ended up getting a Mulie on opening day in Eastern Washington and while grateful was kinda bummed it negated all the time I would spend in the dark woods chasing the ghosts.

Congratulations!

SR1
 
Looks like some madrone and chinquapin in that country. I killed my only two blacktails in high school on the Bear River south of Ferndale. That is some steep and brushy country. I expect you were farther south? You certainly earned that buck!
The madrones are very stately there. The madrones I've seen near Auburn/Foresthill (family there) are almost understory trees. This place on the Central Coast, they're the upper story -- massive trees that outgrow the oaks in height. I don't think there's any chinquapin on the coast that I've seen. Plenty in the Sierras, above 6k' or so at my latitude. But maybe we're talking about different plants.

Location-wise, it's only a few miles to the top of a ridge where I can look out to the Pacific. On a clear day at dusk, you can simultaneously see the ocean to the South & West, the lights of Bakersfield to the East. Steep, brushy and near jungle-like in the creek bottoms, crumbly hillsides, hot summers, humid winters, poison oak everywhere, trails barely exist when they exist at all. It's why hardly anybody goes there. There are so many places where, assuming a resident blacktail lives his whole life in a 2-3 mile area, he could live a decade or more and never see a human. It took me a few years to get the place figured out, more or less. Learning how to deal with the poison oak & all the logistics of camping & hunting there are things I had to learn a lot through very unpleasant trial and error. But the place has grown on me. I used to see 1 or 2 groups of people hiking down the trail in a week's time. In the last few years, I haven't seen anybody. Miles and miles all to myself.
 
Thanks for the write up. I’m in Blacktail Country as well and they are my favorite deer. I ended up getting a Mulie on opening day in Eastern Washington and while grateful was kinda bummed it negated all the time I would spend in the dark woods chasing the ghosts.

Congratulations!

SR1
We west-coast folks have a lot going for us. Mulies to the east. Blacktails to the west. I got my hybrid buck (western slope of the Sierras) during the general season shortly after sitting down opening morning. Similar size & age as this one. I still think about the 4x5 that walked off mid-stalk during the archery season... Next year.
 
Thanks for the reply. I will order some bismuth and give it a shot. I will most likely try it in a 54 caliber. I was out of state the last few years and just moved back. I hunted the B zones a lot in the past and am looking forward to it again. Public land hunting in California is like a quest, very low success rate but kind of addicting.
Low success but only on the average. For the past several years, I'm averaging about 50% with 2 tags -- this late season tag on the lottery and a D-zone tag. I usually fill one or the other and it's a toss-up which one gets filled. This was the first time I filled both. But probably only because I got some private land access for the D-zone.

Most hunters here go out opening weekend and closing weekend of the general season. They spend very little time actually hunting. A lot barely leave their vehicles, if at all. It's tough since the general season is set during the most difficult time to find a buck -- after they shed velvet and before the rut. I think most D zones have about a 10% success rate or lower. But spending more time afield, being a little quieter, a little more observant, getting a little further back and being less picky (forkies are fine for my fork) helps bring that average closer to around 50% most of the time. Add in a bear tag and the odds of walking home with something at season end are way higher.

That being said, I think it was Steve Rinella who said that, on the average, hunters in CA are among the best he knows. It's just harder here. I'm not in that camp of being a great hunter by any stretch. I'm just a guy who keeps showing up and waits for good luck. On a long enough timeline, all probabilities converge to 100% -- keep trying and you just get lucky eventually. Or that's how I figure it. But, yea, it's certainly harder than chasing midwestern whitetails on cornfields.
 
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I grow old and forgetful. It was tanoak I was thinking of. Man, it had hard, slick bark. When helping cruise old growth redwoods during high school summers in the late 1960s, I remember taking a header more than once jumping off a downed redwood onto a downed tanoak wearing cork boots. I hope to never see poison oak again. As I said, you earned yourself that buck.
 

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