Bill Hays writes, "It all started on a hot summer day in 2002, both of my daughters were drawn for a Northern California Junior Hunt. Kristen, my oldest daughter was selected last year for a junior hunt on Fort Hunter Liegget, but, due to the September 11 attack, the hunt was canceled. This year Heather, who just turned twelve, applied with her for the 7Xa area and they were drawn.
With two junior hunters having either sex tags, I really had my work cut out for me. Having never hunted the Sierra County area, we made plans to scout the area over the Labor Day weekend. We selected Stamped Lake as our destination and loaded up the trailer, family and dog for a three-day scouting trip. The lake was only 6 miles from our hunt area and a great place to fish and relax when not scouting. Over the three days, we saw several small three pointers and a few does. Not real good, but we had a place to start hunting opening morning.
October 5, 2002 came fast and before we knew it, we were at our opening morning spot, waiting for the sun to rise over the valley we were watching. There was Hubert, a long time friend of the family, my two daughters, Betsy, the family deer dog and myself. We glassed the valley floor for several hours without seeing a deer. There were a few shots in the distant, but not a single deer could be found in the same valley we scouted and saw a nice three pointer just weeks before.
After a disappointing morning, we moved to a ridge called Lemon Cannon. We worked our way along the edge of the ridge and before long; we had a shaggy looking spike standing within 50 yards of us. Kristen decided to pass on the buck and we moved farther along the ridge. After a few more minutes, we spotted several deer moving up the ridge in front of us. Heather and I left the group and tried to intercept them. As we wiggled our way up and down the hill, we had two does run within 20 feet of us, stop and stare us in the eyes, then run fifty yards back the way they came. Then, we noticed a very nice spike about 50 yards from us. He had 12-inch spikes with velvet still dangling down from the tips. Heather decided to try and take the shot. She tried to get into position, but every time we moved, the buck would move farther up the hill. This turned into a foot race to see who could get to the top of the steep ridge first. The spike won.
The next morning started out the same, with a beautiful sunrise and no deer. That evening, things were going to change. We heard about an area called Turner Canyon that was supposed to hold some good bucks. We worked our way over to the area and about 6:00 pm we were at the turn off. It was an extremely rough four-wheel drive road recommended only for high clearance vehicles.
We worked our way up the road and decided to park and walk the last couple of hours of daylight. As we worked our way up the canyon, Heather and I decided to try a good-looking trail to our right. As we worked our way along the trail, we heard two shots ring out in the area near Kristen and Hubert. We hurried back to find Kristen excitably pointing up the trail, all the time saying BIG BUCK, BIG BUCK. With an extremely excited voice, she said she missed and he went up the trail a little and dropped off the side of the canyon. Quickly, we ran up to where she thought he had gone over the side of the ridge. Kristen stayed there and Heather and I moved further up the canyon looking for the big buck. About a hundred yards up the canyon, we looked down and there he was, the BIG BUCK. He had stopped about two feet short of disappearing into the heavy brush and was looking back down the trail. He must have been wondering what was going on. Heather ready herself for that one last shot before he would be gone forever.
She lowered her remodeled Remington 30:06, given to her by grandpa, on the BIG BUCK’s neck, squeezed the trigger, and sent the bullet flying. We watched the buck drop in his tracks at the sound of the shot. Wow, what a shot for a first time hunter, on her first deer hunt, dropping the BIG BUCK it in its tracks.
Still not knowing how big this BIG BUCK was, we worked our way down the side of the canyon to take a closer look. We could not believe our eyes when we reached him. He was a three by three with eye guards, a twenty-inch spread with a body that must weight close to 200 pounds. What a BIG BUCK! I have been hunting Northern California for 40 years and have yet to take a mule deer buck and this young lady did it on her first hunt.
I just wonder how she is going to top this one?"
P.S. We were all drawn for the same area the next year and Heather was the only successful hunt – tagging a 4 pointer.