cali big deer

As you read this I will have traveled up into Oregon and be in the midst of a 10-day quest for mule deer after a fine week of hunting in the Central Coast of Cali, near the town of Paso Robles, or “Pass of the Oaks.”

The highlight of the trip was obviously shooting the 130-class 3×4 buck; B&C minimum for a Columbian blacktail is 135, so this is a great and above average deer, about as big as they for these parts. Twenty inches wide, even had one small eyeguard.

Note the compact camera rig we used—Nikon DSLR, 80-200 mm lens here I believe, w/shotgun microphone. Cameras for filming the outdoors have come a long way. I remember not too long ago when the guys carried huge, heavy Sony Handicams the size of suitcases. With a good lens, the rigs cost more than 100k.

It’s a good thing we had the small camera because the buck hunt was fast and action-packed. Blacktails are not called Pacific Ghosts for nothing. I stalked my buck bedded and hidden beneath an oak tree. He jumped up and trotted through a basketball-size opening in the brush, giving me a split-second opportunity. With his small rig held right over my shoulder, cameraman Nolan was able to run with me to a set-up tree and find the buck in his lens just as I took the quick shot. The buck ran 50 yards and expired.

After we gutted the buck, we lashed him onto our California Pack Mule, a 10-year-old Jeep decked out for serious backcountry hunting, with spare gas and water cans and a couple of indestructible,5-year-old Yeti Tundra coolers. How cool is that rig!

A lot of people don’t realize that there is still much beautiful and remote deer country to hunt in Cali, but you have to find the right place and go with the right people. Like my friend Doug Roth, who has been operating Camp 5 Outfitters for more than 30 years. He’s one of the best blacktail hunters in the state. Doug and I hunted a 22,000-acre private ranch, and we were the only ones on it. Zero pressure, and that’s how you kill big deer of any species.

cali wine country

Most people don’t think of fancy vineyards and wild pigs in the same breath, but I do. There are more than 170 immaculate wineries in this region putting out some of the best Cabernet and Merlot in the world, and I managed to squeeze in visits to a couple of them. My favorite was Hidden Oak, a small vineyard operated by Mike and Martha James, very nice people making fine Central Coast red wine in their retirement.

cali pig

Just miles from the impeccable vineyards, I shot this pig in heart at 110 yards as it gobbled acorns beneath an oak tree. This region of the Central Coast has the highest population of feral hogs in the state, and you should buy a pig tag ($71 for a non-resident) along with your buck tag.

This unique and fantastic BIG DEER TV show will air on the Sportsman Channel next summer.