Hunting Journey to 2022 So Cal Success!


Sep 8, 2020
So my hunting journey has been pretty short compared to a lot of people but I've been enjoying it as it goes along. I had 1 uncle that hunted and my dad shot 1 deer 30 years ago outside of that no familial interest or history with hunting. I've read a lot, watched a lot and most importantly HIKED a lot. As a result I am in the best shape of my life and the physical changes alone are enough to have my wife excited about me hunting.

I started hunting in 2020 and was fortunate enough to tag out in the 1st 15 minutes of my 1st hunt ever. Also the meat was seriously some of the best meat I've ever had. Story here for anyone interested D-19 Opener Success.

I started my hunting journey with a bow in Southern California which is a pretty tough task. I think it has really helped because I've had to get close enough to deer to be able to hunt with a bow. I've learned a lot about deer behavior and learned how to read deer sign pretty well over the last few years and still have a ton to learn but at the very least I am confident in finding deer and having interactions.

After having success in the 1st year, year 2 was a little different. I had 1 opportunity on opening day again but on a tiny spike/fork which I passed. Never had another opportunity with my bow for the rest of the season on a legal buck. Closing down forests 2 years in a row and having weather challenges made me learn I need a plan B, C and D along with a mix of BLM and National forest land I was familiar with. Year 2 also made me realize that being able to add in rifle hunting would be a huge bonus and help speed up my learning curve with regards to hunting. Year 3 I was going to change up some stuff with the main goal of learning as much new ground as possible.

Wanting to rifle hunt I needed a rifle. My dad had an older sporterized 30-06 that I had shot maybe 5-10 times in my entire life. He said "It's yours but it shoots a little off." I needed a new scope to hunt with and as part of that needed some new bases and rings as well. I reached out to the good folks here and got some help in this thread and got a new scope mounted shortly after. Help Identifying Dads Gun

I wasn't quite sure what my dad meant until I started shooting it. "A little off" meant 4 feet to the left and all the adjusting I had in my scope wasn't enough to bring it to center. Found out my base mounting holes were not centered and had to find a solution. I ended up creating shims for the mounts to bring the scope to center. I bore sighted it at home and was on paper with my 1st shot. Got sighted in at 200 shortly thereafter and felt good about my shims holding up, keeping center and my grouping heading into the 2022 season. Rifle hunting here we come.

In the offseason I scouted a lot of new areas in case my main area got closed down again due to forest fires. I had a plan B, C and D just needed to do whatever was best given the days I was hunting.

I started with my bow again and was having more interactions this year than the previous two and felt good about what I have been learning. I got a chance with the bow and unfortunately didn't work out well, I lost my 1st deer. Heartbreak in So Cal (Lost Buck)

Now was the time to pivot to the rifle and start covering some more ground.

My 1st few hunts I slowly still hunted through several areas covering new ground and looking for fresh sign. I was hoping to either see the buck before he saw me or possibly even bump and dump one as I scouted more. Saw some new sign and found a few areas I want to check out later but no luck.

This past weekend a buddy and I were able to do a "Back Country" hunt in an area we did the same for opening weekend of archery and saw some nice sign. We decided to camp out on the mountain overnight on Friday and we would be ready to hunt come Saturday.

Saturday morning I was in my spot 45 minutes before 1st light and was ready. It was the coldest day we've had this year and I tried not to freeze as I was overlooking the area I was hunting waiting for some movement. After 3 hours of shivering with the sun not even on my spot yet I just couldn't take it anymore. Trying to stay warm was taking priority over effectively hunting so I decided to start still hunting my way through a bedding area nearby I had seen during my earlier archery hunt. With the wind in my favor and providing good noise cover it seemed like a good idea.

20 minutes into my new strategy much warmer and only about 150-200 yards away from where I was sitting I spot some movement but at 1st I thought I bumped them out of the area. They were on a hillside about 70 yards away and I could see several bucks 1 big one following some does. I tried to zoom in my scope some to get a shot but they were all moving too fast. Thinking I busted them out I was trying to figure out how I might be able to get to a spot that may give me a shot as they were moving off/out. Sitting there for a few minutes I heard something walking below me on the steep hillside. It was a doe and shortly after that I saw a legal buck following her. Do I wait to see if anything else comes or do I shoot this one? I sat down to try and be more stable. I must have made noise because the doe stared right at me with the buck looking to see what she was looking at. With the buck 30 yards below me quartered too trying to find me I figured it was probably now or never. I was able to settle the crosshairs of my scope and slowly pull the trigger. Bang Flop, 1 roll and dead. I had shot my 1st buck with a gun 2nd deer ever and 2 in 3 seasons in a zone that has less than a 10% success rate.

I felt this overwhelming sense of relief and pride as I sat there watching a dead deer. I had done it! I set a goal of hunting with a rifle, had a lot of issues as I tried to get ready and ultimately made it happen. The feeling of seeing the bang flop instead of the tracking nightmare I had with my bow a few weeks earlier was a huge relief.

I looked down at my phone to a text from my buddy saying "That sounded like you" to which I replied "It WAS me and I am looking at a dead deer." Shortly after he showed up gave me a high five and we started breaking down the deer.

I said I always wanted a back country hunt to see what it would be like. Well with a 95 lb pack and a 4 mile pack out I think I got what I was asking for. Now that I have done it, I learned 2 things. You go where the deer are and I need a better pack. My legs weren't sore at all the next day however by the end of it my shoulders were killing me as the padding of my pack had completely broken down by the time I got home.

I still have an archery only tag that I will try to fill, but feels good to have this one done.


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Sep 8, 2020
Hell yeah, if you can figure it out in SoCal you can get it done most any places IMO.

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Thanks! I keep telling that to myself as I hunt in SoCal and keep learning. Someday I will hunt other states or different places to see how true that is.