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Sportsman

California Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 6 • Issue 11 PUBLISHER James R. Baker PRODUCTION MANAGER John Rusnak ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Brittany Boddington LEAD WRITER Tim E. Hovey CONTRIBUTORS Bill Adelman, Brittany Boddington. Steve Carson, Simon Guild, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Bill Schaefer, Mike Stevens SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Mamie Griffin, Steve Joseph, Garn Kennedy, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold DESIGNERS Sonjia Kells, Sam Rockwell, Sable Talley, Liz Weickum PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Kelly Baker INBOUND MARKETING Jon Hines OFFICE MANAGER/ACCOUNTING Audra Higgins ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SERVICES MANAGER Lois Sanborn CIRCULATION MANAGER Heidi Belew ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ads@calsportsmanmag.com CORRESPONDENCE Email ccocoles@media-inc.com Twitter @CalSportsMan Facebook.com/californiasportsmanmagazine

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ON THE COVER Valentine Thomas caught this wahoo with a speargun. Also a skilled freediver, Thomas spearfishes all over the world and advocates eating what you catch. (VALENTINE THOMAS)

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 6 • ISSUE 11

67

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 41 48

TUNA TIME

54 59 61 71 85 102

Trinity River king salmon preview How to take advantage of the Eastern Sierra fall trout season Snag Proof bass tournament recap Kid-friendly bluegill fishing “Potato chip” chunking for tuna Mission Bay spotted bass biting Keeping cool on late-summer feral pig hunts Urban Huntress with Brittany Boddington: Bowhunting Down Under

DEPARTMENTS 13 29 29

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The Editor’s Note: Hooray for women in sports The Dishonor Roll: Are humans causing declining mountain lion population? Outdoor calendar Daiwa and Browning Photo Contest winners

If it swims in Southern California, Orange County angler Craig Adkinson will pursue it. This month, he takes us out to the Pacific Ocean in search of bluefin tuna, yellowtail and dorado. As it turns out, finding where the fish are – whether in current breaks, around feeding dolphins and birds, or hiding under kelp paddies – is the biggest challenge. Once you discover where these monsters lurk, the techniques are simple and effective. (CRAIG ADKINSON)

FEATURES 15

SPEARING SENSATION When she was a teenager vacationing in the south of France with her family, Valentine Thomas nearly drowned just off the beach. Years later, this 28-year-old French-Canadian can’t get enough time in the water toting her speargun. Thomas spearfishes all over the globe and has become an Internet trending topic. Of course, that means she’s absorbed the usual social media criticism as a woman who just happens to possess the same kind of outdoor skills as her male counterparts. In our cover story, we chatted with Thomas about traveling the globe, the importance of eating what you catch, and the good and bad that comes with getting noticed.

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MAKING SCENTS OF SALMON In their Field to Fire column, Scott and Tiffany Haugen share their tips and recipes for Northern California’s king salmon. Scott provides tips on how back-bouncing bait can entice a scent-driven Chinook to devour your carefully chosen presentation. And Tiffany, who also loves to get out on the water and bring home fish, prepares delicious herbed gravlax fillets.

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TAGGING FALL BUCKS Our Bill Adelman always looks forward to this time of year, when California hunters dust off their rifles and head to the hills to glass for blacktails and mule deer. Adelman began sharing such hunts with his young son and

continues that tradition to this day. Find out why he can’t wait to fill his deer tag as summer transitions to fall.

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THE NEW HUNTING HOTBED New Zealand is known globally as a destination for adrenaline-seekers who hit both the North and South Islands for various adventure sports. That now includes hunting, which 150 years ago would have been impossible considering no species of big game resided there. European settlers changed that, and now, as guide Simon Guild explains in the first of a series on hunting Kiwi country, hunters are also discovering that this nation is a premier place to chase everything from Himalayan tahr to the coveted red stag.

California Sportsman goes digital! Read California Sportsman on your desktop or mobile device. Only $1.89 an issue. Go to www.calsportsmanmag.com/digital California Sportsman is published monthly by Media Index Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Send address changes to California Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124. Annual subscriptions are $29.95 (12 issues), 2-year subscription are $39.95 (24 issues). Send check or money order to Media Index Publishing Group, or call (206) 3829220 with VISA or M/C. Back issues are available at Media Index Publishing Group offices at the cost of $5 plus shipping. Display Advertising. Call Media Index Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Index Publishing Group and will not be returned. Copyright © 2015 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. 10 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


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THEEDITOR’SNOTE Valentine Thomas is showing women can achieve just as much in spearfishing as their male counterparts. (VALENTINE THOMAS)

I

t’s been quite a memorable summer for women’s sports, and a nightmare for the haters. The U.S. women’s national team turned back soccer’s clock to 1999 by conquering the World Cup. The momentum boiled over. Becky Hammon coached the San Antonio Spurs NBA Summer League team to a championship and is already on the team’s fulltime staff as an assistant coach. The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals added a woman, Jen Welter, to their coaching staff as an intern (it’s not quite as advanced as Hammon’s rising basketball standing, but for a league making repulsive headlines for alleged domestic abuse incidents by players, baby steps are better than no steps at all). Tennis’ Serena Williams (looking for a 2015 majors grand slam if she wins this month’s U.S. Open) and fighter Ronda Rousey (clobbering all challengers in the UFC) are noteworthy stories amid baseball’s pennant races and the pending arrival of football season. Simply put, these are tough days to be a member of the “all women’s sports are terrible” league, bro (you know who you are). Then there’s our September cover story, London’s (by way of Montreal) Valentine Thomas, whose spearfishing abilities became a trending topic when media outlets picked up the 28-year-old’s story. But that’s not kosher with some among the social media mob. Some flooded her inbox with chants of “you’re a killer.” Her photos – and very little interest in what she had to say – were posted on guyoriented websites (understandable, though one decided an absurdly derogatory woman-shaming URL was actually a good idea). “It’s certainly a weird feeling when you’re a normal person and been trashed from everywhere in the world. You think, ‘OK, that feels kind of special,’” Thomas deadpanned to me. Fortunately, as you’ll find out in our conversation, Thomas is getting far more positive than negative feedback. We only hope in a glorious sports year for women, it’s just the beginning. –Chris Cocoles

Editor’s note: You can follow California Sportsman’s new Twitter account (@CalSportsMan) and like us on Facebook. calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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VALENTINE’S PERFECT DAY:

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WORLD RECORD-HOLDER ADVOCATES EATING WHAT YOU CATCH Valentine Thomas grew up in Montreal, but this daughter of a sailor has forever been fascinated by the sea, and after taking a freediving course and taking her first trip, is obsessed with spearfishing. (DAVID THOMAS)

By Chris Cocoles

S

he’s so comfortable – if not at home – in the water now, it’s hard to believe Valentine Thomas once almost drowned in it. Of course, that was a half a lifetime ago, when this spearfishing maven from London via Canada was vacationing seaside with her family in the south of France. Just 14, Thomas got caught in an undertow – not far from the shore, but far enough for a harrowing few seconds. “I was caught by the underwater currents. The current had suddenly changed and I remember sticking my head up and there was nobody in the water,” says Thomas, now 28. “I just thought, ‘What the hell is happening?’ I was trying to swim and I could not swim anywhere. I was about 2 meters (about 6½

feet) away from the shore and somehow I got dragged to the bottom. I remember at one point saying to myself, ‘I can’t fight this anymore.’ Finally, a lifeguard managed to fish me out of the water. It was pretty intense.” The irony is that you can now mostly find this former London hedge fund capital businesswoman underwater with speargun in hand. She not only learned how to freedive, but her top passion is spearfishing whenever she has the time to get out of London and hit exotic locales like Corsica, Greece, South Africa and Zanzibar. In 2013, she established a spearfishing world record for a 25.4-pound Atlantic jack caught off far-flung Ascension Island in the south Atlantic Ocean. And she hopes to make spearfishing a career and someday host her own TV show to educate audiences about dismissing gender bias and the importance of sustainable eating of harvested fish. calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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“I would show that if I can do it, anyone can,” she says. We chatted with Thomas from her home base in London about conquering her fear of water and falling in love with the sea.

Chris Cocoles How did you get involved in spearfishing? Valentine Thomas It started about five years ago. I had a friend who was doing a freediving course (that Thomas also completed), and after that he and his friend were planning a fishing trip (to Ascension Island, a 34-square-mile piece of volcanic rock with 880 inhabitants between South America and Africa) and asked me if I wanted to tag along. It was quite a unique trip. And I fell in love completely with the sport. My first fish (a black jack) weighed 12 kilos (about 26 pounds), and I thought, “OK – I think I’m going to enjoy this trip.”

CC You also had a mishap in the water that trip, right? Did you have fear going in for the first time? VT To be honest, I was petrified. I was looking in the water and thinking, “There’s no way I’m jumping in that water.” We’re like 5

She changes it up every now and then and fishes with a rod and reel, but despite a harrowing swimming near-miss as a teenager, Thomas, now 28, is most excited about diving for dinner. (DAVID THOMAS)

miles from the (shore) and it’s raining. The sea was looking pitch black and there was no way I could do this. My friend said, “No,

FOOD FOR THOUGHT “Do it all, eat it all.” So says one of Valentine Thomas’ Instagram (@valentinethomas) captions as she fillets a fish on a tropical beach. Some of her noteworthy hashtags include #catchyourownfood; #doitall and #useitall; #sustainableeating; and #eatwhatyoukill. “It’s very important to me,” Thomas says of and not wasting what she harvests with her speargun. “Cooking is one of my passions and one reason why I fell in love with fishing. There’s something about cooking food that’s as fresh as it could be. Cooking is as big a part of the sport as (catching). I gut it, I fillet it and I do everything myself. It’s by far one of my favorite things in the world to do.” Thomas’ passion for using a speargun underwater to catch her dinner was bound to create a stir on social media, where she endures online salvoes that accuse her of being a “killer.” Eat what you catch is something Sometimes, though, Thomas will receive an actual poignant query from a follower who may spearfisher Valentine Thomas takes seriously, including doing the cleaning disagree or, at worst, doesn’t understand what she does. “Someone on Facebook – a complete stranger – sent me a message. And he asked me a and filleting herself. (VALENTINE THOMAS) question that made me sit down and think,” Thomas says. “He asked me, ‘Do you enjoy the killing part?’ That’s a really good question, and I was thinking, ‘No, I actually don’t like the killing; I feel quite sad about it. You feel compassion. I love this sport because spearfishing is about everything that’s surrounding you; you’re surrounded by unusual things. It makes you feel so vulnerable. It’s not something that should delight you. It’s actually very haunting.” The bottom line for Thomas is this: “I’m trying to catch my dinner.” And other people’s dinners. On a trip to South Africa, Thomas and her party made sure to get some extra fish to distribute to needy families in impoverished areas. In July, she did something similar when she fished on Zanzibar, a tropical island off the coast of Tanzania. Thomas understands that Instagram and Facebook commenting is less about common sense and genuine opposition and more a forum for knee-jerk reactions and hot takes. Some of the hate was so misdirected it was bordering on lunacy, such as accusations that Thomas’ boyfriend was doing the shooting (spoiler alert: he’s never gone spearfishing with her). “If you want to talk the good about or the bad about it – I don’t care; just talk about it,” she says. “At least they’re having the discussion and making themselves think about where our food comes from.” For Thomas, that food comes from the sea and she is comfortable doing the ocean-to-kitchen-to-table process. “My favorite dish that I cook with fish is very basic, but it’s heavenly: a fish burger!” she says. “I love to use healthy bread, ‘rocket’ bread (a European-style loaf), and a homemade tartar sauce, especially since I cut off meat (nonfish),” Thomas says. “It’s my kind of ‘My life can be awesome too without meat’ dish.’” –CC 16 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


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“I love this sport because spearfishing is about everything that’s surrounding you,” Thomas says. “You’re surrounded by unusual things. It makes you feel so vulnerable.” (VALENTINE THOMAS)

800-776-2873 www.pro-cure.com it’s fine.” They went in the water first and they were showing me that everything was going to be OK. And they were right, in a way, in that as soon as I hit the water, everything lit up. You can see everything underwater so clearly. And I thought it was so incredible. But I (got caught in the current) and was completely freaking out. The current was picking up and a guy was really struggling to swim back to the boat. He said he was going to fix the boat and he’d be back. So I was like, “OK; I’ll wait here, I guess.” And he ended up leaving me for like 40 minutes and he was still not back. So I was freaking out a little bit. And my buddy – I couldn’t find him, either. So I was in a complete panic.

CC After your traumatic experience as a teenager in France, were you terrified when you first went in the water after that first spearfishing trip and being left alone for a long time? Was that a psychological barrier? VT It was a really big step for me to get back in the water and to be comfortable with it. It took me a long time to get over that (near drowning in France). I didn’t want to go swimming other than in Caribbean-type, flat, boring water. Anything else I was like, “No, thank you.” CC So when you made it back to the boat at Ascension Island, were you thinking, “I’m never going to do this again,” or was it

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“This is exciting?” VT I was still really excited, but at the time, I was a little bit nervous. For about two years, whenever I’d go out I’d have a line in the water and the other end on the boat to make sure nothing went wrong. I always had to make sure the boat was close to me; otherwise, at that time, I just couldn’t really do it.

CC I know your dad was a sailor and influenced you, but were you an outdoorsy person growing up in Montreal? VT My dad used to build boats himself when he was in his early 20s, so I took a lot from him. My parents had a place in the countryside near Montreal, so we’d spend our weekends in the outdoors and have fun in the woods, basically. So I’ve been quite used to being outside and obviously I liked it.

It took me a long time –probably two or three years – to be able to finally not have to glance back at the boat every two minutes. I no longer had to check to see if the shore was too far away. But when you do something like blue water hunting (diving for fish in the open ocean), you’re 5 or 6 miles away from the shore. There’s no one else around you. Sometimes the water can be 200 meters (about 650 feet) deep under you. So you need to be calm and get used to it. I think the instinct is you’re going to feel like the prey because you think about sharks. So I learned that you have to transform your mind and make yourself into the hunter.

CC When did you finally get comfortable in the water? VT (It was) My biggest obstacle. That’s what took me the longest

CC You’ve met some great people along the way. Did they also help you evolve in the sport? VT By traveling to different locations all the time and meeting so many people, these are people who have been doing this as part of their lifestyle. That’s why when people ask me if I have a mentor, I don’t have one mentor because the fishing is so different in different locations. Everybody (I’ve encountered) has different expertise. So I’ve tried to pick a little bit of knowledge of people from around the world.

time. After that, the more you’re in the water, the more you can get close to the fish easier; how to act and how to behave next to them. Then you can learn the best way to hunt them.

CC It must have been a cultural experience for you as well. VT Exactly. I’ve had a chance to travel a lot and in various loca-

CC Did you do any ice fishing in Quebec in the winter? VT I never tried ice fishing. I’m a very, very cold person who is always freezing [laughs]. So I tend to stay away from the cold.

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Harvesting tuna on Ascension Island, a volcanic formation in the middle of the south Atlantic between South America and Africa, holds a special place for Thomas; that’s the site of her first-ever spearfishing trip five years ago. (VALENTINE THOMAS)

800-776-2873 www.pro-cure.com tions, and I’ve had a chance to have quite a global experience enjoying the sport. I think that’s part of what I love about it, too, is you go fishing somewhere or you get invited – sometimes by people I’ve never met before. They take me fishing on their boat and I live with their families and in their house; I eat dinner with their kids and I get to meet their friends. I get to be a part of their culture as well. So you really immerse yourself into a different world when you’re traveling. That’s what makes it absolutely beautiful.

CC Can you share a couple of memorable experiences in the water? You swam with sharks (off Durban, South Africa), which had to be a major adrenaline rush. VT That was one of the most exciting and fearful moments of my life. First off, we were in the boat and you could see them on top of the water – the dorsal fins would break the surface. The (divers) told me I had to jump in and I said, “Do I? OK, fine.” I waited for my friend to get in the water first, but I did it. When I jumped in, there were sharks everywhere; there had to have been 20 or 30 sharks surrounding us. It was quite interesting. And I couldn’t stop staring. Maybe after about two minutes a shark came really close – almost nose to nose with me. I backed up, which is something you never do because you’re acting like the prey. So they told me to go toward them,

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which is easy to say but a little bit harder to do. Later, I was going back down and wasn’t sure where I was looking. I did a head-to-head with a shark, and he went one way and I went the other. We both looked at each other and were scared to death. But I don’t think he was as scared as I was. But when I got out of the water, I told my friend this was probably the best day of my life.

CC How have you handled the derogatory responses you’ve received through your Instagram and Facebook pages, and from the media coverage that jumped on the train this year? Is it just the reality of where we are that you’re treated so much differently than men in your sport? VT It’s a double-edged sword. In some ways it’s a big advantage to be a woman. Most of the people would have not talked about me and what I was doing if I’d been a man. So I get the attention, even though sometimes it’s been negative and others positive. This has given me publicity and some attention from TV producers to maybe achieve my dream sometime. It really works in my favor. And I would say that 90 percent of the feedback I’ve received has been positive, which is quite surprising. I think a woman who hunts on land, she’s going to get trashed at 95 percent. People seem to have different eyes when it comes to fish.

“I’ve had a chance to have quite a global experience enjoying the sport. I think that’s part of what I love about it, too, is you go fishing somewhere or you get invited – sometimes by people I’ve never met before,” Thomas says of her travels that have taken her to Corsica, Greece and South Africa, among others. (VALENTINE THOMAS)

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PRO-CURE BAIT SCENTS Spearfishing provided enough meals for a barbecue cookout with friends, which is a big reason why Thomas loves what she does. (DAVID THOMAS)

800-776-2873 www.pro-cure.com detected. Was it important to stand by your principles, knowing you were going to be criticized? VT I know my post was a little bit too emotional. But for me, it was just so frustrating knowing that the entire world is eating burgers and steaks and they’re crying for one lion. It’s so absurd.

CC Are there places you are eager to visit and fish? VT Madagascar for sure I want to try. Australia I’m undecided about because there are so many great whites. And I really want to go to Mexico.

CC Have you been to California? VT I went to Southern California with my sister once, but I didn’t get to do any fishing. I think the water is pretty cold and not too clear. Murky water means there’s a bigger chance to run into sharks. But I’ve heard it’s a little warmer and clearer around San Diego. But I definitely (wouldn’t mind living there), as I’m ready to start thinking about moving away from London. I can’t take this rainy, horrible weather for too much longer. CS

CC Earlier this summer you posted a passionate Instagram message about the killing of “Cecil” the lion in Africa, citing so many other instances of animal cruelty that generally go un-

26 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

Editor’s note: For more on Valentine Thomas, follow her on Instagram (@valentinethomas) and Facebook (facebook.com/valentine.tb).


calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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FED TO THE HUMANS? Southern California mountain lions have a death rate of about 56 percent, with human involvement the most common cause of fatalities. (CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)

alf a world away, the hunting of – perhaps illegally – a beloved lion that lived in a national park in Africa has triggered the usual Twitter explosion and general outrage over the reported hunter, a Minnesota dentist. More quietly and BY CHRIS COCOLES closer to home, it appears that humans are also responsible for a tragedy: the dwindling population and high death rate of mountain lions in Southern California. At least that’s what a recent UC Davis study via scientific academic journal Plos One determined. And just like the death of the African lion named Cecil, humans are the main cause for the deaths of these magnificent creatures in the Golden State. Keep in mind that hunting mountain lions is illegal in California. “Nowhere in the US, outside of the endangered Florida panther, have mountain lion populations been documented that are this cut off and with survival rates this low,”said Winston Vickers, an associate veterinarian at UC Davis and the lead author in the study. The researchers estimated a 56-percent survival rate for lions in the region. If you’ve ever lived in or around Los Angeles, you know there are mazes of freeways twisting through canyons and mountain passes. The study included Interstate 15, which links San Diego with the Inland Empire before it heads north towards Las Vegas. In Sin City, you may have a better chance at winning from slot machines, craps tables and the keno lounge than a mountain lion does having a normal life traversing along the I-15 corridor. “The odds of an individual animal making it across I-15, surviving to set up a territory, successfully breeding, and then their offspring breeding so the genes are spread throughout the population is harder to have happen naturally than one would expect,” Vickers said. The 13-year study found that just one male mountain lion, labeled M86, was the only “success story” among peers that crossed east to west through I-15. The lion fathered four offspring before dying. But one of his cubs died from poisoning, another was hit by a car and another became so used to living around people it was taken into captivity.

H

Protecting California

MIXED BAG

OUTDOOR CALENDAR SEPTEMBER 1-15 Early dove season 12 Shaver Lake Team Kokanee Derby (kokaneepower.org) 12 Zone 1 mountain quail opener 12-20 Whitetail ptarmigan season 13 Sooty and ruffed grouse season opener 13 Zone Q1 mountain quail opener 19 Zones B-1, B-2 and B-3 and Zones C-1, C-2, C-3 and C-4 deer openers 19 Archery deer openers in Zones X-9a, X-9b and X-12 19-27 Bandtail pigeon season 20-28 Northern region bandtail pigeon season 26 Archery deer opener in Zone X-10 Zones D-3, D-4, D-5 deer openers 26 26 Zone Q2 quail opener OCTOBER 3 Archery deer opener in most Zone X locations 3-4 Lake McSwain Fall Trout Derby (209-354-2964) Big Bear Lake Troutfest (bigbear.com) 3-4 4 Northeastern zone duck opener Statewide scaup opener 4 4 Dark geese opener 10 Deer opener in Zones D-11, D-13, D-14, D-15, D-16, D-17, D-19 Archery pheasant opener 10 16-17 Shasta Lake Trout Derby (800-953-4432) Archery deer opener in Zone X-9c 17 17 Zones Q1 and Q3 all quail opener Chukar season opener 17 Snipe opener 17 18 Southern San Joaquin, Southern California and Balance of State Zone duck opener 31 White goose opener The good news? One of the offspring went on to have offspring of its own, two that reached adulthood and one still known to be alive. But the outlook doesn’t exactly look rosy for the area population as a whole. Lions living in the Santa Ana Mountains around Orange and Riverside Counties may be better off being relocated than risk being wiped out, the study says. And that’s never a healthy proposition. Vickers said creating safer crossings along busy interstates – are there any roads in that part of the state that aren’t busy? – should be considered before taking the animals from their natural habitat. “This (lion) population has one foot on the banana peel and one foot on the edge,”Vickers said. “Whatever we can do, we should do.” Unless we’ve done enough damage already, but that’s a story for another day. calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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30 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


PHOTO CONTEST

WINNERS!

The power of positive thinking led to one heckuva bite on southwest Oregon’s Coos Bay for Karen Bigby, and as this issue’s Daiwa Photo Contest winner, it wins her a Daiwa hat, T-shirt and scissors for cutting braided line. It also puts her in the running for the grand prize of a Daiwa rod-and-reel combo!

David Affeldt’s pic of his northeast Washington black bear is our monthly Browning hunting photo contest winner! It scores him a Browning hat.

For your chance at winning Daiwa and Browning products, send your photos to ccocoles@media-inc.com or California Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for our print or Internet publications.

calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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32 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


FISHING Back-bouncing for salmon can be applied in many types of water, including seams, which can be hard to fish any other way due to a combination of fast-moving currents and boils. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

FROM FIELD ...

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BAIT SCENT-DRIVEN SALMON CAN’T RESIST BACK-BOUNCING METHOD

By Scott Haugen

I

t’s no secret Chinook salmon are highly scent-driven. Imagine being born in a river or small stream, swimming out to the ocean then returning four or five years later to the exact location where you were born, all due to the ability to navigate through the sense of smell. If humans had noses even a fraction as sensitive as that of a salmon’s, life would not be enjoyable. Knowing salmon have such strong sniffers, anglers can maximize opportunities by targeting a salmon’s sense of smell. No matter what bait you use – baitfish, crawdad tails, cured eggs, etc. – the idea is to deliver a scent package to the fish, something they can smell, follow and eat. When it comes to salmon fishing in river systems, baits can be present-

ed in various ways. Drift-fishing is most common, where eggs are rolled along the bottom by anglers fishing from a stationary position. Bait can be suspended beneath a float. It can also be dragged behind a boat, backtrolled in front of the boat and even side-drifted. Bait can also be backbounced, arguably the best method when it comes to laying a scent line that fish can detect and follow.

STAY IN CONTROL Back-bouncing is a favorite technique of many people for one simple reason: the angler is in total control of the presentation. Not only is the angler in control of where the terminal gear is at all times, but also the speed at which it travels downstream. Since this technique is one that fishes on the bottom of the creek, river, bay or ocean, it also al-

lows anglers to learn the anatomy of the bottom by way of actually feeling what’s down there. When the bite comes through back-bouncing, it usually happens in one of three ways. A common take is where the fish hits the bait hard and runs, leaving no question as to what’s taking place. Another common strike is when the terminal gear simply stops moving. This is where the angler quits feeling the bottom and when the attempt is made to let out more line, it doesn’t happen. That’s because the fish has the bait in its mouth and is simply sitting in one place. The third most common strike when back-bouncing is a slack-line bite. This is where the fish grabs bait and continues swimming upstream. You can often visually observe a belly forming in the line on such a take, meaning you better quickly reel up

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FISHING

... TO FIRE

Easy Gravlax

By Tiffany Haugen It may sound intimidating, but making gravlax is very easy. It’s a simple cold-curing process with no special equipment needed. And for those who don’t enjoy the final texture of gravlax, it doesn’t have to be eaten right out of the refrigerator. Adding sliced or chopped gravlax to pasta, eggs, pizza and dips is an easy protein source for a quick, healthy and super-flavorful meal. This is one of my husband’s and both of my sons’ favorite recipes!

HERBED GRAVLAX 2 matching salmon or steelhead fillets (about 2 pounds per fillet) ¼ cup pickling and canning salt or kosher salt ¼ cup white sugar 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper Herbs of choice 4 fresh dill sprigs 4 fresh rosemary sprigs 6 sprigs flat-leafed parsley 2 sprigs fresh thyme ½ cup basil leaves 1 tablespoon fennel seeds 10 sprigs of chives Cut a section of a whole fish that can be matched to fit on top of each other for this method of preservation. Lay one fillet skin side down in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle half of the salt, sugar and pepper mixture over fillet. Lay all of the herbs on top of fillet. Sprinkle the remaining salt, sugar and pepper mixture over the second fillet. 34 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

(Clockwise from top left) Four steps too a perfect herbed gravlax salmon dish, which may take a while but is worth the long wait. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

Place the second fillet atop the first fillet – the thicker section on top of the thinner section – sandwiching the herbs between the two. Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with a heavy object. We use a lead ingot for a weight, as it fits well in the refrigerator. Turn the “fish sandwich” every 12 hours for 48 hours. After fish has cured, slice meat diagonally off skin. Editor’s note: For personally signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s popular book, Cooking Salmon & Steelhead, send a check for $25 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or order online at scotthaugen.com. Tiffany Haugen is a full-time author and part of the new online series, Cook With Cabela’s. Also, watch for her on The Sporting Chef, on the Sportsman Channel. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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A spider sinker set-up – a homemade cage that suspends a sinker – keeps the weight from getting hung-up and is a great option when back-bouncing. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

the slack and set the hook. When back-bouncing, the goal is to deliver the terminal gear package downstream at a rate considerably slower than that of the natural current flow. As a rule of thumb, backing the terminal gear downstream at a rate of about one-third to one-half the current flow is optimal. This ensures the presentation stays on the bottom and goes where you want it, still traveling downstream towards Back-bouncing is an efficient way to control bait and keep it on the bottom, where a consistent scent trail can be laid down. The goal is to have salmon detect the scent and follow it to the bait, which this Chinook did. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

36 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

holding or traveling fish. Baitcasting reels are ideal for back-bouncing. Position yourself where line can be let out straight downstream. Free-spool the line until the sinker finds bottom, then apply pressure on the reel with your thumb to stop the line from feeding out. Take up any slack by lifting the rod tip. When you want to advance the position of the terminal gear, thumb


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the spool and lift the rod until the gear is off the bottom. Reels are almost always on free-spool when back-bouncing. When dropping the rod tip back down, let out a foot or so of line. This will allow the terminal gear to be carried downstream as it falls back to the bottom. Again, take up any slack by lifting the rod tip. Continuing to pump the rod and feed out line, you’ll be able to back-bounce your way all the way down through the sweet spot until you run out of current or hook a fish.

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Back-bouncing is a fairly simple, straight-forward technique where – with practice – the mechanics become second nature. The fact this style can be applied in such a wide range of settings shows how comprehensive an approach it really is. The back-bouncing set-up is simple. Tie your mainline to a threeway swivel. Tie your leader to another eye of the swivel, then your sinker dropper to the third eye. The sinker dropper can be short or long. For back-bouncing, I prefer a 5-foot dropper and 3-foot leader. On the dropper, I use a spider sinker, which will greatly reduce hang-ups. You can make your own spider sinker cage, but I buy mine from a disabled buddy, Russ Mathews, who makes them in Oregon and whom you can call to place orders at (541) 726-6916. Covering water under control and laying a scent trail is the objective when back-bouncing. Once you’re dialed-in to the art of this fishing style, you’ll be amazed at its range of applications and effectiveness. CS Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, 300 Tips To More Salmon & Steelhead, send a check for $29.95 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or visit scotthaugen.com. Follow Scott on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


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40 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


FISHING With its crystal-clear waters and scenery, the Trinity River is easy on the eyes. But unlike other North Coast ямБsheries, this can be a unique challenge for catching king salmon. (GREEN WATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

THE CURIOUS CASE

OF THE

TRINITY RIVER CRYSTAL-CLEAR NORCAL KING SALMON FISHERY IS A QUIRKY GEM

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FISHING By Chris Cocoles

T

ony Sepulveda has spent a lot of years guiding king salmon anglers in various Northern California rivers – including the Klamath, Smith and Eel, plus the Chetco in Southern Oregon. But tucked in with all the North Coast fisheries sits a river that has its own identity and doesn’t care how you see it: the Trinity. “It’s unlike any other that I’ve ever fished, in the sense that you’re fishing that river at very low flows. And so there’s very little push to it in the places that you’re fishing,” says Sep-

ulveda, who operates Green Water Fishing Adventures (707-845-9588; greenwaterguides.com) in Trinidad, just north of Eureka. “And that really throws people off their game. It’s crystal clear, and so it definitely takes a little getting used to. It’s an extremely light current in very clear water. And it’s a lightweight game in keeping your baits back away from the boat.” Sepulveda cites the vastly different weight sizes he’ll use on the Trinity, which flows about 165 miles from Trinity and Lewiston Lakes northwest into the mighty Klamath in Humboldt County. “My (Trinity) mainstays are ¾-ounce

TRINITY RIVER QUOTA King salmon fishing on the Trinity River is open from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31. The 2015 Trinity quota is 4,663 adults, split evenly between the main stem downstream of the Old Lewiston Bridge to the Highway 299 West Bridge at Cedar Flat and the main stem downstream of the Denny Road Bridge at Hawkins Bar to the confluence with the Klamath. “Typically, 4,000 fish will last us a while,” guide Tony Sepulveda says. –CS

42 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

Be wary of scouting on the Trinity; what might look like a perfect hiding pool for kings will be curiously vacant of fish. (GREEN WATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

sinkers, when in most places people are back-bouncing 4, 6, 8 ounces of lead; and it makes it really easy for guys in the front of the boat to touch bottom,” Sepulveda says. “It’s a whole different deal on the Trinity. There are some places of the river I’ll have guys back-bouncing a ½-ounce sinker; just walking those baits behind the boat. You kind of have to get used to coaching it. But it’s entirely different than anywhere I’ve ever back-bounced for salmon.” And just what will 2015’s run turn out to be for this devilishly different Trinity River? Sepulveda, like he does


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FISHING Plugging with Kwikfish and back-bouncing bait remain staples of bringing in Trinity Chinook. Trophy fish like this one are less frequent, but it can still be a productive river and was last year. (GREEN WATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

when it comes to the Klamath (California Sportsman, August 2015), isn’t necessarily locked into buying the run projections for the Trinity. It would appear to be bleak, given drought conditions – “If anything, we’re probably going to see the effects of the drought in the next couple years,” Sepulveda says – and high water temperatures late in the summer. There have been reports fearing a repeat The weather is great with day temperatures in the mid 70’s and nighttime temperatures in the of 2002, when low 50’s. The lake is only 7’ down from 100% capacity, however EID is releasing about 3” of water per day. We will be open into November with lodging and boat rentals. Make your reservations thousands of now to view the Fall colors in Hope Valley and enjoy some great fi shing at Caples Lake Resort. salmon suffered This 4 lb. trophy German Brown Trout was caught on August 22nd by Sacramento residents, Jason & Cole Taira, in a Caples Lake Resort rental boat using night crawlers.

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a die-off in various rivers. Then again, Sepulveda remembers the understandable doom-and-gloom forecast for the adjacent Klamath River in the ensuing years after the die-off, and the river ended up being full of jack salmon. So while the Trinity might not have high expectations, Sepulveda is looking at it from a deeper big-picture perspective. “Personally, I think the biggest indicators are the years those fish were spawned. This class of fish is still dating back to a time when we had water in our rivers and reasonably wet years,” he says. “There were a ton of krill when these fish got their start and the ocean was really healthy.” “Two years ago, it was supposed to be the best run of all time and it ended up being a crummy run. And last year, it was supposed to be a terrible run and turned out to be a fantastic run. My gut feeling is it’s going to be somewhere in the middle; it’s not going to be a huge run, but it’s not going to be a bad run. I think it’s going to be a pretty normal one.”

PLUGGING AND BACK-BOUNCING STILL RULE Despite the river’s quirks, catching fall-run Trinity salmon doesn’t necessarily mean your tackle box needs to be ridiculously different. Sepulveda still cites the old staples of plugging with Kwikfish-like lures and back-bouncing bait, even with the less than traditional set-ups like the lighter weights. The weird ways of the Trinity, which is set to open for fall king season on Sept. 1, include the tricks it can play on anglers. Sepulveda says the deception can be in water that looks like traditional fantastic salmon habitat, but “a very small percentage of them actually hold fish,” he says. There’s not really any kind of pattern to where the salmon will congregate on the river. Sepulveda couldn’t specify one stretch of water that is sure to hold salmon. Every year,


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FISHING you can count on 3-mile stretches of seemingly ideal pools that would seem like a no-brainer to fish from, but there’s nothing there. Yet obscure patches that at first glance seem ordinary are chock full of kings. Sepulveda calls it “the game of finding fish.” Contrast that to other North Coast rivers like the Smith, Eel and Klamath, where what looks like an ideal salmon hole is more likely to house fish. That’s what makes the Trinity an intriguing, if not must-stop destination each September and October. And by early winter, steelhead and kings will be catchable. “It’s an extremely unique fishery. The weather that time of year is amazing. The scenery is unparalleled and it’s just such a gorgeous little creek,” Sepulveda says. “It’s fickle and it’s challenging, but it gets a lot of fish in it and it’s just a helluva fishery.” CS

Following two unpredictable years, it’s hard to forecast how successful this fall’s salmon season will be on the Trinity, but despite less than ideal water conditions, an average fishery is a reasonable projection. (GREEN WATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

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AUTUMN IN THE HIGH COUNTRY WITH CROWDS GONE FROM THE EASTERN SIERRA, HERE’S HOW TO ENJOY THIS VACATED TROUT PARADISE

48 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


FISHING

By Mike Stevens

A

nyone who has fished the Eastern Sierra after Labor Day knows that the fall is a completely different ball game when it comes to trout fishing. With kids back in school, the weather more variable and less stocking going on, the mobs of recreational anglers have already come and gone over the course of the summer. Campgrounds that were packed throughout the summer become ghost towns and, if you are a condo camper in a town like Mammoth Lakes, the lack of people anywhere is almost eerie. The transformation from late summer to fall comes quickly. In what seems like a span of a couple weeks, daytime temps plummet and the whole area goes from various shades of green to brilliant mixtures of orange and yellow. Suddenly, you don’t have to be up at zero-dark-thirty to score the best spots on the lakes or the primo stretches of creek simply because there are barely any anglers around, compared to summer. And don’t let the cutbacks in late-season stocking discourage you. While popular lakes might receive half the poundage of hatchery rainbows that they do from opening day in April through the end of August, there are many factors that nullify that one; the lack of angling pressure (you’ll find that the absence of summer crowds is a recurring theme here) means fewer gobs of PowerBait to compete with and more access to the best locations on a given body of water. Also, while regular stocking was peaking in August, those rainbows were being dumped into water temps that were possibly flirting with, if not exceeding, 70 degrees. The warm water sent them scurrying for cooler depths, where they could only be caught by a perfectly placed bait rig or leadcore trolling. So many of the fish stocked in August are waiting for cooler temps. In fall, fish also bite all day long.

BROOKIES AND BROWNS

North Lake, near Bishop, explodes in the kinds of fall colors anglers who hike out to this backcountry location will experience. Plus, the summer crowds will be gone after Labor Day, leaving solitude and a chance at some big trout. (JARED SMITH/PARCHER’S RESORT)

In addition to those holdover rainbows snapping out of it, brown trout are also on the prowl as they look to pack on calories to not only power them through the fall spawn, but also to fatten them up to carry them through the upcoming winter, when big meals are harder to come by. Brook trout also raise the aggression level a few notches for the same reason, and will take almost any fly presented to them in the backcountry. Don’t be surprised if you start getting brook trout in the drive-up lakes, either. The biggest brookie I have seen caught (outside of Kirman Lake, which is a special situation) was from the outlet of Twin Lakes in Mammoth during an October trip.

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FISHING A lone boater on Lake George can be a common occurrence in the fall. But this is a time for hard-core anglers to layer up in cooler temperatures and chase trophy trout. (MIKE STEVENS)

Get ready for “brown bagging” this fall. Some flock to the Sierras solely to cast larger lures that traditionally are more for bass in search of big brown trout. (MIKE STEVENS)

Most of the techniques you might use in the summer will still catch fish in autumn. Tossing spoons like Thomas Buoyants, Kastmasters, Super Dupers and Hot Shots are still a good way to locate stocker rainbows, but browns are also more apt to fall for them than they are in summer. Trout jigs like the naturally colored options from Sierra Slammers – with or without a trout-worm trailer – should be back on the radar after an August spent collecting dust, considering most trout are out of their casting range and too deep for the effort. Fishing with prepared or natural bait is still effective, but it’s almost a shame to employ that as your breadand-butter during this magical time. One constant among any of these when it comes to utilizing them for fall fishing in the Eastern Sierra: they can all once again be worked closer to shore. Trout will be stalking prey for the prewinter feast or staging near creek mouths as they prepare to spawn. Along with these classic offerings, there are more that should be added to the arsenal for the fall fishing season; at the least, have minor adjustments to the go-to tactics. Generally speaking, most set-ups can be scaled up to take advantage of the bigger and more aggressive trout that you are targeting. Spoons and spinners should be ⅛-ounce or bigger; minnow baits like Rapalas, Yo-Zuris, etc., should be anything north of ultralight up to something you might otherwise use for bass (more on “brown bagging” later). 50 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

Trout jigs are trout jigs and are basically all the same small size, but adding a trout worm as a trailer will add a little weight for casting, and it will give them a bulkier appearance that will convince a late-season lunker that it’s worth the energy spent to chase it down. This also applies to flies; unless you are matching a specific hatch, streamers like Woolly Buggers, Matukas and Muddler Minnows that might be the size of your index finger could be killer. For dries, use bulkier attractors such as Stimulators or terrestrials like hopper patterns or Chernobyl Ants, especially if you are using them as the top fly on a dry/dropper set-up. Granted, small mayfly (trico) patterns and the like will get you into big numbers of fish when a hatch is going on, but when there isn’t, stick with bigger meat-and-potatoes offerings.

A FALL CLASSIC Crowley Lake is a legendary watershed to fish at any time of year, but autumn can be nothing short of epic at times. Boaters troll Owner Cultivas, Tasmanian Devils, flashers and nightcrawlers, bigger Rapalas on leadcore or topline rigs for numbers and biggies. Creeping into sheltered areas and throwing jigs or minnow baits can produce wide-open action on 3- to 5-pound browns. You can fish a decade of summers in the Sierra and catch a handful of quality brown trout on a jig, but hit the right spot on Crowley in the fall and you could get double-digit numbers of them in a matter of hours. Fly anglers will also chase prespawners in Crowley, many of which will be found in the lake’s North Arm, where they are pigging out on Sacramento perch and getting ready to swim up into the upper Owens to get the spawning party started. “At Crowley, there are weeds out about 15 feet from shore currently with lots of perch fry seeking shelter in them,” says Doug Rodricks of Sierra Drifters Guide Service (760-935-4250; sierradrifters.com). “Water levels will slowly start to drop, and by fall, most of the weeds should be dried up on shore. This will give good access to shore fishermen who are looking to target larger fall fish, and there should be a decent fall bite. The fish will move into the north arm as usual and stage up for the fall spawn. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the fishing will be. Rivers will be dangerously low by then. Some will not have the water to support any mass volume of fish; lake fishing will probably be the best option for anglers at that time.” While the fall solves the water temperature problem, it’s not going to do much for flow levels during our fourth – and hopefully final – drought season. But natural lakes are largely unaffected, and from a fishing standpoint, in most cases only weedier shallow lakes take a hit. Also, as indicated by Rodricks, it could be problematic for some spawning fish moving into the Owens or creeks where there will simply be less room to operate.


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FISHING “My fall prediction is that the (California) Department of Fish and Wildlife will go to twice-monthly stocking after Labor Day weekend,” says Jared Smith of Parcher’s Resort in Bishop Creek Canyon (760-873-4177; parchersresort. net). “Access to South Lake and Weir Pond will be limited, as the Forest Service has planned to refinish the parking area at South Lake and the Bishop Pass Trail. With all of the summer rain we’ve had, we’re expecting creek flows to remain good on the south fork and middle fork of Bishop Creek throughout the fall. North Lake and Intake will be business as usual, as neither is significantly impacted from drought. Lake Sabrina is somewhat of a wild card from a water level standpoint, but given the fact that the lake peaked higher than we expected, access should be good through September, if not well into October.”

LANDING A MONSTER Getting back to fall tactics, another angle of attack you can take is that of the few dedicated “brown baggers” who only come to the east side in the fall, and they are only there to target big spawning browns. These guys are packing medium-light to medium spinning gear that is more commonly associated with bass fishing. They target inlets and outlets of lakes, as well as the creeks themselves, and they throw bigger jerkbaits from Yo-Zuri, Rapala, Smithwick

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and LuckyCraft on line upwards of 8-pound test that you would never dream of using there in the summer. These guys can be found anywhere from Bishop Creek Canyon to the streams connecting the big lakes in Bridgeport. But over the years, it seems like the mecca for them is the June Lake Loop – specifically from Silver Lake downstream through Rush Creek and all the way down to Grant Lake. In this area, double-digit browns are caught every year, and while some of the bigger catches are surrounded by controversy over how much they actually weigh, the photographic evidence is there. Regardless of whether or not they weigh 10 or 20 pounds, these are legit monsters. But don’t get tunnel vision for Rush Creek if big browns are your poison. They can be caught in any deep or sprawling lake with a legitimate creek running in or out of it. Huge browns have been caught just downstream of Convict Lake’s outlet and in the meadow section of McGee Creek, for those bold enough to circumnavigate swamps and multiple barbed-wire fences. While opening day is a huge event that draws anglers from all over California, Nevada and beyond, a fall trip offers way more. Factor in the open water, no crowds, better fishing for all available species and the chance to do it all in a stunning, colorful environment, and it just has a more – well – “trouty” feel to it. CS


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A total of 114 pro and 94 amateur boats entered the 14th Annual Snag Proof Pro-Am Open on the Delta, making for a crowded fleet as the contestants prepared to blast off.

NO SNAGS, JUST A tournament official inspects one of the tournament boats.

Ready to head out into the Delta and chase largemouth.

The tournament’s first limit to weigh in on Day 1.

Photos by Bill Adelman

M

ost everyone has seen a bass tourney on TV with way too many boats and what appears to be mass chaos. After watching what goes on, especially behind the scenes, it really isn’t. I had a chance to attend the two-day 14th annual Snag Proof Pro-Am Open on Aug. 1-2 in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Longtime fishing guide Randy Pringle of BestBassTournaments.com organized the event, headquartered at Russo’s Marina in Bethel Island. Because it was sponsored by Snag Proof, the number one rule was that only their frogs could be used. Peripheral sponsors were Cousins rods, Berkley, Boatmasters.com and MonsterFishingTackle.com. The count was 114 pro and 94 amateur boats. Every boat had to pass inspection; staffers boarded and checked

54 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


FISHING The tournament sponsor, Snag Proof lures, had plenty of options for anglers to choose from.

LOTS OF BASS It was a great weekend of fishing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, with a total payout of $46,130 awarded to participants.

In all, 550 bass were weighed in, A marina tractor helped launch the armada of boats into the Delta including this 3.2-pounder, for an on Bethel Island. overall weight of 950 pounds.

compartments, even battery storage areas. When cleared, a plastic tie was placed near the head of the trolling motor and kept on display. A staff member released each flight in 15-minute increments. Each boat had to return on time or, if even one minute late, be disqualified. After bass were weighed, they were immediately placed in carts, which were quickly wheeled off to the corner of the dock, where organizers had set up a 12-inch tube with running water that ended in the creek. The bass were placed headfirst into the tube and released, away from the dock. As for tournament results, 550 bass were weighed, totaling 950 pounds. The biggest bass came in at 8.28 pounds and was caught by Mark Peters. The winning pro team – Chris Raza and Paul Polemus – finished with a total weight of 25.1 pounds, earning the duo $8,160. Tao Her and Tim Meets were the top amateur team with 23.51 pounds. The total payout was $46,130. Take a look at these scenes from this year’s event. –Bill Adelman calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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58 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


FISHING

SMALL FISH,

BIG FUN A BOBBER AND A PIECE OF BAIT IS ALL YOU NEED TO CATCH PLENTY OF BLUEGILLS By Capt. Bill Schaefer

M

any things inspire me to write – a recent scene at a private lake in eastern San Diego County set the tone for this article. I was camping east of Temecula. This weekend was like many others when the campground had been sold out. But the highlight for the kids was the private fishing lake on the grounds. It was so much fun to watch the 20 to 30 youngsters fill the shoreline and catch bluegill after bluegill. You could see them by the hundreds swimming in the shallows. About 99 percent of the kids used a bobber and red worm set-up on ultralight spinning or spin-casting gear. It was exciting to see several bobbers going under every second! All the smiling little faces just made everyone else grin as well. The funny thing was that when the red worms ran out, the kids discovered that bluegill also love hot dogs. And what was even more amusing? The fish liked their dogs barbecued more than plain. Even pieces of grilled chicken were being dunked. Kids sure know how to be resourceful once shown how to have fun. Nothing seemed to slow them down. If there’s action, they are happy. Bluegill are probably one of the

easiest fish to catch and a lot of fun for the little ones. You can set them up with a push-button spincast rod-andreel combo, and most are able to cast it on their own. The kids also love baiting their own hook, setting the bobber and casting it out. All they have to do is watch the bobber and set the hook. Then the battle is on. The great thing about bluegill fishing is that the entire family can enjoy chasing these little tigers. Dad, mom and the kids can all go fishing and enjoy the day together. Don’t worry, grownups – these fish grow to 3 The author’s son, Bricen Schaefer, shows off a nice bluegill he took on a small pounds in San Di- plastic worm at El Capitan Lake. (BILL SCHAEFER) ego County and will test both you and your ultralight er around weeds and rockpiles. This tackle! So even though your sons makes them easy targets from shore and daughters are chasing anything and also boats, kayaks, float tubes, that bites and don’t care about size, etc. A good pair of polarized sunyou can still hope for that trophy glasses, such as Hobie Baysides, will 3-pounder. help you greatly. You will be able The lighter the tackle, the more to look right past the sun’s glare on fun the catching can be for these the surface of the water and see the scrappy little fish. Match line and bluegill cruising the shoreline. rod to the fish and you are using Mealworms, red worms or a piece more skill to catch them, rather than of nightcrawler are the best baits. just pulling them in. Fish ultralight Crickets are a good bet too, if you to light spinning gear, with 2- to can get them, and small grubs and 6-pound line. If the shoreline you minijigs can also work. Stay alert: choose to fish is extra weedy, then the bite can be subtle at times. But use a bobber set above the hook. pound for pound, these little guys Otherwise, a micro-splitshot will be put up one heck of a fight if the tackenough weight to get your bait down le is matched to the fish. Make sure to the fish. your drag is set right in case you do The panfish and bluegill will hovhook one of those 3-pound giants! CS calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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FISHING

CHUNKING CHIPS FOR TUNA CUT BAIT CHUMMING A SMART PACIFIC OCEAN TECHNIQUE

By Steve Carson

M

uch has been written about the use of various live baits for tuna, and heavy chumming of the live stuff is almost always part of the program. In a record-setting tuna year like 2015, what can a California small-boater do with limited live-bait carrying capacity and equally limited financial resources? The technique known as “chunking” is nothing new and is practiced just about everywhere tuna are caught on the planet. Typically, California anglers cut up sardines into about four pieces each, an inch or two long, and toss them overboard at regular intervals. “Small-boat owners can generally only hold a scoop or two in their boat’s live bait tanks, usually just enough to use as hook baits. Even carefully saving the baits that die and cutting them up into about four pieces used up our limited bait-carrying capacity pretty quickly,” says Doug Kern, manager of Fisherman’s Landing Tackle Shop (619-221-8500; fishermanslanding.com) in San Diego. “This season, we have also been buying an extra scoop of live sardines and just putting them into a 5-gallon bucket. We cut the sardines up into ultrathin slices, not much more than the thickness of a potato chip at only one-quarter of an inch or so. The yield is around eight or nine slices per sardine. “Any time we are near a kelp paddy, get a jig strike or have a good meter mark, we set up a drift. Start out by throwing a handful and then just keep a trail going by tossing one steadily every 30 seconds. The wa-

ter this season is so clear, you can see the chunks 50 to 75 feet down. If all of a sudden you can’t see them, it’s probably because the fish have come through and eaten them. When you cut your catch open later, you will see that they have been eating your chunks. This year there has been a lot of waiting it out, but if you lay out a line of chum over a stretch of water of 300 or more yards, they will eventually find you.” Dwayne Patenude, the past club president of San Diego Anglers (sandiegoanglers.com), agreed with Kern’s assessment. “We use the chunks as hook bait too, and the fish are not shy about hitting on 40- or even 50-pound line,” he says. “We use a short piece of fluorocarbon, mainly for abrasion resistance, on a 3/0 circle hook. There are enough 50- to 60-pounders in every school that you don’t want to go too light. A long soak is not necessary; just let the hooked piece drift freely back with the chum about 100 feet, then crank it in and start over. The key is trying to make the hooked baits drift naturally back with the chummed baits. “The whole technique is just a reaction to limited bait capacity. By doing this, you can stretch your chum power out three or four times longer on a private boat. Party boats, of course, have an almost unlimited supply of live bait that they can chum with.” Chumming with the chunks, and

Shogun crewman Charlie Morito (left) does the gaffing honors on a school-size yellowfin tuna that hit a Williamson Jet-Popper for longrange angler Randy Minvielle. (STEVE CARSON)

then fishing live sardines as bait the standard way also works. “On our little 17-footer, we thinslice the sardines ahead of time, and chum a slice regularly every 30 seconds. Then we just do a long soak with live sardines, every once in a while putting the reel in gear and cranking in a little, then letting it back out,” says Dawn Davis, fishing manager at West Marine (949-6739700) in Newport Beach. “We have done very well this season on bluefin tuna up to 50 pounds using this technique. Some days we’ll leave the harbor at 7 a.m. and are all done by 8:30 a.m.”

TUNA POPPERS Another technique that has rapidly gained popularity over the past two seasons in California and northern Baja is topwater poppers. The most

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FISHING common species targeted with poppers is yellowfin tuna, and in some cases yellowfin will actually hit better on a popper than on live bait or traditional lures. Yellowtail will also readily hit on poppers, as will skipjack tuna, although bluefin and albacore tend to be a little more reluctant. Dorado will often go after a popper, but there can be a safety issue with dorado that are jumping high in the air. They also can thrash on the deck, causing the lure to fly loose and injure anglers. Wahoo also love poppers but can be an expensive proposition with their razor-sharp jaws biting off a high percentage of lures. Best popper sizes for local-grade tuna are around 2 to 3 ounces, with a popular choice being the 2½-ounce Williamson Jet-Popper. For larger fish, the 4-ounce Williamson Jet-Popper works well, and the extra water it pushes with each splash can sometimes trigger even small

fish into biting. Conversely, finicky fish may prefer the slight subsurface disturbance created by the Williamson Surface Pro stickbait. Color is not as important as getting the proper splash on the retrieve, but natural colors like blue sardine, dorado, or black/silver all produce fish. Spinning tackle is called for in most cases, especially if casting directly into the wind. Tuna fishing is definitely not the setting for inexpensive spinning gear. When fishing schoolie-size fish up to about 50 pounds or so, a PENN Spinfisher SSV7500 filled with 65-pound superbraid is sufficient. On multiday long-range trips that may regularly encounter tuna in the 75- to 125-pound class, stepping up to a premium-level PENN Torque TRQS9 filled with 80-pound superbraid is standard. A short, 2-foot leader of 80- to 100-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon is primarily to allow easier handling of the fish on deck, and

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provide chafe resistance near the lure. Either a worm knot or John Collins knot connects the superbraid to the short leader. Due to the dead boat-style and lack of ability to chase the fish, spinning gear is not appropriate on party boats when tuna are exceeding 125 pounds. In some cases, the hooks on less-expensive poppers may need to be upgraded to a heavier grade of wire or they may bend under the heavy pressure. When fishing is very good or when smaller fish may need to be released, changing the treble hooks out to single hooks is appropriate. This writer always has one or two poppers with literally no hooks at all. When limits have been achieved or the grade of fish is a bit small, cranking back a hookless popper can result in 10 to 20 or even more spectacular strikes in a single cast! CS Editor’s note: You can contact the author at scarson@sunset.net.


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FISHING

TO THE BLUE! FROM FINDING FLIPPER AND FRIENDS TO TARGETING TEMPERATURE BREAKS AND FISHING PADDIES, HERE’S HOW TO MASTER BLUEFIN TUNA, AS WELL AS DORADO AND YELLOWTAIL

By Chris Cocoles

W

hen Southern California angler Craig Adkinson and his buddies head out of port onto the Pacific Ocean to chase tuna, dorado and yellowtail, the trip turns into an impromptu dolphin-watching tour. “We look for porpoise (pods). We’ll follow the dolphins and try to get ahead of them. We’re talking huge groups of a couple hundred to-

gether all working bait,” Adkinson says. “They’ll follow the bait, and, of course, the tuna will go with the dolphins. And then the tuna start smashing on the same bait ball. And then you’ll see the birds going crazy.” It’s been another productive summer in the Pacific for the fish species that are usually more prevalent further south in waters off Mexico. But from San Diego north to Orange County and beyond, anglers continue to take advantage of weather patterns that have driven fish to usually colder water. “The best thing we’ve been finding because the water temperatures have

Big fish like tuna, dorado and yellowtail are waiting to be caught off Southern California, as a happy Craig Adkinson shows off during a recent trip. (CRAIG ADKINSON)

been rising because of what they call the Super El Niño, they’re finding what they call a current break,” Adkinson says. “So you’ll look where there’s a difference in the temperature of the current, where the water temperature goes to, like, 71- to 74-degree water; that’s where all the baitfish travel.” What boats should be looking for are giant bait balls on their fishfinders, then traveling along the current break and zigzagging the boat in an S-style pattern. “We catch them by doing what most call fly lining. That’s with a regular tuna rod set-up, with 20-, 30- or 40-pound test, depending on if they’re line-shy or not,” Adkinson says. “We have different set-ups for different

Kelp paddies scattered throughout the offshore areas don’t necessarily have to be huge to contain a lot of fish underneath. (CHRIS RHODES) calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

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FISHING

Set-ups and techniques aren’t very complicated for scoring big on tuna and other species fished off the Southern California coast. The biggest factor is knowing where to find fish. (CRAIG ADKINSON)

grades of fish. So if the fish are in the 20- to 30-pound range, you can use 20-pound line. If the fish are in the 30- to 50-pound range, you use 40-pound test. My buddy just landed a 134-pound tuna on 50-pound line. So that should tell you the line styles.” There are several hotspots for catching tuna and other species. Adkinson has fished a lot in what’s known as the 209 or 277, between the lower side of Catalina Island and San Clemente Island. The kelp paddies that break off the main islands are an alternative to looking for dolphin and bird activity. But there’s more than just finding a kelp paddy and fishing it. How you approach such areas is just as critical as how to fish them. “We see a lot of people do things wrong; they’ll come up to the paddy all super excited and super fast. By doing that, they scare the fish and push the fish down that were under

the paddy,” Adkinson says. “They’ll have engines roaring and music blasting and they get up to it and throw out bait; they wonder why they don’t get bit and they leave.” It’s also worth noting that sometimes boats won’t stay at a paddy long enough and will leave for another spot prematurely when it appears fish aren’t biting. Adkinson has learned some tricks from veteran ocean fishermen Chris Rhodes and Dave Pearson. When approaching a kelp paddy and you are within about a football field’s length, slow down the engines to a trolling speed. Then do a loop around the paddy and troll the area. Chunking some bait around it should bring fish like dorado up to the surface. “Once they get excited on the bait you’ll throw your live sardines or mackerel in there. You can hook it in the nose or the stomach – what we call ‘butthooking’ – and it will

68 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

swim away from the boat better. We’ll just throw it out fly lining; no weight on it and towards the paddy,” Adkinson says. “As long as your bait is swimming toward the paddy, let it free swim and keep working your spool. If you’re bit, just put it in gear and reel tight. You don’t even have to set the hook. Once you come tight with it the fish is already hooked up. When we fish the paddies we just turn the engines off and just drift.” As for artificial baits that can catch fish, Adkinson likes a new line of Shimano-made lures: Flat Falls, diamond-style jigs that work well when fishing anywhere 30 to 200 feet down. It’s a simple way to fish these spoons: tie it on and let it sink as far as your line will let out. Tuna love these baits. Adkinson also trolls with Magnum Rapalas or tuna feathers. “These are pretty simple set-ups. The techniques to catch them are fairly simple,” Adkinson says. “The hardest part is finding the fish.” CS

Adkinson with a gorgeous Pacific bluefin tuna, which can be caught with simple tactics like trolling spoons or fly lining live bait near a kelp paddy. (CRAIG ADKINSON)


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70 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


FISHING

MISSION IS

POSSIBLE FOR

BIG BASS PLENTY OF OTHER SPECIES ARE AVAILABLE IN SAN DIEGO’S MISSION BAY By Capt. Bill Schaefer

W

ith all the great fishing going on right now, it’s a tough decision where to go. Not all of us have a boat that can reach tuna offshore. However, you may be looking for a nice change of pace or a place to take the kids fishing. If so, Mission Bay Park in San Diego is the place for you. This small bay fishes like a lake, and with more than 70 percent of the water regulated by a 5 mph speed limit, you won’t have reckless boaters or jet skiers racing by you. Mission Bay is loaded with bass – spotted sand bass, calico bass and barred sand bass – along with halibut, corvina and a bunch of other incidentals you might catch. The best thing is you can fish it just like a lake. You can substitute anchovies for shiners and use bait, or go with any of a number of freshwater artificial lures to attract fish. If you have freshwater bass gear already, you needn’t go out and spend a bunch of money on new tackle. There is no need for heavy “ocean” tackle in this bay, although there are a few fish that could spool a small reel. But let’s concentrate on catching bass and all the other spe-

cies will come as incidental catches. Go with medium tackle, say a reel with 8- to 10-pound-test line and a 6½- to 7-foot rod in medium action. For baits, let’s look at the most common for the bay: small grubs or swimbaits on a ¼- to ⅜-ounce jighead. Lure colors vary, but different shades of silver, green and brown

are ¾best. They are cast out and slowly retrieved over the weed beds that cover the entire bay. Bass – or any other fish for that matter – will charge up off the bottom and attack the free meal! Most of the fish in the bay are on the small side, but hit like freight trains and fight just as hard. If you can teach the kids to cast, they will catch fish. There is one detail to pay attention to: the tides. The tide moves all day and stirs up the entire food chain in the bay. Don’t let it deter you from going fishing, even if there is little tidal movement. I’ve been out on days when there has been hardly any tide change and still caught fish. You never know when the fish are hungry. Usually, I like a 3- to 5-foot tide that comes into a high tide. For outgoing tides, I like a smaller 2- to 4-foot tide moving water out of the bay. Again, the tides stir up all the clams and crustaceans the various fish feed on. Grab the kids and head on out to fish Mission and other coastal bays in Southern California this month. CS

The author shows off a nice spotted bay bass that fell for a Bomber crankbait, just like its freshwater largemouth cousins. (BILL SCHAEFER)

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GEAR UP W

elcome to fall in California. We’ve worked our way through the hot summer, navigated the FURZGV ÀRFNLQJ WR PRXQWDLQ ODNHV DQG SXOOHG LQ HQRXJK WURXW IRU D ¿VK IU\ 1RZ LW¶V WLPH WDNH DGYDQWDJH of cooler weather (at least it will start to get cool in VRPH SODFHV 6LHUUD VWUHDPV DQG FUHHNV ZLOO KDYH KDUGO\ another soul around to bother you while you cast for a brown trout; and there will be deer to glass for in the TXHVW IRU D WURSK\ EXFN :DQW WR GR D OLWWOH OHVV VWUHQXRXV KXQW" 8SODQG ELUGV DQG GXFNV ZLOO EH LQ VHDVRQ VRRQ ± GRYHV IRU WKH ¿UVW KDOI of this month, waterfowl kicking into gear in October DQG SKHDVDQWV LQ 1RYHPEHU $QG GRQ¶W VWRUH DZD\ \RXU ¿VKLQJ JHDU MXVW \HW :LWK

NLGV EDFN LQ VFKRRO WKH (DVWHUQ 6LHUUDV DUH DQ LGHDO destination for anglers in search of giant brown trout, which has become an autumn obsession for “brown EDJJHUV ´ 7KH VDOPRQ UXQV LQ WKH ULYHUV ± VHH RXU UHSRUW RQ WKH 7ULQLW\ RQ SDJH ± ZLOO EH DW WKHLU SHDN ODWHU WKLV PRQWK DQG LQWR 2FWREHU 6RXWKHUQ &DOLIRUQLD¶V RFHDQ ERXQW\ ZLOO EH SOHQWLIXO IRU EOXH¿Q WXQD \HOORZWDLO DQG GRUDGR ZH KDYH WZR VWRULHV LQ RXU 6HSWHPEHU LVVXH Fall means more than football in our state. Get out DQG HQMR\ ZKDW WKLV GLYHUVH VWDWH KDV WR RIIHU ZKHWKHU you’re a hunter or fishing buff. We want you to have WKH EHVW JHDU SRVVLEOH IRU \RXU WULS VR WDNH D ORRN DW WKH IROORZLQJ SDJHV IRU VRPH RI WKH EHVW SURGXFWV LQ the business.

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76 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


HUNTING

GHOSTS OF THE FOREST

THE AUTHOR REKINDLES A LABOR OF LOVE AS DEER SEASON CRANKS UP By Bill Adelman

I

t’s a given that Columbian blacktail deer are not the biggest critters that we pursue; however, they just might be the sneakiest. You spot one, then it’s gone. You notice a glint of sun off of one antler in the buck brush, then it disappears in a ghost-like vanishing. Whitetail deer are extremely predictable on solitary or private ground. Mulies follow a fairly distinct pattern, but don’t stop when you bleat at them. Blacktail are a separate breed.

A PASSION RENEWED When asked why we hunt, each of us will have our own perspective. Oftentimes it’s just that – what we see afield: Watching a mother quail defend her brood by acting wounded. Silently observing a gray squirrel bring her babies out of a hollow log into the grass, always on alert. Taking

in the motherly scene of a doe backtracking to locate her separated spotted fawn. And many more that have nothing to do with bringing your gun to your shoulder. Back in the day when I first took my son into the hunting woods, he was 10. That outing was far more instructional than just for chasing deer. We carried a Sierra cup on our belt and drank water from a stream. His first pocket knife was but 4 inches long, akin to mine. Our binocs were small and lightweight. An empty .3030 was part of his hunt. As the boy grew into a teen young man, our trips were almost always with three hunters. We did drives with but one rule: follow the plan 100 percent. Our locator with each other was an empty 7mm shell casing. Then we decided on using walkie-talkies; we never used them to ID game, but rather to change a plan if it needed to be altered.

Before the zone requirements took effect, we’d hunt the Sierra until the snows hit, then travel up the road a piece to look for migrating animals. But not today. The X zones of the mountains seem to be productive; however, with the draw system, it can take a while to get a tag.

A DIFFERENT ERA As the years passed, our techniques changed. Hunting on public land suddenly became a nightmare. One opening day we returned for lunch only to find our camp had been seriously vandalized. On opening day? Really? We had guns. At that point, our decision was to split the difference between guided and public land hunts. We joined the El Dorado Hills-based Golden Ram Sportsman’s Club (916-941-7880; goldenramhunting.com) in 1974 and are members to this day. It’s still tough hunting – just behind locked gates.

The author (foreground) glasses above the fog during a California deer hunt. Many zones’ seasons begin this month and hunters will head afield in search of blacktails and mulies. (BILL ADELMAN) calsportsmanmag.com | SEPTEMBER 2015 California Sportsman

77


HUNTING this hunt back towards the truck; it’s a shorter walk Some roads have been to the backup water. As closed to give the deer and you work the area, you’ll hunters a quieter option. notice many small gullies Signs indicate these and crevices, which are all areas are walk-in only good deer hiding places. during the season. The Throw rocks into the early season is generally cover, and more than just extremely hot, so prepaone. Some bucks will just ration is necessary. Hystand up and look, while dration is the key. Carry others will bolt. Be ready. water with you and have It’s so important to stop backup at the truck. It’s and observe every few your choice to wear a yards. On those foggy backpack or use a fanny mornings, get above and pack. Select your options prior to setting camp and Stop and observe when you see a doe within your sights. That buck you’re glassing for glass. If you spot a shootcould appear at any moment or be in close vicinity. (BILL ADELMAN) er in the distance, the travel as light as possible. fog often makes for great Consider getting out stalking cover. morning hunt, try the horseshoe apinto the oaks before daylight, perproach. Leave the road, do a loop to haps on a ridge, take a seat and use a given point and complete the half binocs. A spotting scope adds to A SHORT SEASON circle back to the road. identification, but if you’re going to Part of our reason to be in the field If you walk the road away from take off on a long walk after the sun is to bag a buck. Late-summer and the truck for, say, a half-mile, then do comes up, well ... If splitting up for a early-fall heat can be our primary

Old burns are a great option for slowly walking and glassing on the lookout for deer. Wildfires can rejuvenate brush that has become less productive for forage. (BILL ADELMAN) 78 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


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HUNTING Limiting entry to foot travel can create better hunting areas, though it hurts mobility-impaired hunters. (BILL ADELMAN)

This is typical of the A-Zone’s hilly terrain along the Coast Range. The zone, the state’s second largest, includes much of the Bay Area and coastal counties and the western half of the San Joaquin Valley. (BILL ADELMAN) 80 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

enemy. When a kill is made, the hunt should end. Gather up your group, field dress and drag the deer to the truck, return to camp and skin, clean and cool the carcass as quickly as possible. A mixture of white vinegar and water wiped all over the carcass will drastically

cut down insect activity. If possible, bag it up and head for town in order to hang your buck in a cooler.

MORE HUNTING TIPS When approaching a canyon, use the wind. Wear a green headlamp for traveling or looking for deer after dark. A lighter shows wind direction just as efficiently as the powder bottle. If you’re young, hike in with a pack and spend the night, but don’t forget about the bears. Hunt on horseback where allowed. And most critical, buy the best boots you can afford. It’s so easy to suffer the agony of de feet. Mulies are found up north and


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HUNTING we actually got one about 15 years ago. Just looked up the hill and there he stood, half-hidden and eerily quiet. We hunted the Trinity Alps once. Had I found 100 square feet of level ground, I might have bought it. It’s too bad we can’t hunt later in the year, but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined that if our deer are hunted closer to the rut, too many bucks will be killed. But we’ll get out there this month and into October and give it our best attempt to make another memory and fill our freezer with meat. CS Editor’s note: Check our calendar on page 29 for key deer season-opening dates to remember.

82 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

The author got this mule deer in Northern California during a previous season. He’ll be at it again this month. (BILL ADELMAN)


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HUNTING

HUNTING SUMMER SWINE A QUARTER CENTURY OF PURSUING PIGS HAS LED TO GOOD INSIGHTS FOR HOW TO HUNT IN THE HIGH HEAT

Between 1990, when he bagged his first feral hog with a Marlin lever-action .30-30, to this past June, Tim Hovey has learned a lot about how to target summertime swine in California’s heat. (TIM E. HOVEY)

By Tim E. Hovey

I

’ve been hunting wild pigs in California for over 25 years, and in that time, I’ve chased them during all seasons. Winter and spring hogs can be found moving at all times of the day during the cooler daytime conditions. However, when the weather heats up and the days get longer, wild pigs will adjust their movement patterns and are less likely to be encountered during the heat of the day. If you adjust your hunting tactics and know what to look for, chasing late-summer pigs can be exciting and successful.

FIND THE WATER During hotter periods of the year, all mammals need to seek out water frequently. Most animals will visit existing water sources and usually bed down somewhere close by. When the greenery starts to dry up in the lowlands and the days get hotter, my first order of business when hunting pigs is to locate the water. If you stand and look out over any terrain during dry periods of the year, the presence of water isn’t difficult to spot. Springs and seeps that force water to the surface or even close to the surface will maintain greener vegetation than dry areas. I like to find an elevated location where I can get a

good view of the terrain I’ll be hunting and glass for green areas. I’ll look in valleys or rocky bluffs to see where the vegetation is greenest. Green vegetation almost always means water. After locating potential water sources, I’ll check and see if these areas are being used regularly. From a distance, I can ascertain if the trails leading to the water look fresh. If I can easily access the water hole, I’ll examine the tracks around the shore for recent activity. A water source that doesn’t offer any quality cover nearby may be visited occasionally, but for the most part, I don’t concentrate my scouting efforts at these locations.

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HUNTING

Come this time of year, it really is all about finding any kind of green, which signals moisture and draws pigs. (TIM E. HOVEY)

Areas that have quality bedding habitat close to available water are

your best bet. If these locations are a bit remote or tough to access, they

are a top priority for me to hunt. Pigs like to bed in thick cover to stay hidden, and if you find a spot that looks absolutely nasty to access, it may be just what wild pigs are looking for.

MOVE EARLY, MOVE LATE During warmer parts of the year, wild pigs will become nocturnal and usually feed in the evening. Hunters getting to the hunting grounds early can intercept pigs moving from feeding areas and back to their beds. Pigs can also be spotted on the run near sundown. In either case, these window of opportunity are very brief, and unless you are familiar with feeding and bedding areas, success will be limited. As the vegetation dries out in the lower valleys, groups of pigs will head to higher elevations to seek out greener vegetation to feed on. Lone adult boars, usually separated from the group, will occasionally bed down at lower elevations if they find adequate water and cover to carry them through the day. When the days heat up and pigs wait it out in the thick stuff, I re86 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


ally enjoy picking apart the terrain and identifying these resting areas to kick through.

CHECKING BEDS When I spot a water area that looks promising, I try and develop two plans of approach to accommodate differing wind directions. I usually do this from a distance and then choose an approach once I test the wind at the area. With the wind in my face, I’ll slowly stalk in near the bedding area. I like to try and approach from the top and visualize or identify escape routes for both the pigs and myself. Once I get close, I spend a little time looking for fresh sign before I kick through the vegetation. Fresh tracks and scat will give you an idea if the area is being used. Bedded pigs will hold tight to cover and may not break cover until you’re nearly on top of them. Shot opportunities may be quick and brief. This type of hunting favors a short-barreled, quick-swinging firearm. That’s why this year – when the weather started heating up – I decided to dust off an old rifle I hadn’t used

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In summer’s heat, just like humans, pigs are always looking to hydrate themselves. These hogs have congregated near a watering hole. (TIM E. HOVEY)

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In 1990, I was using the only rifle I owned for hunting big game, a Marlin lever-action .30-30. When I pulled it out for a pig hunt, the guide laughed at my stubby brush gun. Before we got started, he laid out some very specific rules for my lever gun and me. My shots were to be limited to inside 100 yards and the pig needed to be still and broadside for me to even think about taking a shot. I ended up killing a fat sow as the guide stood right next to me. I hit the pig in the back of the head, offhand, and as she ran straight away from us 100 yards out. The guide never said another word about my Marlin. But after I returned home, I stored the rifle in the safe and moved on to other calibers. This year, I have been able to sneak very close to bedded animals


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HUNTING and have kicked pigs up anywhere from 30 yards to a few feet. For this reason, I decided to dust off the old lever gun and carry it with me while hunting the thick stuff. I hadn’t hunted with the Marlin since 1990 and was hoping I’d get a chance to once again put a pig on the ground with it. In June, I met up with my friend Mike and we headed in to our hunting area around noon. The plan was to head into a steep canyon where I knew pigs had been active in recent weeks. Playing the wind, I set up Mike near the bottom of the creek that overlooked a wellworn game trail. I left him there and began to hike the adjacent ridge. My plan was to get to the top, drop into the creek and slowly kick through the creek bottom. My intention was hopefully sending pigs downstream towards Mike. With the temperature approaching 100 degrees, I knew

that not much movement would be taking place voluntarily. I was following a well-used game trail and was about a half-mile up the ridge when I decided to take a water break. I bent down to place my binoculars on the ground when a large animal broke from cover a mere 8 feet from where I was standing. I had the rifle up quickly, but the large boar dropped into the adjacent drainage and out of sight in a heartbeat. When I last saw him, he was headed in the opposite direction of where Mike was set up and had dropped into a different creek bottom. I knew Mike would never see this pig, considering it was this far up the ridge and knowing his escape direction. I ran to the edge of the canyon and waited. The creek was very narrow and I figured I could get a clear shot as the boar escaped up the opposite ridge. Thirty seconds passed

90 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com

and nothing appeared. I took a few more steps and looked into the creek bottom. The boar was standing in deep cover broadside. My wind was good and he appeared to have no idea exactly what had kicked him out of his bed. I raised the Marlin and easily found the pig in the scope. His vitals were covered up by thick vegetation and I needed him to take two steps for a clear shot. Within seconds, he took exactly two steps and stopped. I adjusted, found the crease behind the shoulder and dropped him there at 80 yards. I ejected the shell, picked up the brass and instantly realized that I had just killed my first big animal with my lever gun in over a quarter of a century.

BEING SNEAKY PAYS OFF Sneaking close to bedded pigs is one of my favorite ways to pursue wild hogs in California. If you spend time glassing areas and identifying well-


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HUNTING used watering spots during the warmer months, pigs will be bedded nearby. All you have to do is find them. Wild pigs will adjust their movement patterns as temperatures rise. As they avoid the heat, they’ll feed more during evening hours and move to and from bedding areas very early and very late. If you feel like extending your hunting opportunities well beyond the narrow movement windows, try seeking out summer hogs in their bedding areas. Hearing a 200-pound animal break cover right near your feet will definitely get your heart pumping. CS

While fall and spring pigs are constantly on the move and surprisingly difficult to keep up with, in hotter weather they tend to only get out at dusk and early evening. If you can find where they’re bedded, you can have a productive and fun hunt. (TIM E. HOVEY)

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HUNTING

STAG PARTY

INVITATION TRACING NEW ZEALAND’S THRIVING HUNTING INDUSTRY | FIRST OF FOUR PARTS

Talk about a picture-postcard view: a pair of red stags standing on a ridge on the top of High Peak Game Estate is the kind of scene that greets hunters who travel 6,000 or more miles from California to hunt in New Zealand. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

By Simon Guild

T

he snow tussocks begin to wave in a different direction, indicating a shift in the cool wind. Your scent is now heading right for the quarry, and you know it’s only a matter of time before he’s onto you. Your pulse quickens, despite your best efforts to remain calm. You’ve been here before, not this location, but in this situation. It is familiar, yet somehow different – exotic even. You remind yourself that this very moment is why you’re here: 7,000 miles from home. You steady your rest in anticipation of what you know is coming. Sure enough, the stag lifts his head and turns to face you – its awesome rack on full display – trying to work

out what it is awakening his nostrils. You allow yourself a moment to appreciate his magnificence before focusing in on your scope; you have

mere seconds before he’s gone. You steady the crosshairs and squeeze the trigger like you have so many times before.

“We want people to come to (New Zealand) with an adventure in mind, not a canned hunt,” says the author Simon Guild, left, here with his brother, Hamish Guild. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

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HUNTING HUNTING THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD Does this sound like something that lights your fire? You’re not alone. Every year, hunters from around the world make the pilgrimage to New Zealand to hunt the mighty red stag and a raft of other species that make up the most famous big-game hunting destination in the South Pacific. The dream New Zealand hunt is what they’re after, and making it happen shouldn’t be hard. However, like any high-involvement experience, there are a few simple yet vital actions that can ensure the dream becomes a re-

Over the next four issues of California Sportsman, I will be sharing our knowledge of the industry with you, along with a few insights that we’ve distilled into some vital actions to ensure you make the right decisions when booking your New Zealand hunt. In this issue, we’ll set the scene by exploring the history of hunting in New Zealand, along with a bit about location and species, in terms that are relevant to you, the international-traveling hunter. In the next issue, we’ll look at the right type of New Zealand hunt for you, followed

A hunter on High Peak demonstrates the “spotand-stalk” technique in New Zealand’s rugged terrain. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

ality and not a nightmare. Add this to the fact that hunting in New Zealand is largely unregulated and you’ll soon start to realize that a little research goes a long way. My name is Simon Guild and my family has been hosting international hunters on our estate, High Peak, for almost 30 years. We have seen a large amount of clients over the years, sharing their experiences as they undertake a journey of anticipation, excitement and ultimately success. Unfortunately, we’ve also heard our share of horror stories.

by the seven costly mistakes to avoid making. In the fourth and final installment, we’ll give you 10 frequently asked questions you should bring up to your outfitter. Armed with this knowledge, I guarantee that you’ll be able to go forth and make your inquiries with confidence.

A HISTORY LESSON Understanding where the New Zealand hunting industry came from provides a sound background to the advice that will follow. Wind the clock back 150 years and you’ll see

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a New Zealand with no species of big game – at least not as we know them. New Zealand was a country entirely dominated by birds. The early European settlers, who were missing their favorite pastimes from back home, set about introducing myriad game species – from rabbits through to moose. Some introductions were successful, some less so, but all species were introduced on the basis of being available for every New Zealander to hunt. Gone was the elitism and privilege of European hunting, and to this day it remains the right of every Kiwi to grab his or her rifle and head into some of the 4 million acres of public land to hunt. Despite this egalitarian approach, some species did a little too well. In the case of red deer, the world-leading quality of the wild trophies in the 1930s and ’40s soon gave way to overpopulation and resulting habitat destruction. In response, the New Zealand government implemented deer-culling programs in the 1950s and ’60s, whereupon paid hunters armed with military surplus .303 rifles would head into the bush for weeks on end with the sole purpose of reducing deer numbers. A few enterprising hunters began to realize there was a demand for the venison harvested as a result, and an export trade was quickly developed. While deer were recovered from remote locations by horseback, jet boat and bush plane in the beginning, it was the introduction of helicopters that really made an impact on the numbers. Initially using the machines as a means of transporting the meat out of the wilderness, the helicopter crews rapidly evolved into highly efficient aerial gun platforms, so good at what they did that they soon realized they were going to shoot themselves out of a job! Again the pioneers adapted to the situation and turned their flying gunships into flying live-recovery platforms. The express purpose of this was to capture live deer and sling them


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HUNTING A snowcapped setting and a Himalayan tahr are part of an exotic hunting experience in New Zealand. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

how to breed bigger and better antlers to capitalize on this growth. Now, you can probably see where this is going. As a direct result of the breeding of better velvet stags, farmers also began to breed significantly wider, heavier and more multi-pointed trophy heads. Before long, New Zealand was producing red deer trophies far in excess of any other country, and international hunters were starting to take note. Thus, the modern New Zealand trophy hunting industry was born, with red stag as its cornerstone prize among big game, closely supported by Himalayan tahr, alpine chamois, elk, fallow deer, wild boar and a handful of other species.

A GREAT HUNTING OPPORTUNITY back to newly established deer farms. New Zealand deer farming was thus born and gave rise to a new industry in conjunction with the venison: deer

velvet. The highly valued antler could fetch some serious money in the developing Asian markets, and New Zealand deer farmers quickly worked out

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So what does this mean to you, the international traveling trophy hunter? Well, you now know that hunting in New Zealand is relatively free of restrictions in terms of seasons and


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HUNTING access. You know how our big game species came to be here and how New Zealand came to lead the world in red deer and wapiti (elk) trophy genetics. And you know that the New Zealand hunting industry is an unregulated environment, one where keeping your wits about you in the initial planning stages can result in a life-changing experience for the better. In the next issue, we’ll explore the different hunting environments in New Zealand, how they may relate to your ethics and preferences as a hunter, and a few important things that you really should be aware of. CS

Hamish Guild and a client celebrate a New Zealand red stag. The country’s trophy population has become a coveted option for international hunters. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

Editor’s note: Simon Guild is a director of High Peak, one of the oldest hunting estates in New Zealand. He and his brother Hamish co-wrote The Hunters’ Guidebook to New Zealand with the aim of providing quality decision-making guidelines to visiting international hunters. Find out more at huntingredstag.com.

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A ‘RIFLE GIRL’ TRIES HER LUCK WITH AUSTRALIAN ARCHERY DEER HUNTING

By Brittany Boddington

I

’ve always been a rifle girl. I learned to hunt with a rifle and never thought of shooting with anything else until I was approached about a hunt in Australia in a bow-only area. I really wanted to do the hunt and I was eager to get a chance at some rusa deer, but the idea of taking up bowhunting was pretty daunting. I put the idea on the back burner for a couple years until I started filming with Petersen’s Hunting Adventures. They had BowTech as a sponsor and were eager for more bowhunts to be filmed, so I mentioned in passing that I might have an idea for a bowhunt. They jumped on it and immediately started planning for the hunt.

UNPACKING A NEW TOY I received the BowTech Heartbreaker bow about three months before I was set to go to Australia. I had never set up a bow; I had absolutely no clue how to even handle a compound bow. I had only shot a kids’ longbow in Girl Scouts when I was little, but that’s not nearly enough experience. Luckily, I belong to a private range in Los Angeles, and one of the guys there is a professional archery teacher. He helped me set up my bow and cut down my arrows, and then give me a crash course in archery. I bought a target and started practicing as much as possible. I wanted to get my draw weight up to 50 pounds before my trip. It may not sound like much, but since I’m right-handed but left-eye dominant, I was shooting a left-handed bow. I practiced as much as possible and cranked up the weight on the bow often. In the middle of all this, I had to go on a hunt in Africa, so I lost some practice time. But when it was time for the trip, I was up to pulling 48 pounds. That was close enough for what we were doing 102 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2015 | calsportsmanmag.com


Broad Sound Safaris owner Greg Coyne and the author with her very ďŹ rst bow kill, a beautiful male Moluccan rusa deer. It took her a while to get comfortable as a mostly novice archer on this Australian hunt. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

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his property. His hunting area is all around his home and guesthouses. I saw animals from the very first moment I arrived. I was so relieved to see that there were lots of rusa deer around because I was concerned that if I only had one chance, I might screw it up.

BEGINNING IN DARKNESS

The area the author hunted was rich with bird and animal life. “Truly a beautiful place,” she says. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

– or so I hoped. I was hunting with Broadsound Safaris (bowhuntingsafarisaustralia.net) owner and guide Greg Coyne in Queensland on the continent’s northeast coast. He knew I had never done a hunt with a bow before and was eager to take me on my first such trip. He is a passionate bowhunter and has a ton of animals that come and go on

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The plan was to try to take one Moluccan rusa and one Javan rusa. The Javan rusa covered the fields as far as the eye could see. We decided that the first day we would try sitting in a blind and see if any deer came in close enough to shoot. It was dark when we climbed into the little blind and got comfy, waiting for first light to show us what animals were moving around us in the grass. I could hear the footsteps of the deer, but it was too dark to see what was there. I was nervous about shooting from a confined space and had not practiced drawing in a blind at all since I didn’t own one. The light crept up and illuminated a few rusa deer milling around in front of the blind. We were filming the hunt for TV so we couldn’t shoot until the camera had enough light, even though we had plenty with our eyes. We waited rather impatiently and my heart pounded as I tried to remind myself of all the steps I needed to remember. I thought about my peep sight and my release. I thought way too much because when it was time to


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draw and Greg showed me which deer to aim for, I forgot to extend my front arm first; I instead tried to pull the bow open from the middle with both arms bent. My arms shook like crazy and obviously the bow did not open. I was so frustrated and nervous that I completely screwed up my draw and the deer walked away. The next deer that came close enough to the blind was a really nice male. Greg calmly told me that this was a taker. This time I put my front arm out and then pulled the bow, but as I released, the deer heard the sound of the bow and ducked under my arrow. I was starting to think that this whole bowhunting thing was impossible. We decided to switch to spot-and-stalk since I was used to shooting standing up. In this area there are free-range Javan rusa, and Greg keeps some fenced Moluccan rusa. If the two are left together they will interbreed. Greg informed me that there were four Moluccan rusa that had escaped the enclosure and suggested that we try to hunt one of them. They were in a field with some big trees scattered around. We didn’t have a lot of cover, but there were some small hill-like rises to give us a little bit of cover to make an approach. We crawled up to them as they were feeding. By

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A rainbow appeared over the endless grassy fields where the Javan rusa deer live. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

now, Greg had explained the idea of “jumping the string” to me; he instructed that I make sure the animal was distracted before I shot.

FIGURING IT OUT The deer were feeding on and off, so we moved when


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Here’s an idea of the type of cover available for stalking; it was not exactly an easy landscape, but with some determination, the author made it work. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

their heads were down. As we got in range, we used the scattered trees for coverage. When I was ready, Greg said to slowly stand and shoot. It would be a quick shot since the coverage was limited and they would definitely see

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me stand. I slowly got to my knees with my head down so they wouldn’t see my face. I stood as fluidly as I could without making any sudden gestures and drew back my bow. To my surprise, the deer didn’t see me. The one I was preparing to shoot was about 25 meters from me, broadside and feeding on grass with its head down. I got steady, took aim and released. I expected the deer to run off or duck my arrow as all the others had, but to my surprise, the arrow hit exactly where I aimed: just behind the shoulder bone. The deer made a semicircle of about 15 meters and fell over directly in front of me, about 35 meters away. All four legs kicked skyward, and then it was dead. I was in utter shock. I think my first words were a startled, “it worked!” I was shocked and elated! My very first bow kill and the animal died quickly with no clue what had hit it. One of my biggest fears about learning to bowhunt was that it can take time for an animal to die, even with a well-placed arrow. I got lucky for my first time with a bow, but now it was time to try to finish my mission and take a Javan rusa as well. These deer were widely spread across what seemed to be an endless grassy landscape. It was exceedingly difficult to stalk them because they always saw us. We tried everything we could think of. We crawled, we waited, we hur-

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ried and we moved only when the animal ate, but nothing worked. They spooked every time. Finally, we got close to one big mature Javan rusa. It was afternoon and the sun was in our favor; the deer didn’t see us closing in. I tried the same technique as before and hoped for a similar outcome. When I got close, I popped up and drew my bow back while standing. This time there were no trees for cover and the deer saw me as I drew my bow back. There was a pause of hesitation and I knew the deer would not stand any longer, so I released my bow. I completely ignored the advice from earlier about making sure that the deer was distracted before releasing. Sure enough, the deer spun and the arrow hit behind the ribs, angling forward toward the neck. The deer didn’t go very far, though my shot didn’t hit anywhere near where I had planned. I had to use another arrow to finish the job and felt a little discouraged after the confidence boost of the first rusa. I think at that point I said something like, “I miss my gun.” I have every intention of building my skills as an archer before attempting to hunt with a bow again. It was probably a bit premature to attempt this hunt after only learn-

ing to shoot when I did, but it all worked out in the end. The skill involved in bowhunting is truly an art, and I had no clue how difficult it was. I have a newfound respect for all hunters who shoot bows. I hope someday I can hold my own in the bowhunting world. Until then, it’s just practice, practice, practice. CS Editor’s note: Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more information, go to brittanyboddington.com or facebook.com/brittanyboddington.

It wasn’t easy for a still work-in-progress bowhunter, but the author did manage a double with this Javan rusa deer. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

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