Manchurian Sika…A Two Year Dream Realized!
Steve seems to enjoy any kind of deer hunting. He has taken two amazing bucks on the Patio Ranch: a great axis in 2008 and then an amazing red deer in 2011. In both of these hunts, his body language would tell if he really liked the deer: shallow breathing, a little bit of a tremble in his hands, very few words, eyes fixed on the animal, and a vice-like grip on his rifle! And in each instance, a great shot brought down the target with one shot! Steve was back to hunt a tremendous pure Manchurian Sika. His planned hunt last year was postponed when the targeted big buck broke a number of points off from the main beam in rutting fights. So, this year, Steve was anxious to try for the buck before the heavy rut activity started. He was accompanied by his brother, Jeff’, who has a strong interest in one of the large aoudad rams that had been seen on the Patio. Even though events would unfold that did not leave Jeff time to hunt, his support would be an important factor in Steve’s success.
The day started mild with clear skies and a slight breeze; a wondrous early fall day! Two pastures held some great sika bucks, so the hunt started in the pasture where there was known to reside two very large bucks; the target deer from last year and one other. This very rough pasture had three draws that provided heavy cover for these sika deer; and on this day, that is where they were loafing. With all of the does together with these bucks, there were too many eyes present to approach the cedar brakes successfully for a shot. When the deer were seen, a safe and clear shot was not available and the distance too great. So, the hunt moved to the other pasture. Two very large deer were seen in the second pasture. One was a symmetrical 5×5 buck and the other a massive 4×4 typical configuration buck. Both were seen at a great distance, but neither had the appeal that Steve’s first choice sika buck still held. His decision was to go back to the first pasture and double down on his hunt for last year’s large buck.
With that decision made, the hunters decided to take a short detour to view the pasture that held the large aoudad rams so that Jeff could get a better feel for the lay of the pasture to plan a hunt for one of these monsters later in the fall or winter. Holding true with the luck to this point, only the swishing of a few aoudad tails and a glimpse of some larger rams was seen in the section-sized pasture. The hunters opted to take a short break and then try for the sika in the first pasture again hoping that the results would be better than the hunt earlier in the day.
After the short break, a final search was started in the first pasture hoping that the results would be better than those earlier in the day. Again, the rough pasture was hampering the discovery of the large buck’s whereabouts. As the sun was dropping very low in the west, some antlers were seen through the tall grass and oak trees directly into the setting sun. The buck was crouching low, but the antlers were definitely those of the buck from last year, only with no broken tines! However, with a number of does watching the hunters and the buck in cover, a safe shot could not be taken. The hunters decided to disembark from the truck and use the same high grass and oak trees as cover from prying eyes. With the Steve out of the truck with his guide, Jeff took the truck out of the area while the hunters crouched to gain all the cover possible and hope that all would calm down and the buck would move from his cover. Also, our fingers were crossed that the females would not cross downwind and bark an alarm to spoil the hunt. After a few minutes that allowed all to settle down, Steve rose slowly behind the cover of an oak tree to see if the buck had moved out of deep cover. The big buck was standing broad-side with his head down feeding in an opening! Great luck, but the setting sun was directly behind the buck and a clear sight could not be made through the scope. Steve adjusted so that the sun was blocked by an adjoin tree, but the position was tenuous and unsteady. Finally breathing, Steve relaxed and found a way to steady the position enough for a safe shot. The muzzle blast was bright in the fading light and the buck disappeared stumbling through the low brush and grass. After a wait of minutes that seemed like eternity to Steve, the hunting party sought the last position where the buck had been heard. A slow approach revealed the large buck very still on the ground. Congratulations, a prayer of thanksgiving with the “last bite”, and plenty of pictures brought a conclusion to the long day’s hunt.
What a blessing to see someone enjoy the hunting experience as Steve does; I hope that he never loses that excitement, anticipation and joy. In addition, Steve, Jeff, and millions of other hunters each year are supporting the proliferation or even survival of many rare and endangered species by their monetary support through hunting while at the same time supporting the open spaces around the world. Their participation in our hunting heritage improves the chances that these animals will survive and grow for the next generation…and hopefully for many more generations to come. Ben, Steve’s son, will learn about this hunting heritage from his father, uncle, and others that hunted before him. Let us all join together and wish that Steve and Jeff and Ben will for many years to come have uncounted hunting experiences that will allow them to often “…tell a different hunting story!!”
Best wishes for a successful and memorable hunting season!!