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34 responses to “Hunting Deer on Catalina Island”

  1. Suburban Bushwacker

    Awesome post Hank, that moment of shooting at a wounded deers is nerve wracking, you captured it well.


  2. Alan

    Great post Hank!

    It always is frustrating to loose game. Especially big game. Someone else will be eating and that a good thing even if it is disheartening to loose such and animal. Glad you were successful. Looks like good eats are headed your way.

    Can’t wait to see what your cooking up….Alan

  3. Josh

    Hank, this was a great article. Tough luck, man; I’m sorry it had to go down that way. I’m also glad you got a deer, and not just because I live close… I’ll trade some Thrifty Italian for some sausage, if you have enough and the inclination.

    I would LOVE to see a Catalina fox! And, your description of what the future of hunting could look like is very heartening, especially right now.

    What a weekend.

  4. chascates

    I’m always astounded at the stamina of a deer that’s been shot. I swear I’ve shot a doe in the heart at about 60 yards and she ran way farther than that. I always hope that the vital life spirit that enables these incredible animals transfers to me when I partake of their bounty.
    That may sound weird but, like harvesting poultry, ethical and sustainable hunting has an attraction that the moment of death is only a very small part of.

  5. Keith M.

    Hey Hank: Good post! I grew up hunting white-tailed deer in the North Woods of Maine. You touched on many issues that hunters and their associations must better explain to non-hunters. You made headway with you post.

    Take care.

  6. Cork@Cork'sOutdoors

    Great stuff, Hank! I’m sure there’s a lot for hunters to learn from in the honesty of your description. Even well-trained veteran snipers miss–something hit home during a radio interview last week with my friend Maj. John Plaster, author of “The Ultimate Sniper”.

    A few questions:

    When you go to range do you only shoot at the bench, which is really just seeing where your rifle is zeroed, or do you go through all the possible positions you’d need for the field: prone off a backpack, kneeling, off-hand and off shooting sticks?

    Do you carry shooting sticks?

    Do you practice at ranges out to 600 yards? Practicing at ranges most would never shoot an animal at makes the 100-200 yard shot a no-brainer.

    How often do you practice? Lately, I’ve been doing most of my practice in the backyard with something that most replicates my hunting rifle, a bolt-action, scoped Benjamin Marauder adult .22 pellet gun. Much cheaper than going to the range (I practice for a few minutes every day), and I can go through all the shooting forms, and hitting an half-inch size target at 15 yards is like hitting a deer at 300 yards. It is all after all about a light trigger pull, tigger control, shooting between hearbeats and breath control…and heavy rifles are actually your friend…you’re going to be out of breath anyway, might as well have a non-mountain-type rifle that doesn’t bounce your sight picture around…

    What bullets were you shooting–I’m assuming you’re using your .270 from last year? A few years back I shot a blacktail, on a San Mateo county ranch that is now part of Open Spaces, at 35 yards. It kept running as if I didn’t even scratch it. I hit it again with my .300 Win Mag and it rolled. The two entry holes right behind the shoulder were only an inch apart. What assume was the second hole had an exit that busted a rib. The other one passed between the ribs on entry and exit. I was using a 180gr. CoreLokt.

    From the angle you were shooting at, and the position of the deer, do you think it entered at the base of the throat, passed through the soft vitals and then hit the back leg? Which leg was it limping on? What model and make were you using of bullet?

    The fishing must have been amazing! When I was going to school in SoCal, I used to SCUBA dive Catalina a lot off of Avalon. I remember being at 100 feet and looking up to see a school of tuna pass high above us like a flock of geese–amazing!

  7. Phillip

    Hank, nicely told! And yeah, I’m jealous as hell… I’d love to get on a hunt in a place like that. One day (he tells himself).

    As far as shooting, it’s that second shot that messes with people. The first one is tricky enough, all about the balance of adrenaline and muscle memory, but the second one is the nerve wracker. In your mind, you know you’ve already done something wrong, the confidence is shattered, the animal is generally alarmed and alert… as well as moving… and you never seem to have enough time to pull it all together. Congrats on pulling it together on that second deer.

    The first deer… if the shot was truly all leg, then odds are good that the deer will survive. I don’t know, but seems like large predators are fairly limited on Catalina? Bummer that it happened, but it does. We just do what we can to keep it from happening too often.

    So now you’ve got meat in the freezer. What’s next?

  8. Charlie

    Hank! It was great having you here. Can’t wait to see what you whip up out of this one…especially la lengua.

    I’ll send you the video of the foxes as soon as I can. The cuteness…!

  9. Matt

    I like the idea of hunting for meat and sparing the trophy bucks with the “best” genes. It could counter our recent trend of selecting for small body size in these animals, and reminds me of many angler’s desire to only kill hatchery fish, sparing the natural genetic diversity.

  10. Vyki

    Wish I could have been there, sounds like everyone had a great weekend. The quail look particularly tasty while they are eating your squash flowers!

  11. Tovar

    That’s a powerful post, Hank. Thanks.

    I dread the possibility of wounding a deer in my own hunting. And if my first shooting of a deer had resulted in that kind of scene, I feel fairly certain it might have been my last hunt.

    And I, like you, hope to see hunting’s future play out more along the lines of food and conservation, less along those of competition and trophies.

  12. Hodgeman

    Great post Hank…

    Being involved in culling operations (where a wounded animal doesn’t count against your bag) before I can only say you hope to do it right the first shot and sometimes you just don’t. Nice recovery on the second deer, I’m sure it will be wonderful eating. No one likes to wound anything but its a reality of hunting- all hunting, not just human on animal hunting. Wild animals wound each other frequently. Doesn’t make it less painful but its a reality.

    I’ve shot deer that had substantial wounds well healed…ones that would suprise you, so that deer may be doing better than you think.

  13. Annie

    Great post and really cool to see the Island through another’s eyes! We were happy to have you here and get to know you as well; learning from people who share our interests is a great pleasure for us, and as you saw from your time here, this little ranch loves welcoming new friends into the tribe. I hope you’ll make it out again and experience more of the Island– maybe some white sea bass next time!

    Give a shout next time you pass through the mountains; our new stomping grounds is prime for lots of great hunting, fishing and foraging and we’d be happy to have you.

    Phillip– you’re right, large predators are not present on the island (unless you count people!).

  14. Kevin

    Wow. Well written, and I should just steal your last paragraph sometime as it’s perfection. Ok, quote, not steal.

    I always enjoy hearing about your screw ups – it makes me feel better about nicking the odd gut. Still haven’t lost a big game animal, but I know my time will come – the ‘elders’ I hunt with say it happens to everyone eventually.

  15. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie)

    Enjoy your sensibilities. I have been to Catalina Island, years ago, and thought it was heaven on earth. I grew up on wild meat and fish. My father was a hunter. We had it as much as beef. I really miss it now.

  16. Janna

    Great post, thanks for writing it. I’m encouraged to hear about this group of young sciency types who are into good food and connecting with it through hunting and all that. I’m headed to the Women’s Hunting Weekend held by California Waterfowl in September and am excited to take the first step for myself. It’s interesting how unusual a thing it still is though, people I associate with really seem to think of hunters as conservative redneck NRA types and don’t know how to react to my interest.

    Although even as I write this I realize there a good number of folks who I’ve mentioned it to who smile and tell me about how their Dad or other relatives used to hunt and they loved going out shooting or whatever.

  17. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Boy does this give me pause. It’s every hunter’s second-to-worst-case scenario (after shooting a person), and the likelihood of its happening to me, a first-time hunter inexperienced with a gun, is so much higher than the likelihood of its happening to you, a seasoned hunter and excellent marksman. Yet it happened to you. I suppose it happens to almost everyone, eventually. It’s an inevitable part of hunting, and its inevitability is one of the things we have to factor in when we consider whether hunting is ethical.

    I hope the deer isn’t suffering inordinately.

  18. Amber

    Very honest story, Hank. As always, beautifully written.

  19. Phillip

    Frickin’ captcha code… let me start again…

    If you’re interested, Hank, Holly is wanting to go try Kokopelli Valley again this fall. That’s a B zone tag. I’ll be trying to get there a couple more times this season, starting with the archery opener next weekend, so I’ll have it a little more scouted out than last time. A couple of extra hunters will also let us spread out a little bit and cover more ground.

    I may also take a September weekend and do an A zone rifle hunt on some public land I used to hit a lot. You’re welcome to join me on that one too.

    Anyway, let me know if you’re interested in getting to any of these spots. They’re not Catalina, and probably can’t compare to some private land opportunities, but the invite is open.

  20. Ken

    I heard there was some good fishing as well! It was nice to have you here on the island, and I hope this article gets read and read again.

  21. Cork@Cork'sOutdoors

    No, Hank, I don’t shoot game at 600 yards (many bullets don’t even had enough force to mushroom at that range), I only practice at those ranges when I can: makes the 100-300 yard range that much easier, especially since my .270 is sighted in at 1-1/2 high at 100 yards, which means I don’t need to adjust for drop until 275 yards.

    There’s this range that’s pretty good in your area: They have up to 300 yards for non-members and a 1,000 yard range for members. I also have some desolate places up high in the Sierras that are free, safe, and are pretty open, making great places to practice shooting in up and down hunting conditions.

    I do the same for my archery: while I hunt only out to 30 yards, I practice shooting at the archery range out to 80 yards. Really makes 30 yards that much easier.

    Are you by any chance bringing some of that deer as carpaccio to the dove shoot? nudge-nudge, wink-wink …meat must be soft like butter!

  22. Mike Spies

    Hank — we all come to a similar situation sooner or later. I have never actually lost a big game animal I knew I had hit, but I have had some painful and difficult hunts after the shot. It is sobering to be reminded of how serious it is to be a hunter. You did right, learn from it, and prosper.

    Thanks for your honesty and your excellent, well written blog.

  23. Angelina (Stitch and Boots)

    I always enjoy your stories but this one is especially poignant for me. I don’t hunt because I’m a vegetarian (I was raised as a vegetarian so it isn’t a political or moral choice for me) and I am often annoyed that vegetarians and vegans don’t understand that eating, whether animal or vegetable, will always effect other beings. You put it so eloquently I won’t bother to rehash it- I just appreciated you bringing that point up. We do all have blood on our hands and I really believe that while that’s inevitable, we should all be aware of it and respect what we take from others to feed ourselves.

    That was a pretty gripping story. I need a beer now.

  24. Eric

    Great post again, Hank. Honest experience, honest food.
    I grew up on Catalina—actually on a boat at the Isthmus 25 years ago and have all the fond memories of abalone diving as a kid, boat people going out on boar hunts, and all the fresh fish we could eat.

  25. Bpaul

    I am continually impressed by the candor in both you and your significant other’s posts about the realities of hunting. It’s so important to tell, to put the reality out there, and yet I don’t know that I’d have the courage to tell these types of stories in a public venue. Bravo, seriously.

    Bp, your Oregon pal

  26. hedger

    just found your blog i dont shoot deer quite expensive in the uk but i hunt most other game .this was a lovely article quite sad but thats hunting suprised you or the guide didnt have a tracking dog as most in the uk do is this normal over there ,love your artices good huntin good food they way it should be

  27. Sandy

    I agree with the others…that story had me on pins and needles. Are there any predators on the island that could finish off that wounded deer? Nice shooting with the second deer, though I found it disconcerting that the way your friend, Charlie, carries the carcass has it looking a lot like my chihuahua when she sits. I suppose all four walkers do resemble each other in some way or another…when my dog does an eagle spread on hot days, she looks eerily like the frozen, dressed rabbits they carry at the local Harvey’s Supermarkets. I can’t decide if I consider it observant or creepy that I notice these things. I’m leaning more towards creepy. LoL

  28. IowanHunter

    Great post Hank. I been hunting in Iowa and Missouri for the past 3 years. Awesome.

  29. Aaron

    Nice post! I just finished my hunter education class this week. I was inspired to do so by a post of yours earlier this year. I have never hunted, but now me and my fiance can hardly wait to go!

  30. Bricky

    Hank, I’m a good friend of Charlie’s and just returned from Catalina. He took me hunting as well, your name came up a lot in a favorable way. I got extremely lucky on my hunt, three does sauntered up to us at about 35 yrs right before sunrise. Of course, that luck was orchestrated by Charlie. It had a great taste of subversiveness, I could see the Casino from where I took my shot. She didn’t get very far at all.

    That was the first deer I’d shot in about 20 or so years. Somehow we managed to get 35 lbs of beautifully butchered (by Charlie) meat back to FLA without Delta sending it to baggage limbo. I’m really looking forward to trying some of your recipes. I have some friends here who are offering me to hunt locally on their land, if I get a chance it will be interesting to compare Catalina mule deer to Alachua County whitetail.

  31. Rod

    That is a great story and I love your perspective. How can I get info on booking Charlie?

  32. George Hedgepeth

    I love your blog, and I share many of your passions, but please re-read this part of your posting…

    “Here was a bunch of young, highly educated people who were coming at hunting for all the right reasons: conservation, a desire to be self-sufficient, and a need to control the food they eat.”

    Ask yourself how this sounds to the millions of hunters here in the rest of America who hunt, and have hunted, for generations. Pretty damn pompous. I know I probably sound like a jerk to you, but hunting is not a statement, nor a fad, for most of us. It is a full freezer, a lot of fun, a time for traditions, and conservation.

    Congrats on your success and your lovely blog, If you find your self in Michigan, look me up- we can forage for wild rice, make some maple sugar, catch some burbot, or grill up some young split groundhogs!

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