Teamwork is one of the more underrated advantages a hunter has at his disposal, but it's been a recurring theme for me the past couple seasons.
This year, my A-zone hunt in Santa Clara County nearly ended in disappointment, and I was minutes away from not filling out my tag for the first time in more than five years.
Though I held back from shooting a few small forked-horn bucks, two big guys I saw late in the season -- including one monster buck -- put the moves on me and narrowly evaded shots from my 30-06.
Admittedly a little dejected, I stayed out until the last few minutes of hunting season, taking one final walk up a ridge where my hunting buddy, UC Merced freshman Gerald Dooley, was waiting to pick me up in his truck.
I was 100 yards down the hill from him and with shooting light petering out, just a few minutes away from the end of the season.
Then a little commotion ensued after I heard Gerald cut loose with a shot from his .243 just above me.
I positioned myself for a shot as I saw an animal coming down the ridge out ahead of me. When I identified its horns, I fired off a shot myself. The buck dropped and rolled down the hill, coming to rest against a brush patch.
One of us gut-shot the animal, while the other center-punched it. There's still some debate about who made what shot, but there's no debate about the well-executed collaboration that went into bringing down and packing out the decently-sized forked-horn.
THE BENEFITS OF TEAMING UP
I've had a lot of success in my hunting career while out on solo hunts. I still enjoy getting out on solitary trips now and then.
But the buck Gerald and I harvested got me thinking about how much greater success my hunting partners and I have had when working together.
About five years ago, I spotted a giant 4-point buck and guided my dad to it. In 45 years of hunting, it's the biggest buck he's killed.
Last season, Gerald spotted the A-zone buck I killed. I wouldn't have seen it if he wasn't keeping an eye out.
A few seasons back, another friend of mine finished off a heavy six-by-three buck that I shot and was trying to track down in the Sierra Nevada.
It was in those same mountains that my dad finished off a five-by-three buck another friend of ours hit.
There's simply not enough space in this column to go into other stories of when my hunting partners and I have chased game animals to each other and worked together on tracking them.
While it might be nice having the mountains to yourself once in a while, you just can't beat having reliable hunting buddies.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.