Overcoming the odds on California public land elk hunt

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RACK ATTACK– Getting the tag was a miracle in itself, but once he had it Geoff Diaz worked his tail off for this impressive public land elk.
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BY CHUCK WOLF

SISKIYOUHunting public lands for elk is not a weekend game. Tag opportunities are rare, pressure high and the odds of taking an animal low. In California, if you do all the math, include each season, each method of harvest, factor preference points, and divide the total number of applicants (45,000) by animals harvested (207). you get the picture.

The season for bulls was late this year. It followed several preceding hunting seasons, the rut was over and most bulls had settled into a herd.

So when Geoff Diaz of Redding set out to hunt public lands in the Butte Valley Grasslands, solo, on foot with an aching achilles, the odds were not in his favor.

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After eight days of walking, glassing, avoiding other hunters and not taking a shot, Diaz was depressed. This opportunity took 21 years. He’d grown up hunting this area and had conducted some serious off-season scouting with his son-in-law, Gabe Kossol, a fully-licensed California and Oregon hunting-fishing guide and the owner of New Mountain Outfitters. Dejected he headed back to the barn.

Four days later, rested and with a new outlook on life, he hit the field again. This time he found the herd.

Mid-day in the head-high sage, he found the cows. Three stood sentinels while the big bulls and remaining cows rested. That evening he saw the bulls.  Two spikes, a raghorn and two nice bulls. Night fell, no shot. With only three days left of his season, Diaz needed a new strategy.

Betting that the herd would return that morning, he set up in the dark. At just before 7, the herd started to move back into the sage.  First the cows, then at 700 yards, the bulls. The spike, the rags and then the six. At 500 yards he sighted in his 6.5mm Creedmoor and took his shot. Hit squarely in the left shoulder, the animal staggered, went down, but regained it’s feet. At 370 yards, he finished the hunt.

Taking advantage of Gabe’s off day he called him, long-time fishing and hunting buddy Brian Hodge and second son-in-law Ian Brooks for some help.        Overall, the animal was estimated to be somewhere around 700 pounds. The team packed out over 285 pounds of meat, plus the cape and the head. The meat was processed by Scottie’s Gourmet Meats.

The animal had been ear tagged, and Diaz connected with Erin Zulliger, Northeastern Elk Biologist for California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who reported that this bull had been tagged as a calf in 2019. This bull had lived hard, it had two broken points and some good scars on its back. It was the second largest bull in the herd and by the tag and estimates was probably just over six, a pretty good life span for a bull in this region. Despite the damage, the spread, point lengths, main beam, and mass the animal would probably score about 380.

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