Patience pays off in California antelope hunt

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BY CHUCK WOLF

STANDISH– John Boitano spent four decades waiting for an antelope tag. This year, his persistence paid off and he drew Zone 4, Period 2. Boitano has applied for tags every year, even before California introduced the points-based system, and despite having maximum preference points, he had only been selected as an alternate. This year someone declined their hunt and Boitano finally had his!

These are truly “hunts of a lifetime” and securing an antelope tag in California is a rare and coveted opportunity. In 2022, there were 10,640 applicants for just six hunting zones. Zone 4, Period 2, had 3,754 applicants for 35 tags. Non-resident selections are so rare that few even apply.

Antelope are a hard target. These animals are known for their speed, wide-ranging movements, exceptional eyesight, and skittish behavior and Zone 4 is huge. It encompasses sections of Lassen, Shasta and Plumas Counties. Much of the terrain is wide open offering little or no concealment. Creek washes thread their way throughout, and while these can offer some advantage, they make covering any distance difficult at best.

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For Boitano, Zone 4 is his home range. His father was once the owner of the Lake Almanor Plumas Pines Resort, he honed his skills there as a young man, and has over the years, become intimately familiar with the terrain and herds. In the lead-up to the hunt, he and his partner, Todd Kosub, found that animal numbers were down, the rut was late and many of the bucks were satellite, making it even more difficult to locate shootable bucks.

On the second day of hunting, Boitano glassed his buck out at about 500 yards tight against minimal foliage. He was able to close by about half and set up before he was swarmed by ants and had to reposition. At about 250 yards, the animal stood, presenting him a perfect shot.

Boitano’s patience and years of preparation culminated with a field guide judgment of 65. Though just shy of the minimum Pope and Young measurement of 67, it had impressive horn mass, length, and attractive ivory tips. He used a Winchester Model #64 270 rifle with Barnes LRX bullets, sighted in at 2 inches above at 100 yards.

This was an early afternoon shoot, and even at midday, the local temperatures were cool enough for the proper preparation of the animal. The lower two front teeth were removed as preferred by DFW and a muscle sample was taken. Both of these should help the agency to determine any Chronic Wasting Disease and provide a better understanding of the animals’ age and living conditions, all of which should certainly help with herd management in the future.

Boitano’s hunt was a culmination of dedication, skill, and a lifetime of waiting. It’s the adventure of never knowing what’s around the next bend, beyond the next draw or over an outcropping of rocks, and it’s a blessing to experience such a rare opportunity in such  magnificent country.

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