Last year I contacted Bobby (G ranch) to see if he had any Japanese Sika bucks available for this year. He told me that out of the entire herd he would only have one shooter, however that buck would be a stud of a Japanese Sika. Hunting for a particular animal is something I really enjoy, and having hunted with Bobby previously I knew it would be a great time even if we were unable to get a shot at him. After speaking with Bobby at length about the hunt, we decided to try to take him with a crossbow, just to make things a bit more challenging. In that moment, neither of us could have guessed what that decision would bring.
The pics below are the ones Bobby sent me in July, and were my first glimpse at the buck. This buck killed a fallow in 2015, and Bobby really didn’t want him around during the rut for another year. After seeing the pictures, I really didn’t want him around for the rut either.
My wife and I left our home at 430am on Saturday, arriving to the gate at Los Robles about 9am, with Bobby and his son waiting for us at the gate. After about 30-40 minutes of unloading the truck and catching up since our last trip to the ranch, we decided to hit the ranch in hopes of finding our target. Being August and the temps so hot, we knew our only way to hunt during the weekend would be safari style, hoping to catch him bedded down mid-morning, and get a shot at him. So we drove and drove and drove and drove, seeing not even a fleeting glimpse of the buck. We found many Sika does, but our buck was nowhere to be found. For 3-1/2 hours we covered every nook and cranny before we finally caught sight of him hanging with a small group of Sika does. I exited the Ranger to pull the string back on the crossbow as the buck and does bolted from us and into a large island of brush and trees.
As we approached the island, we saw both the Sika buck and does, however he was also in close proximity to a group of Axis which were none too pleased with our presence, and their desire to get away from us had our buck very nervous. We made a circle around the thick island of brush and trees to allow the Axis to run from the area, sprinkling a small amount of corn on the ground to entice the remaining Sika does out from the tree line. The entire process took another 20-30 minutes, and by the time we made it back around the island the group of does were out and vacuuming up the corn. We stopped the Ranger barely around the corner of the island of trees just as the buck stepped out into the group of does.
Bobby threw up the rangefinder and I brought up the crossbow. He called out to me, “60 yards.” For some of you, 60 yards might be a chip shot, but for me, well, at that time I had never killed anything with my crossbow. Hell, I had not even shot a target at 60 yards, with my max shot at a target being 50 yards and that only taking place about a week ago. Compounding things was that I was sure if I got out of the Ranger to grab my BogPod they would all run for the hills, leaving me to take a freehand shot, albeit in a sitting position. Even so, for some reason I felt very confident. That being said, at this point the buck was amid the group of does, and there was not clean shot to be had. Then the doe which was standing in front of our buck took step, and before I could warn anyone that I was about to shoot, I put my bottom dot just behind his shoulder and let the bolt fly. It’s amazing how long it takes for a bolt to travel 60 yards. My crossbow only shoots 315 FPS, and as I looked up my thoughts were racing…did I miss, where did the bolt hit, OMG…just then…”SWACK” right where I was aiming! The bolt had found its mark, and as we watched the buck race across the food plot and into the opposite tree line, disappearing out of sight, we all looked at each other with pure elation and excitement knowing that our plan came together. I also knew that my obsession with hunting just went to another level, and that more crossbow hunting would be in my future. We wanted to give him some time, plus a significant rainstorm would soon be upon us, so we made the ride back to the camp house for a brief pit stop. As the rain cascaded from the sky, we all stood around with a celebratory adult beverage reminiscing about how awesome a hunt we just experienced. After 10 minutes or so of heavy downpour, and a total of about 20 minutes elapsed since the shot, the rain finally let up to a slight sprinkle, and we went out to collect our buck.
We went straight to the spot where he entered the tree line and found…nothing. Any chance of a blood trail was long gone due to the rain, however we all expected him to be 20 yards into the tree line, piled up. As we scoured the immediate area, all four of us drenched as the rain came and went, covered in mud and ant bites, we found absolutely no sign of our buck, only the back half of the bolt in the middle of the food plot. We repeated our search throughout the entire back half of the property for the next 8, yes 8, hours, never seeing the buck, injured or otherwise. We closed out the day as bewildered and disappointed as we were elated and certain earlier in the day. That being said, we were all hopeful we would still find him. What condition we might find him in was a different story. The only thing which allowed any of us to sleep well that night was the fact that we were dog tired.
The next morning we were back at it at 630am. Still fairly certain he would be in the back 100 acres of the property, we began our search again, looking under every group of cedars, thick brush, and any area where an injured animal might crawl under to die, or hide. After an hour or so, we pulled the Ranger alongside a very thick group of vines and brush which covered the base area of several trees, jumping a whitetail doe and fawn, and there, in the thickest part, at 20 yards, was standing a buck…our buck. He was so obscured through the tangled web of plant-life that there was only the slightest opportunity to squeeze a shot through. But squeeze a shot through I did, and he dropped where he stood. As we watched his last breaths escape his body, our excitement returned, and the realization that he had been very much alive throughout the night. He was a beautiful animal, still in full jet black velvet, not yet rubbing his antlers even once, and in his beautiful summer coat.
We found the rest of the bolt buried inside the buck, with the broadhead reaching the opposite shoulder. The shot ended up being 1-2” high for a heart shot, and 2” forward of the lungs, thus hitting no vitals, although creating a good deal of damage. He would have died at some point in the near future, however if we had not found him that day, it would have been a much harsher death. Fortunately everything worked out in our favor, and we brought home a great Japanese Sika.
I can’t say enough about Bobby and the effort he put forth to find our buck before, and especially after, the shot. He is a first class guide, and a good man. This is the second wonderful hunting experience I’ve shared with him. The two hunts I have had with him will forever be etched in my mind; amazing memories with a man I’m happy to call friend. And from the looks of things, his 14-year old son is following his Dad’s example. He too, worked very hard all day, never complaining once in spite of the fact that we all went 14 hours without food. He’s a super young man with a great attitude. Thank you again Bobby – we look forward to seeing you again soon!