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Thursday, September 12, 2019
Some X zones set to open


A Central Coast hunt that came all together
The Central Coast offers up some excellent hunting opportunities for big game and upland game birds with a vast number of huge working cattle ranches home to very huntable populations of hogs, coastal deer, Tule elk, Rio Grande turkey, varmints, quail, dove and exotics. A call from master guide Clayton Grant, owner of Bitterwater Outfitters, 805-610-4521, based out of Bitterwater Valley, to come up and hunt for the ultimate combo was an invitation too hard to pass on. Western Outdoor News has been hunting with Bitterwater Outfitters for a decade and every hunt has been a true outdoor experience.

Bitterwater Outfitters has over 300,000 acres of prime ranch land under hunting lease in San Luis Obispo, Kern, Fresno and Monterey counties. Each ranch offers multiple species of wild game and good game management enhances hunting opportunities. While a hunt cabin is available at the home ranch at the head of Bitterwater Canyon, due to locations of hunt ranches Clayton advises hunters to book a room in Paso Robles or Atascadero, which makes for a shorter morning drive to a ranch. WON opted to stay Vino Inn and Suites in Atascadero.


It was dark on the drive to the ranch east of Arroyo Grande and upon arrival we were met by veteran Bitterwater Outfitter guide Ty Gonsalves who had the CanAm ATV all ready to head out. It was a chilly morning, the first sign of fall, with the temperature holding at 46 degrees. As the sun broke over a nearby mountain peak, a vast working black angus cattle ranch, with a stubble field of golden wheat, filled the valley floor.


ultimatecentral
THE ULTIMATE CENTRAL COAST COMBO — Jim Niemiec enjoyed a great hunt with Bitterwater Outfitters last week harvesting a 150-pound boar and dandy coastal blacktail buck the same day. Photo courtesy of Ty Gonsalves for Bitterwater Outfitters


“Let’s try for a boar right away,” said Gonsalves, who added “This fallow field has been holding some nice boar and I think that will start the hunt off right.”


We had just passed through a gate when Grant spotted a herd of a dozen hogs out in the middle of the field. Gonsalves headed the ATV along the side of a hill, when we spotted a lone boar feeding. It didn’t take long for that hog to become alert and head towards some nearby protective cover. With the ATV stopped, I got on the shooting stick and followed the boar until it stopped. The Weatherby Mark V, 7 MM Mag, matched to a Leupold scope, was on target as a single round of a Barnes TSX 140 grain copper bullet found its mark. That hog spun around once and fell over. It was a nice young boar that weighed around 150 pounds and had short tusks just starting to poke out of its upper jowls.


A quick run back to the game locker to offload the boar had the ATV heading off into higher country to look for a trophy class coastal blacktail buck. The drive through stands of oaks, filled with ripening acorns, showed off a very picturesque terrain and the open golden hillside glistened, as the sun continued to rise over adjacent mountains. Small coveys of mountain quail were around the many water sources of the ranch, while mourning dove hung close to fields of dove weed, ducks flushed off full cattle ponds and small flocks of Rio Grande turkey worked through the cover of stately oaks.


Gonsalves wanted to hunt the high country of the ranch and try and catch a buck out in the open before all deer would head for the shade found in oak covered valleys. Grant spotted a buck with couple of does along a hill side. It would be a long poke “uphill”, but I got on the sticks and fired, missing as the bullet seemed to hit over the back of the 3x3 buck. Gonsalves and Grant were not sure about whether the buck was hit or not, as the sound of bullet hitting something echoed back down the canyon. Both guides headed up the mountain side to look for blood, while I stood by the ATV in case a move was to be made. Fortunately, there was no sign of blood and Grant saw that buck bouncing up a nearby ridge. If any sign of blood had been spotted, our hunt party would have to spend the rest of morning looking for that buck and that would have ended my quest for the “ultimate combo.”


The day was warming up but there was still game out and about. We passed on a few smaller bucks, saw lots more quail and dove, a large bobcat, and a lone hog heading towards thick chamois cover.


Topping a ridge, Gonsalves spotted a buck lying in the shade of a big oak some 300 yards uphill. It would be a tough shot for anyone, but that buck was wise to what was going on, stood up and bolted over an adjacent ridge before this hunter could even get on the shooting sticks.


Grant had to head to Paso Robles for a business meeting at noon, but Ty said he had all day to hunt.


“Some of my most successful coastal deer hunts have occurred between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Jim, if you are in no hurry let’s spend another couple of hours looking for your buck. I have seen some dandy bucks over in Live Oak Canyon and we’ll give that a try, as there are plenty of oaks to provide ample shade and uphill winds help keep that country cooler.


We crisscrossed now dry stream beds, which earlier in the spring flowed strong after last winter’s heavy rain fall along the Central Coast.


The seasoned ranch hand and veteran guide went on to add, “Last year over 30 inches of rain fell on the ranch, and that’s about double what our normal expectation can be. All game benefited by Mother Nature being so generous. The turkey hatch was the best ever, I think that some of valley quail are just coming off their third hatch, hogs are all fat and the deer are fat, healthy and with good antler mass.”


We both spotted the buck being shaded in the saddle of an old oak. It was a dandy buck, but before I could get on the sticks, he stood up and started to walk up hill. Getting my Weatherby on target at close range, the shot was on its mark again and the buck circled and dropped not 20 yards from where it had been bedded down. The 3x2 buck sported a rack measuring 21 inches wide by 19 inches high, a very good representation of a trophy class coastal blacktail deer.


“Ultimate combo” now complete!


The buck was shot at 2 p.m. and was this hunter ever so happy that he opted to spend another few hours with Ty looking for a mid-day buck.


Based on what this WON hunting editor saw on this 27,000-acre ranch, the upcoming valley quail season should be awesome and there will be plenty of gobblers strutting around come the spring turkey season. According to Grant, he is going to increase the number of turkey hunts that will be available in the spring and that hog populations on all his leased ranches is remarkably strong.


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