By Lance Stapleton, Senior Western Correspondent
Having taken hundreds of deer and completed a half-dozen "deer slams," I believe that a trophy blacktail is the most difficult deer to place in the record book - and many experts agree with me. This month, I will report on two outfitters who have produced numerous book-class bucks. It has been years since I reported on these operations, and both of them have made important changes.
The first, Arrow Five Outfitters (email@example.com; 707-923-9633), owned by TinaMarie and Jim Schaafsma, offers free-range hunts in the northwest corner of California. It could be argued that this is the finest blacktail habitat in the world: a combination of rolling hills and deep draws covered in thick manzanita brush and oak groves, just enough meadows to offer glassing opportunities, and plenty of water. Hunting here in the late 90s, I killed a top 10, non-typical buck with a third main beam. By the way, true non-typical blacktail bucks are so rare that, up to that time, there wasn't even a non-typical category in B&C! Mine is just one of many trophies produced by Arrow Five.
Hunting is phenomenal here, primarily because the 12,000-acre Stewart ranch where the hunt takes place participates in California's Private Land Management (PLM) program. As an incentive, landowners set their own hunting seasons and are issued a limited number of hunting permits in exchange for implementing state-approved comprehensive water and range improvements far exceeding public land enhancement programs. As a result, under careful harvest objectives this ranch has greatly improved its fawn survival, buck:doe ratio, and trophy production.....