I’ve been interested in hunting for as long as I can remember, but I was born and raised in L.A. without ever knowing a single hunter that I could learn from. Last year I decided to give it a go finally. I did a ton of research on everything related to hunting, from the terrain to the gear. After hundreds of hours of podcast listening, article reading, and YouTube watching, I had acquired all the equipment and tags I needed and patiently waited for opening day.
I scouted a spot up in Los Angles’ D11, which has notoriously tricky terrain and is one of the most competitive over-the-counter buck hunts. Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the nation, with nearly 10 million people, so you can imagine the county’s closest zone gets pretty well hunted.
I slept in my car the night before in a big turnout, which I learned is a secret spot of street racers who use the space to practice donuts. It was one of the worst nights of sleep ever.
After dragging myself up, I quickly forgot my weariness as I strapped on my brand new Marsupial Gear Bino Pack, loaded my rifle, and hiked through the darkness to the first glassing point.
After a beautiful sunrise and a couple of hours of glassing, I spotted a small buck with some does about 1300 yards away. I watched for a while, trying to figure out the direction they were headed. After they disappeared behind a ridge, I started trying to close the distance.
They were moving a lot faster than I realized, and before I knew it, the buck popped up a little over 200 yards away but disappeared over another ridge before I could get a shot.
I hiked around for a while, trying to catch him again. Eventually, I spooked him out of a creek bed, from which he nervously started moving away.
My heart started racing, but I knew this would be my only shot. I couldn’t believe I even had the chance to pull the trigger after understanding the odds stacked against me. I thought, “I can actually harvest this deer right now. Is this too good to be true?”. Not more than a few seconds went by, though, and I knew the exact steps I had to take. They seemed to happen on their own. I sighted him at 150 yards, dialed my turrets a few clicks, and landed a perfect double lung shot.
I forgot my earplugs! Everything was ringing.
I watched in disbelief as the buck went no more than 20 yards and collapsed.
On opening day, my first day walking around with a rifle, I got a buck in the most competitive area I’ve heard of. It was my first time killing a big game animal, so it was a heavy experience for me - gutting, skinning, and quartering something for the first time - by myself. I felt sadness, excitement, accomplishment, and of course, gratitude.
By the time I finished, it was dark, and I had to hike back to the truck through thick brush and thorns. The pack was way heavier than I realized it would be, and eventually, I was taking ten steps at a time between breaks, slowly trudging uphill through thick brush with no path, using onX maps to keep going in the right direction. Eventually, I made it back and packed up after the adventure of a lifetime, eager for the next.
Sean Graves is a Los Angeles Native, born and raised. He owns a small art studio with a creative focus on music production and tattooing. Follow him on Instagram @suedesilver