On Saturday, September 11, my youngest son and I were at LaTour Demonstration Forest hunting for deer and bear. Last Christmas, I decided to get into bow hunting and bought a bow for both my boys and myself. I did ask my wife if she also wanted to go hunting, and she said, “NO.” We outfitted ourselves and began honing our skills in archery. We all took hunter safety classes, purchased hunting licenses and started planning our hunting trips. I had hunted for years as a child and when I was in the Marine Corps, but I had never taken my two sons hunting because of sports and other numerous youthful activities.
During the planning stage of our hunting trip, several fires broke out in Northern California. The fires began to grow and the national forests began shutting down public access due to extreme fire danger. This was followed by forestry companies also closing their land to public access. This left us with few choices of land to go hunting on. I began scouring the onX Hunt app for places where we could possibly find deer or bear. onX Hunt identifies property lines, roads and terrain, and color-codes public access and hunting zones. This is how I found state-owned Forest and Wildlife Management Areas. I contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to confirm the areas were still open to the public and we could hunt for deer and bear.
Thus, we found LaTour Demonstration Forest, an area on the east side of Shasta County between Redding and Lassen National Forest. LaTour is 9,033 acres of managed forest at 3,800 to 6,740 feet. Precipitation is approximately 46 inches per year and the temperature ranges from 90 to –30 degrees Fahrenheit. The forest primarily consists of sugar, ponderosa, Jeffrey, western white and lodgepole pine; Douglas, white and red fir; incense cedar and mountain hemlock. The state property was purchased in 1930 and became LaTour State Forest, named after a pioneer squatter, James C. LaTour. In 1951 it became a “demonstration” forest used for wildland research, crop forestland and practical economic forest practices. LaTour has four campgrounds (Old Station, Old Cow Creek, Butcher Gulch and South Cow Creek) with toilets, picnic tables and camping spaces. Old Station is the only one with plumbed water. However, the others have the old hand-pumped wells, not for drinking.
On Saturday morning, August 21, my youngest son and I arrived at camp and began scouting out the area. There were numerous signs of deer and bear, but we only spotted does (female deer) the first weekend. I would return that Wednesday with my oldest son and hunt until Friday morning. We continued to see does and spotted two bears. The next couple of weekends, we continued to return and spot does and bears. We never found or saw any bucks in LaTour.
Which brings me back to September 11. My youngest son and I had been stalking a couple of bears all day but were never able to get close enough. At about 1800 hours, I texted my wife to say we were not having any luck and would be done on Sunday at about 1700 hours. We decided to check the area one more time for a bear we had spotted at least three times. As we approached the area, I spotted the bear approximately 100 yards away. We moved in and at about 40 yards out, I took my first bear and first animal with a bow.
This experience was one I will always cherish and hopefully will be able to continue for the rest of my life.