On the opening day of deer season in a rural Northern California county, a hunter stalks and kills the buck of a lifetime. While admiring his trophy, another hunter murders him and steals his prize.
New to the area Fish and Game Warden Ethan Cooper finds a fired rifle cartridge in an uncommon caliber near the dead hunter’s body. He learns a group of powerful local men purchased matching, large caliber rifles for an Alaskan big game hunt, and his suspect list soon includes the Superior Court Judge, his lawyer brother, his private investigator son, the District Attorney, and a successful defense attorney.
While Cooper searches a hunting guide’s truck, he learns the man, a suspected bear poacher, also uses the same large caliber rifle.
Cooper becomes interested in Deputy District Attorney Dana Billington. He would discuss his accumulating evidence with her, but she is the judge’s former daughter-in-law.
While investigating bear parts trafficking, Cooper catches a hunter with a fresh kill. The man tries to bribe the warden, but a sniper’s bullet drops him with a mortal wound. The next bullet is aimed at Cooper.