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Late Muley Madness

By Jason Haley
04/01/16 -- It’s harder than ever to take a trophy mule deer with any weapon, let alone a stick and string. Declining mule deer populations contribute to this dilemma, but there’s more to it. That’s part of the reason hunters came to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission a few years ago seeking a “high quality” mule deer hunt during the rut. What we ended up with is not too shabby.

Mule deer, CDFW
Archers lucky enough to draw one of these late bow hunts are likely to encounter mature mule deer bucks like this during the rut. Photo by ODFW.

Oregon’s outback hosts three intriguing controlled archery buck hunts that occur during that magic time of year. You might consider them before making your controlled hunt applications before the deadline on May 15. All three have few tags with tough, but realistic draw odds. You must sell out. If drawn, it’ll be your only chance to hunt deer with a bow that season.

SE Whitehorse
This hunt is 95 percent public land and includes the area south and east of the main stem of the Owyhee River – that’s most of the unit. It excludes the metropolis of Jordan Valley, the only thing resembling civilization. The terrain is open high-desert and winters mule deer that summer in Idaho.

Deer numbers are below management objectives, but up since 2012 and stable each of the last two seasons. Buck and fawn ratios are up from 2014. The key word here is migration. It takes weather to get these deer to move in, but it can happen overnight.

They only killed three bucks for 19-percent success last season, but all three were four-point or better. It was mild then. According to ODFW’s Scott Torland in Ontario, the bucks want to migrate south of Rome. Mediocre success can be attributed to weather and “burned-off sage and not much cover.” Stalking conditions can be tough, although Torland added that hunters are seeing bucks and “getting a stalk or two a day, which is all you’ve really got time for.”

Trophy potential is relatively good and this hunt is managed for that. Roads can get nasty with wet weather, but are fine in a couple days. The area only gets six inches of rain annually. It takes 6 or 7 points to draw.

W. Beulah
This hunt is 80% public lands. It’s also squarely in the rut, running November 19 to November 30 this season. The hunt boundaries used to exclude large, unbroken tracts of BLM land and include large portions of timber land and the Monument Rock Wilderness that could be rendered useless with sufficient weather.

The good news is ODFW changed those boundaries to the entire unit (Unit 65) this season. ODFW’s population estimates are also encouraging. Overall numbers are still below management objectives, but are up considerably since 2012 and have increased each of the last three seasons. Buck-doe ratios and fawn ratios are above management objectives. They took 7 bucks last season for 39-percent success. Three were four-point or better.

So, it’s time to think about apps now. Torland said the timber is not a waste of time. “I’ve checked some good bucks,” he said. “Guys are finding them and killing them up there.” Catching up with the herds during their migration seems to be the trick.

This hunt is managed for opportunity, as there are lots of deer and more resident deer than Whitehorse. It’ll take 8 points to draw.

Hart Mtn. No. 3
Third period Hart Mountain is the crown jewel. According to District Biologist, Craig Foster in Lakeview, the guys that don’t get bucks “are holding out for something exceptional.” He proceeded to toss around 180-plus numbers. Some hunters go home empty handed, but only after multiple opportunities.

Success last season was at 60 percent. That’s three of five archers and all three bucks were 4-point or better. The first two periods were at 50 percent with more tag holders. It’s a seven-day season, but hunters only needed 22 days in the field to accomplish this.

The hunt takes place within the boundaries of the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge on November 1-7 each year, at the start of the rut. That’s a tad earlier than the other late hunts. The reason is simple: The Mountain is 8,000 feet with the lower areas around 5,000. Snow hasn’t been an issue with this hunt, thus far, but it could be. Gates will close after a significant snow “to avoid resource damage.” Not to worry. Foster said last season was “shorts and tee-shirts.” And even if the upper refuge gets snowed in, hunters have been finding bucks in the lower canyons and Warner Valley.

Only six tags were granted this season. In 2014, 132 archers were vying for them. It may take 10 or more points. Good luck in the draw!

More Hunting News

Conservation Key to Future of Hunting

11/14/16 -- At its core, conservation seeks sustainability of wildlife and wild places. Ethical hunters want wild animals to flourish in their natural habitat as much as possible, and will act on their behalf in order to protect and conserve... Full Story

​I Was an Indoor (Outdoor) Slave

Don Webster, author badge,
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Nash Buckingham

Don Webster, author badge,
Theophilus Nash Buckingham (1880-1971) was an American author and conservationist from Tennessee. He is known for being an avid shotgunner and wingshot, and a best-loved outdoor writer of his time... Full Story

How much venison do hunters harvest?

Venison Bourguignon (Venison Stew), photo by Daniel Bledsoe,
06/17/15 -- The Dallas Safari Club (DSC) intends to find out. A study launching in 2015 will measure the actual amounts of venison and other wild protein harvested annually in North America. Researchers will assess the nutritional... Full Story

Pups & Partridges on the Calapooia Prairie

Liesl, 11 month old pudelpointer, photo by Gary Lewis
By Gary Lewis
02/18/15 -- They say a great pointing dog only comes along once or twice in a hunter's lifetime. Some dogs don't have the heart or the desire. Others don't seem to have the nose or the brain. We brought home our pudelpointer in... Full Story

DSC convention goers raise $1M in 1 minute

01/19/15 -- Responding to a heartfelt appeal for youth outdoor education, DSC convention goers on Saturday night raised $1 million in about 60 seconds. The fast flurry of fundraising was a highlight of the 2015 DSC convention and expo... Full Story

It’s Not over Till the Lady Sings

mountain lion on rocky edge, photo courtesy of UDWR and Carrie Wilson, CA DFW
By Gary Lewis
01/19/15 -- If you want to avoid being attacked by a mountain lion, conventional wisdom says, you should travel in groups. If you encounter a mountain lion by yourself or with children, stop and make yourself look as big as possible... Full Story

The buck we didn’t get and two we did

Tyler Low with his 3x4 buck shot at 100 yards with a Weatherby Vanguard .300 Winchester Magnum. Photo by Kyler Olson
By Tyler Low
08/10/14 -- “Can you see him? He is just below the sky line to the left of the big live oak.” The respectable three-point stood only 500 yards away, but my hunting partner, Kyler Olson, couldn’t quite get an eye on him... Full Story

Where Are All the Pheasants?

Sacramento Valley Pheasant, Steven T. Callan, Where Have All the Pheasants Gone
On Patrol by Steven T. Callan
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Ham on the Hoof

Article and photos by Gary Lewis
12/17/13 -- We were climbing a steep gravel ranch road in Charlie’s Toyota when we saw it, as big as a full-grown bear and on a dead run. Charlie hit the brakes and switched off the engine. There was no time to load the rifle. The shaggy, gray... Full Story

Never say never

Never say never, rifle buk, Francisco Garcia,
By Francisco Garcia
Most of you have heard the saying, patience is a virtue, and I would say persistence is a virtue. If you want to fill your deer tag each season you have to put your time in. If you don’t give in and hunt hard you should be... Full Story

Hunting trip gone bad

Deer holding tight in cover during times of heavy hunting pressure as I was about to find out. Francisco Garcia hunting story.
By Francisco Garcia
If you asked me what I’d rather be doing, most of the time I would emphatically say, deer hunting. For me nothing gets the juices flowing and the imagination spinning like the arrival of bow or rifle season for deer. When... Full Story


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