Each year the most anticipated outdoor event on my calendar in November is Oregon’s late archery season. There is no better time to be in the deer woods than November. I have spent many days chasing whitetail deer in western Montana with a bow and caught the deer hunting bug. Safe to say those were my spoiled days because the big woods and mountains of the Cascade Range in Oregon are no place to start you bow hunting career. I have seen, called in, and shot at a few nice bucks over the years, but have yet to connect with a large wily Cascade blacktail. I do not plan to give up and believe bow hunting is one of the most challenging yet rewarding solo sports out there.
The past two seasons have begun with our first big snow dumps of the year in my hunting area and have really altered my plans. In years past the snow was not so prolific right off the bat and allowed for most of my hunting area to be accessed. I hunt in the Cascade Mountains from just under 2000 feet elevation to over 4000 if weather conditions allow. This year like last, the snow level was below 2000 feet just before the opener and the precipitation was abundant. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the snow because it helps to concentrate the animals and allows you to see how fresh the sign really is.
Oregon’s late season offers the opportunity to hunt both elk and deer dependent on the unit and tag choice. This year I was not blessed with the late season cow elk tag mostly because of my inability to correctly decipher the regulation booklet by the tag lottery deadline. That said as I tracked (trudged) through the snow in near blizzard squalls and managed to bump into a herd of elk. Three of which offered me broadside chip shots with my bow. Where were these elk during the general season in September or years past when I had the late season tag? Oh well that is hunting.
After a few hours I headed back to the truck to find another spot and try some more calling in search of a rutting buck.
I supplement my scouting with the use of one trail camera. For the past two season I have set it in an area with a tremendous amount sign including large rubs and trails. Last year I got a nice picture of a decent buck just before the season opener and the time stamp on the photo indicated he was traveling during daylight hours, a rare thing for elusive blacktail deer.
This buck was photographed at 3100 feet elevation and has made me decide that if possible that this will be my first choice for a hunting spot on opening morning.
For two years in a row deep Cascade snow falls the night before the opener made it treacherous to get to the parking spot to access this area of my hunting grounds. This year over 20 inches of Cascade concrete (the technical term for the typical snow fall at these elevations) made hunting this location way to much for my 1997 Toyota 4Runner.
Needless to say, my trail camera will be spending a long cold winter in the woods. I will report on the battery life and photos sometime in April. Experience has told me that the best time to hunt these condition is the day of, or just after the snow fall because once the concrete sets up the game is long gone.
I did some calling below 2000 feet where the snow was absent, and where I have had some luck in the past, but nobody was home. I did see some fresh sign which was encouraging. Like most hunting, just being in the woods in pursuit is well worth the effort. The weather this week is forecast to change with a series of very wet and warm systems lined up out in the Pacific Ocean taking aim at the Cascades. Some reports I have looked up on the web are calling for over 5 inches of rain. That should wash away some snow and maybe a few roads as well. That said I will be back out in a few days looking for the elusive blacktail on the quest to fulfill my dreams of completing the Oregon Slam.
The Oregon Slam is something I plan to cover greater detail in later posts, but will hint at here. If you buy the magazines and follow the hype of the modern hunting industry you have likely heard of the handful of folks that have completed the North American Slam. Fred Eichler shot all 29 species of North American big game animals with traditional archery equipment, Jim Shockey did it with a muzzleloader, and Chuck Adams (one of the first) with modern archery equipment. the list is not long. That goal is well beyond my fiscal means so I created the Oregon Slam for my bucket list. The Oregon Slam requires harvesting one of each of the deer species available in Oregon with a bow. Oregon has blacktail, mule, and whitetail deer along with Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt elk. I am sure many folks have completed the Oregon Slam and don’t want a TV show on the Outdoor Channel. I am also pretty sure most Oregon Slammers did it on a budget similar to mine. You could add pronghorn, two species of sheep and mountain goat. I may never get one of those tags so I kept is simple and repeatable.