This isn’t so much a hunting story as a story about family, the passage of years, the things that change, the things that never change, and what it all means to us.
In 1972 during one of the Boeing busts my father had to leave Mom and the kids behind and go work in Ohio because there were no jobs in Seattle where we lived. Two years later things got better and he was able to come home. On the way back he stopped in Wyoming to hunt Antelope. For a farm boy from Pennsylvania, this was a real adventure. He shot a small buck (about 8 or 9 inch) with Grandfather’s Savage 99 in 358 Winchester and was totally thrilled. The horns and hide went into the basement chest freezer till there was enough money to pay a taxidermist. 4 months later the freezer croaked and everything in it was ruined. The picture was all that was left, hanging on the wall and fading over the years.
Dad taught me and my brother to hunt and deer season was a family ritual with us. We hunted close to home, in places we knew well, with family and close friends. Many years went by, pictures accumulated on the walls and horns in the garage. Then mom got sick. Dad took care of her, seldom leaving her side, and for the next 7 years did not hunt. Mom passed away in the summer of 2016. Dad was 83 now and I asked him if he thought he had a few more hunting seasons left in him. He thought maybe he did, so I started planning a hunt.
I had enough preference points saved up to draw an antelope tag in a decent unit in Wyoming that had adequate public land access, so that was no problem. I told him we could likely find a bigger buck for him than the one he took back in 74, but he didn’t care much about that. He’d grown up dirt poor on a farm and had always been a meat hunter. That wasn’t likely to change now.
The tag wasn’t a problem, but his knee might be. Dad had a bad knee that he had put off getting repaired while he took care of mom. Time to get that fixed. He got in to the Doc and got the surgery scheduled. It would be done 8 months before the hunt, which would mean he would not be 100% recovered, but the Doc gave him a green light, with some limitations… he couldn’t kneel on that knee, and it probably would not have full range of motion yet. That would present some limitations on shooting position and he couldn’t walk more than a few miles a day, but we figured we could work that out.
Last problem was a rifle. Dad hunted with an old, beat up model 700 with a 4X fixed power scope. He always bragged on how accurate that rifle was, but with a low power scope and cheap factory ammo, how would you ever know? Not the ideal rig for antelope, but Dads shots had always been 100 yards and under, so it had never been a problem. He’s also a lefty, which meant I couldn’t loan him one of my rifles.
He came down to my place in September and brought the old rifle so we could give it makeover and see if we could get it set for the kind of longer shots you sometimes get in antelope country. I scrounged an old Weaver 3X9 I had sitting in the gun safe and we swapped scopes then we worked up some hand loads to test and headed to the range. With the load it liked best, allowing for a called flyer, that old beater of a rifle shot ¾ minute. He was right about that old rifle… and he could still shoot. Mission accomplished, we headed out to Tillamook bay to do some crabbing, which was another thing we hadn’t done in a while. We killed them. Best crab season they’ve had in ten years. There really are few things better than sitting in a lawn chair, eating fresh crab with a cold beer and watching the sunset over the ocean.
In mid-October Dad came down to my place again. He had all the family camping gear in the back of his truck. I had called him the week prior and he had already started packing. In the end, he pretty much brought everything. Nothing had been used in at least 7 years, and some of that gear I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Lot of memories there. We sorted through everything, weeded it down to what we thought we would actually use and stared driving.
We drove 16 hours straight through, with a stop in Boise to visit my niece who is going to school there. When my brother and I were little, Dad would load us in sleeping bags in the back of the truck with the gear and drive all night to eastern Washington to hunt. Now Dad got to sleep some while I drove. Lots of time to talk about family, old friends, and hunting seasons past. We arrived at Medicine Bow in the morning, gassed up, and headed into our hunt unit to look for lopes.
This late (mid-October) lopes would be forming up into bigger bands and the large bands are hard to get close to. We started looking for lopes in the foothills above the sage flats since the terrain often broke up the big herds into smaller groups and would give us some cover to work close.
Heading up into the hills we spotted a couple bucks that had broken off from a larger band. They were about 400 yards out and wary, but had not bolted. We piled out of the truck to see if the ground gave us any options for a stalk.
Hunting magazines will often give you advice about shooting in wind, but that advice is always about the effects of wind on a bullet. They never seem of offer advice on how to deal with the effect of wind on the shooter. I got out the Kestrel and it clocked wind gusting from 15 to 35mph in random gusts. It’s impossible to hold steady in that unless you can get prone and really hug the ground. It did not look like we’d be able to close the distance without being spotted. Decided to pass on these two.
Driving further up into the hills, we glassed a lone doe and buck in a basin sheltered from the wind. They saw us but did not looked spooked so we kept driving around the shoulder of the ridge and out of sight to where we could double back and try a sneak. Keeping low in the sage, we topped over the ridge looking down into the little basin and started to glass. We spotted our two animals about 300 yards out. Keeping low and moving only when they were looking away from us, we cut the distance to a little over 200 yards and found a big rock that Dad could shoot from without having to stress the knee too much. It was an awkward position, but best available under the circumstances. I got prone over my pack about 15 yards uphill so I could see Dad’s shot impact and provide a follow up if needed. The sound of the shot was whipped away by the wind almost instantly and there was an eruption of snow and dirt in front of the buck and both lopes took off. 200 yards is a long shot for Dad, and the buffeting wind and awkward position blew the shot. Dad was never a trophy hunter, any buck would do for him, and I was not fussy either as this hunt was about family, not inches of horn, but I started to get the idea that getting Dad a shot that was close enough, that he could take from a comfortable position, was going to be harder that I had thought.
This was disappointing due to the miss, but here we were on morning of day 1 and we were already getting shot opportunities, so from that perspective, things were looking good. We decided to look for a place to set up camp. A BLM employee we met on the way in told us there was a BLM campground on the north end of the unit, in the foothills where prairie starts to turn to timbered draws. We headed north toward the campground and Dad insisted I take shotgun in case we ran across a band of lopes we could make a stalk on.
As we climbed north toward the campsite I kept one eye out for lopes and the other on the GPS screen. This unit is about 50% private ground, checkerboarded in with the BLM and state land and you have to get that right. Learned that from Frank years ago and using onXmaps. The lopes seemed to know there were some areas where they would not be bothered. They tended to group up on private ground.
We spotted a group of lopes headed south, parallel to the road, about 400 yards out and on BLM ground. As they passed behind a little ridge, Dad had me bail out and he continued on up the road to where the lopes would see the truck move on. I worked down to a point where, if they continued their course, the herd would come out from behind the ridge and maybe give me a shot. Right on time they started to appear, first a few does and yearlings, then a decent buck. I already had my rear on the ground and the rifle settled on the sticks. The shot broke with the crosshairs just behind the shoulder at a bit over 200 yards.
Years ago, Frank introduced me to Mike Abel (a fine gentlemen and superb shooter) when Mike drew a South Wagontire tag in Oregon, a unit I had hunted with Franks advice the year before. Mike and I have had a few adventures since then (Blacktails, Bunnies, and Rockchucks, oh my!) and Mike coached me a lot on my shooting (thanks Mike and Frank both), so I had no doubt about the outcome of that shot. The buck ran about 40 yards and piled up.
Dad and I took pictures, field dressed the lope, hauled him to the truck, and followed the road 4 more miles to the campground. A couple other groups of hunters were also there (deer and elk hunters) and we found a site near a creek in a little stand of aspen. I did the heavy lifting as far as setting up camp, but as Dad remarked to some of the other hunters in camp, that was only fair since when I was little he got to do all the work.
The campsite had some elevation and was just a mile or two south of the unit boundary we had tags for. From camp, we could watch lopes through the spotting scope. Not our unit, but still really cool.
Just setting up camp felt good. It felt great to be setting up worn old camp gear that I remembered from my childhood. The lantern we’d used for 40 years, digging out the old camp stove and kettle… every gouge and ding in that old gear was a reminder of hunts and time with family many years ago. When I opened up a can of stew to heat up for supper, it looked a bit odd though. I checked the bottom of the can and the stamp said “best if used by October 2010”. Some gear does not improve with age. Fortunately Dad had packed enough non-vintage food to keep us twice as long as we were likely to stay.
Next morning we were out glassing a couple big patches of public ground that seemed to attract lopes. We spotted a band grazing and bedding on a flat, just clear of the sage, about a half mile from the road and thought they might be stalkable given the terrain. Once the road passed behind a little hill, Dad bailed out and I drove on about ¼ mile and stopped to watch the show. Dad followed a little dry wash to close most of the distance and made a slow crouching approach through the sage. Wind was gusting at about 20. He kept getting closer, 200, 150, and I kept thinking “What are you waiting for? Shoot!”. Finally they busted him at about 75 yards and the whole band tore out of there at top speed and trailing dust. Turned out the issue was the knee again. The wind was too strong and gusty to take a standing shot, a kneeling shot was not an option due to the recent surgery, and a sitting or prone shot wasn’t possible due to the height of the sage he was using to cover his stalk. By the time he worked past the tall sage, they had spotted him. We decided that this spot was definitely a draw for lopes and we would try to find a way to ambush a band as they filed down from the hills to graze in the evening.
The afternoon we spend driving and glassing an area the BLM guy recommended on the other side of the highway. Lots of lopes, but they had obviously been hunted hard and the terrain there did not offer much in the way of cover for an approach. Found some really cool geodes and some jasper and agate for my sister the rock hound.
On the way back to camp for lunch and some rest, we stopped to check zero on Dad’s rifle. I dug out a cardboard box for a target and set it up at 200 yards. Dad shot across the truck hood over a folded up coat. Great group. The horizontal stringing was all due to the gusting wind, which almost never stopped in this country.
That evening we were staked out at what we though was a logical funnel for lopes headed from some private land in the foothills to the flat we hunted that morning. With about 30 minutes of light left, we saw a lope headed down and it looked like we might be able to get out in front of him. We got closer, but at the last minute, he started to veer away. Dad took a standing shot over the sticks at about 150 yards, but the lope took off running. We watched him go flat out for half a mile and over a ridge. Did our due diligence and found no blood. Again, the inability to get a good position due to the knee and the gusting wind had blown the shot. Dad was starting to get frustrated, but this was only day 2. Lots of time left.
The next morning we decided to cover some new ground, an area east of Pine Creek that we thought might have a small band or two up some dry washes in the foothills. It had snowed the weekend before our hunt started and many of the bands we glassed every day were big groups. The big groups tend to stay on the flats and have way too many eyes on duty. They are very hard to get close to. Lopes tend to group in to larger herds and get more skittish as winter gets closer.
Following a little dirt 2-track up toward the hills we saw several groups, but all were down on the flats below the hills… private ground. Even these spooked and ran at the sight of the truck while still ½ mile away. Seemed like every day the herds were getting larger and harder to approach. We headed back toward the main (gravel) road to get some rest at camp and work out a plan for the evening hunt. It was only day 3, but the big herds, lateness of the season and that constant high wind had us feeling much less confident.
As we were crossing several big blocks of private ground we approached a dry creek bed and saw a small band of lopes coming up out of it toward us. I glanced down at the GPS and was surprised to see there was an odd shaped ¼ square of BLM land right in the middle of the ranch land and we were right in the middle of it. I stopped the truck, Dad piled out, and I got out the binoculars to watch. He kept low in the road cut and got a bit closer as the lopes filed out of the creek bed. The herd just piled up there, about 100 yards away from him, and milled around, seeming not sure what to do. There was one good buck in the bunch, about 10 does and maybe 5 yearlings. Trouble was there was a doe standing right in front of the buck and a doe and yearling right behind him. There was no shot with the does and fawns in the way, and if the herd bolted and ran he’d never get a shot. Dad settled the rifle on the sticks and waited. I watched through the binos for what was probably a minute or two but seemed like much longer. I won’t say I heard angels sing… but the wind died down and the buck took two steps forward. Only the bucks front quarters and neck were in the clear, but Dad was under 100 yards and had good position. I heard the report of the rifle and the buck dropped like a puppet with the strings cut. Dad had his second lope on the ground, 43 years after the first one.
This is a site that I write what I have on my mind. Others write stories of their hunting trips and I share them with the world. My site is design to help those that enjoy the great outdoors and find their Adventurer. Bwana Bubba aka Cobra
Prologue: I do remember the day I recieved the picture of dad sitting on the Moose, I just happen to be in Vietnam. What a surprise, as I did not even know that he was going on such a hunt! A bit jealous I was at the time. I finally got to see the Moose up close on a wall in my parents home in Portland! Cobra
This is my story of one of the greatest hunts that I have ever been on! It has been some 43 years since the hunt into the Wilderness of British Columbia, Canada! Though I might not remember every detail and I hate to type, I have given you the joust of the hunt through this day by day hunt story! William Lee Biggs
The first day in Canada at Fort St. John! It took 3 days of driving coming from Portland, Oregon. It was a beautiful drive and very enlightening trip with the sighting of lots of game along the way. Today I met up with the Head Guide “John” and the first question after shaking hands was “what do you weight?” He had a small plane, said it “it will be a little bit of wait, as we have to clear the highway of traffic so we can takeoff.” I said “OK” the take-off went off without a hitch and we were in the air for about 40 minutes when the pilot said “grab the stick; I need to read my mail.” So I said “OK” and was in total control of the plane as we flew over the Rocky Mountains.
What a sight with all the game moving around on the ground below. As the pilot was getting ready to land on the isolated airstrip, there was a big Bull Moose on the landing strip. He moved off pretty quickly and once landed, all the guides were waiting for 4 hunters at the High Camp.
My hunting partners from Portland, Oregon (John Bay – Fred Bay News) went to the Lower Camp. My choice to go to the High Camp turned out to be the correct choice on this hunt of a lifetime.
“It was my last time seeing any humans, no roads, only game and trails!” So I thought!
More information: We gatherer up our horses and started the new day and John (Guide) asked me “how big of Moose do want?” I said “the biggest one you have tied up to a tree!” Anyway I wanted a big Moose and John said “I can do that.” We passed up many bulls for about a week and walked many a mile and road horseback on ground that only game had been on. We never saw a deer or an elk during the whole trip, only Wolves, Moose, Sheep, Goats and Caribou!
Up at 0700 daily to eat breakfast before the hunt and lucky enough to have a Pro Cook whose name is Luther Boy and what a cook he is, making sure we have a great lunch while out in the field in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. Around 0900 daily is the times we start are hunts every day. We are now back on the trail and we see a lot of Moose, but all are small. John gives the thumbs down on all of them. While on the trail the horses stopped dead, the Head ‘John” Guide said “Stop” it was a Wolverine crossing our path and they are meaner than “Hell Nasty Critter.”
This is a resting day, as we have covered a lot of ground the first few days of the hunt. We felt we had plenty of time to find game on this long hunt.
John looks up and says “we may have weather moving in” “Snow! Hell its August and the next thing we have 2 feet of snow. Built a big fire and spent most of the day talking. I asked John “what happens if a man gets sick?” He said “if you’re lucky they put you on a plane, if the weather is flying weather” a lot of ifs, and we didn’t talk about it again.
Later in the day the snow has melted and I look up from the campfire and in rides an Indian with two (2) hunters. They were in a Spike Camp up in the High Country. Ok! Two (2) Hunters, Two (2) Pack Horses, Two (2) Heads, Two (2) Capes and lots of meat. The heads were two record class Stone Sheep.
Nothing eventful, other than Luther telling us we are going to have fresh fish, as he had caught two (2) big trout from the lake next to our camp. Now that was a meal to remember!
Ok! It was a big day for me and the guide to see some Sheep that had been harvested, the thought of being stuck in the snow for a while…
P.S. Also only the Healthy Hunter is allowed on this hunt (Sheep)! So the next day we would be back in the saddle for another hunt!
John said, “Hell how do you feel like going up into the High Country, you’ll see the Goats and Sheep up close.”“I am all in for that trip!”
It is now Friday morning and what a beautiful day it is; the horses are ready to move on. John said, “We are going into a new area today up high” “Ok! Let’s do it” We road all morning and came up on a big flat area in between ranges; all of a sudden I see something in the flat, “John what hell is that?” He said, “A bear made a kill here, they move all around letting everybody know this is my area, stay out”, so we moved on!
The rifle I have is Remington Model 700 with custom hand loads in 7MM Remington Mag with 175gr. bullet. It could take down anything that I wanted to kill with it. Great flat shooting and hard hitting round.
Looking up the hillside, John puts his arms up and tells me to “STOP”, then the thumb goes up, “ Biggest Moose I have ever seen in these parts” John says! Off the horses quickly and John tied up the horses.
I am quick to find a down tree, so I have something to lean on and get a steady shot off. The monstrous Bull is at 350 – 400 yards uphill. I shot three (3) times at the broadside bull and he dropped like a log. All three (3) had hit within inches of each other. I learned a long time ago, keep shooting until they fall over. Nothing worst chasing a 1500lb animal in heavy cover and in bear country.
John says, “Reload your rifle; we may not be alone here!”
“Now the work starts”
During the night a bear came in worked over the front quarters of the Moose, yet we were able to get the rest of the meat out in the next couple of days.
My hunting party that came on the trip with me, that had decided to hunt in the lower camp both got their Mini Moose with little racks. They were most impressed with the big one and wished they had gone the distance on a tougher hunt.
On the way back to the plane, I did take a nice Caribou and was thankful for that harvest also!
This Canadian Moose was the largest that had been taken from the area in many years and the largest that the guide had ever seen taken.
The Canadian Moose scored over 290, and was in full velvet, only wished I had had him scored sooner. It now hangs in the home of my past brother-law in Oregon City; fitting that is a Log Home that one of his sons’ now lives in.
A total of 7 days of hard work on a 15 day hunt, the chance to see game in quantity and drink water next to your horse from a stream or lake!
Hunting the Rancho Rajneesh aka “The Big Muddy” Ranch #1
Before we start the story of a lifetime, there is more to the story than just the harvesting of a monster Oregon Mulie (Mule Deer) buck, but more about time period of this great hunt.
“It is 1985, a time in Oregon‘s History that will never be duplicated!”
The following story might be hard for some to fathom, but is real and unless you’ve had the opportunity to experience even a part of it, it may appear to be something from a fictional book!
This story is also on Archery Talk:
During this era of time we would be hunting on and off of the original “The Big Muddy Ranch” located in Oregon close to Madras, Donnybrook (Historical), Ashwood (Post Office), Clarno (Historical) and the Famous Town of Antelope or better know at the time as Rajnesshpuram. The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known as Osho) came to America from India to be a teacher of his faith and culture. He would take up residence on the “Big Muddy Ranch” outside of Clarno, Oregon (Historical)! The main house would be at 3 miles line of sight to Clarno’s Grange Hall which sat along the John Day River! There would be more than 2000 disciples on the ranch!
The purchase of the ranch was made through lawyers, un-be known (as the local story goes) to the Rubin Evans as to who was actually buying the 64,000 acres of land that also encompassed a great deal of BLM and some State Lands. Rubin made a great deal of money (4.3M gross) on the sale of rimrock, sage and juniper trees that could not support any sizeable amount of cattle. The City of Antelope (97001 Zip) some 12 miles away from the main ranch was later taken over the Bhagwan and his followers, thus it was incorporated and called Rajneeshpuram.
Rajneeshpram (Antelope) and the Rancho Rajneesh now had its own Peace Force that carried Uzi’s and M-16’s. Traveling into the ranch on the county road (Cold Camp Rd) and once past the boundary of the Smith Ranch (cattle guard) were Security Huts with active machine gun toting Peace Force clear down to the numerous buildings and hotel! I can remember when Burns Bros., Travel Stops sold FM handheld radios to the Ranch. They were used to monitor people driving through the ranch on the county road. How much time it would take to travel in and out of the ranch. There were back doors into the BLM via Gosner and Muddy Creek Roads to the southeast, but you still would get stopped in remote areas. Questioned of course what your intent was, which we would say was traveling to Mitchell, Oregon. Once out of sight, you would get yourself deep into the BLM, such as Horse Heaven. It is hard for most to understand what this place became and how things were done. I would have to think it was one of the largest Commune’s of its type that has ever been established in the United States. There was even a Crematorium and Machine Gun Range on the ranch. If one ventured deep enough into the interior of the ranch, you found many un-expected buildings and sights! A great deal of land use laws were broken by the leaders of Rajneeshpuram and Rancho Rajneesh!
The people of Rancho Rajneesh even damned up Current Creek (dam is still there) and made a dandy lake with a floating lodge on the lake for the followers to sunbath. As said before they broke many land use laws and even made a paved road that was built in the center of the ranch and put in an airport. The paved road was built so the Bhagwan could exit without notice to Madras, Oregon in one of his many Rolls Royce’s. The road came out on Gosner Rd. on the south side of the ranch.
The Bhagwan did some improvements to the land with the planting of wheat, alfalfa and putting in small stick dams in the creeks plus the electric fence that surrounded more than 100 square miles of BLM and Private Land. It create a atmosphere for deer, elk and antelope to multiple, live longer and move into neighboring ranches in the area up to 10 – 15 miles away line of sight.
It was not an easy tasking for anyone to hunt the public land, as the Bhagwan thought the BLM also belong to HIM, his (followers-disciples) would do everything to keep hunters out of the public land that intertwined the ranch. I probably forgot tell you that there were hundreds of No Trespassing Signs put on the parameter of the ranch, which included the posting of all the BLM, even if it was not on Rancho Rajneesh. We use to joke that if we were ever caught, that are destiny would be left at the Crematorium!
The challenge was on for myself and a few other fellows, such as “Stick”, “Baily”, “DB”, “MJ”, “Bennie” and “Bone” just to mention a few that I knew that would hunted for the monster Mule Deer bucks that harbored on the ranch! I did leave out the fact that in 1984 we discover Elk on the ranch while glassing for bucks in a basin below the tower via the county rd. I will leave that up to your imagination whether we hunt for elk, but then that is another story…
If one thought they would get away with trespassing on the private part of the ranch, they had something to look forward too, like 50 – 100 young people some with weapons in lines working down the ridges or draws where you might have been spotted from the “Tower” that had windows & maps with a 360 degrees layout! The “Tower” was put on the highest spot of the ranch that would allow the viewing of draws such as Gallagher Canyon, Fir Tree, Lyon Ridge and Vanderhoof Canyon. It was not only the Rajneesh patrollers (disciples) that could number in numbers, but the local law enforcement… I will never understand the alliance that was between the cult and government’s police forces’.
Oh! It would have been great to have my BLM mapping program and a modern day Garmin GPS, which would leave no doubt to being legal! Then again BLM had great maps and I could read and visualize the land marks!
It was once told to “MJ” by an old Oregon State Police Game Officer of the time,“Go in on BLM and Come out on BLM”.
The cult would take the State of Oregon and other people to the cleaners over the years with Debt, above the law and trying to rid Wasco County of a good people.
In 1987 the Rajneeshpuram came to an end and not without controversy, such as Ma Anand Sheela setting up a Bio-Terrorism attempt in The Dallas with Salmonella Poisoning. She would later be deported back to the United States from Germany to stand trial. The Bhagwan would be deported (allowed to leave) back to India! He died in 1991 of Aids, so you might be able figure out what else went on in the ranch besides the spiritual teachings!
I would have to say it was like those that drank the Kool-Aid at thePeoples Temple Agricultural Project of Jonestown. People gave their wealth away to follow the Bhagwan’s radical teachings! I understand their standings in the cult were based on the money!
Now let’s get one with the story!
The Oregon Archery Season was coming to a close in three days. I’s passed up many smaller bucks during the early season, trying to find a P & Y Mule Deer.
Now it was performance time!
I made a quick call to Dave Brill because I knew I could count on him to go on a mission with me at the drop of a hat. I told him we could make a Saturday afternoon hunt over on the breaks of the John Day Rive rin Central Oregon.
The final weekend of the season also happened to be my drill weekend with the U.S. Naval Reserve. Luckily, I only had to spend half of Saturday and Captain’s Call was out at 1130. I made it to Dave’s place just past noon in east Clackamas County. There was an hour drive to the BLM, leaving us about 6 hours maximum for hunting.
On the way to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, we spotted a small herd of mule deer, with five bucks located on Earl’s Smith’s property. All looked pretty nice, and I decided to take a few photos. They were in the 23 to 25 inch class with one respectable four point at about 28 inches. I did not have permission to hunt Earl’s Ranch, which would come later!
At 3:00 p.m., we reached the B.L.M. land on the west side of theJohn DayRiver. There a mutual friend, MJ, met us. He wanted to show us where he had seen some big bucks. In the middle of the basin were four “swamper” Mulie bucks, two around 28” and two in the 30” neighborhood. I know, at this point you probably think I’m really pulling your leg. I did take a few pictures of these bucks also, as they were not hunt-able at this location also.
Then, it was time to put down the camera and get down to the business at hand. We split up and MJ headed over to his a ranch he would be hunting located along the John Day River to locate a Mulie he felt would easily go 36”. By the way M.J. took this buck during the rifle season and he was 36”. M.J. was a rifle hunter that we put up with as he was great with the game location logistics!
With only about three hours of hunting time left in the day, finding a big Mulie was going to be even tougher. Just before dark, I located a buck that would be about 28” to 29”, but he wouldn’t cooperate as I just couldn’t get on him in the open terrain pushing to fast before fading light.
We departed the area as Mother Nature began to drown the junipers and sagebrush. The most difficult part of the trip was yet to come. As I told you earlier, this was supposed to be a Saturday afternoon hunt-only. Now, Dave and I would have to make phone calls to our respective wives. Both ended being most understanding, which meant they knew we would be calling. So we would have one more chance to get our big bucks before the rifle hunters came out of the woodwork in about 1 week. You wonder how they were most understanding, well we did stretch the truth and told them we had a buck down and tried locate it in the dark, but would have resume in the morning!
The next morning we awoke to 39 degrees, patchy fog and overcast skies in Madras, Oregon. We were working against the clock now, so crispy bacon and eggs at the Madras Truck Stop were out so a Coke Cola and Hershey Chocolate Bar were in order. Ok! Had a large jar of Jerky!
There is one smell in Oregon that really turns me on and that is the smell of wet sage at daybreak. You have to know the feeling you get from the smell, as this is an optimum time in space to kill a buck!
It was already light when we arrived at the main access road. Strangely, we saw nothing along the road going in. When turning down into the main access road the Muddy Rd., there were fresh tire tracks in the road as it was very muddy, that was the answer to not seeing any game! The roads in the area turn to slick clay like surfaces and deep ruts. In about two miles we caught up to a Black Bronco II in front of us and the driver climbed out with bow in hand. We pulled up for a brief conversation, and soon he couldn’t hold himself back. He said he’d already had taken shots at 2 big bucks and that he saw a 30” buck feeding. In the back of the rig was a respectable three-point his partner had taken with a 50-yard heart shot. We also told him that he was now on ranch property and he better not be here hunting! Oh! Don’t get out of the truck with your bow if stopped by the patrollers! He might get a chance to visit the Crematorium…
This 30” talk was something that should be investigated, I figured since it was located on BLM by the way he described the spot. David and I headed back, hustled out of my truck and I climbed up the draw where the hunter said he’d seen the buck! The draw would lead into a small basin with volunteer wheat. It was in the BLM near Currant Creek, one the great spots to hunt. There, at 45 yards, was a massive buck, feeding and completely unaware of my presence. He was a long tined four-point, with extremely long eyeguards. I felt he would be real close to 200 Pope and Young and real Oregon Record contender. (You can tell I already had him on the wall!) I did not have my bow with me, just my camera (I didn’t even take a picture).
I watched him for a few more minutes from behind a juniper grove, and then slowly backed away. I hurried back to the rig, told Dave what happened, and quickly returned to the spot with my bow. He was gone! The shot was there if I had taken my bow instead of the camera.
I returned to my truck, more than a bit upset with myself, but Dave quickly lifted my spirits.
“Frank,” he said, “I’ve located some more dandy bucks!”
As we stood there making our game plan up, there was a group with some twenty bucks in the distance, but immediately are plans to hunt ended quickly. It was incredibly exciting to watch them through the binoculars as they departed out of the tight draw in single file. The smallest buck of the group was no less than 24 inches wide. Seeing that group of bucks only made me a firm believer in “buck pastures”. I have to tell that over the years hunting here, it was always like that. Very few does were ever seen in the area during the archery season. It should be noted that the big buck in the back was at about 38” on the roll jabbing the other bucks to move along. He was a buck that one would never forget it if seen again.
Within a few moments we on a small out cropping of rocks, Dave and I located a good buck, bedded and chewing his cud. I put the spotting scope on him-not real wide, but great long tines with super eyeguards. I felt that he would score very well, a 180-plus. The hunt was on! I dropped into the canyon, using junipers for cover. The terrain wasn’t too rough and I was able to circle around the rim quickly without making noise. In these days I was running no less than 50 miles a week! The wind was coming straight at me, and a light mist of fog hung in the area. What more could I ask for? I slipped into the junipers between the buck and myself.
At 40 yards approximately I decided it was time and drew my bow back without thought, set the 40 yard pin on the lungs just in case I miss-judged the distance of the bedded buck. The 125 grain 3 blade broadhead was delivered to him right into the lungs behind the shoulder. He was up in a hurry, but soon collapsed down the draw.
Thanks to Dave’s help, we were able to drag him to the truck fairly easily. I couldn’t wait to put the tape to him. With a quick measuring, he went 27” wide, not counting the “cheater points” on each side of the main beam of the same length. I also did a quick P & Y score for a solid 198 green score. My net score on this tremendous buck was 190 P&Y. (After some 15 years I had him officially measured at Sportsmen’s Show and he would be set at 188 2/8, to bad I waited to long to put him in the Oregon Record Book). Just think he wasn’t even one of the real monster Mulies and my taxidermist felt the buck was only about 5 years old!
While leaving the area, Dave and I saw at least six more good bucks. I went back during the general rifle season to camera guide and saw two taken that went 32” and 38” wide.
As the readers might find it hard to believe the amount of deer, I will close with this one comment.
In the mid 80’s and until about 2001, it was not uncommon to see as many as 100 plus bucks in a morning or evening drive!
The 38” buck that was mention earlier on my bow hunt was the same that one that Greg A. would take in the rifle season in 1985. The buck was 38” on the roll and would have a net score of 201 B & C. The buck was killed within a 2 miles of where he was spotted him during the archery season. He was taken on a piece of private land that bordered Rancho Rajneesh to the S.W.
You are probably wondering why I have not put down having any encounters with the disciples of Rancho Rajneesh, when you know the enemies’ habits you learn when to come and go! We did have some encounters, but then it also help to have a local rancher with you once in a while.
Whether it was to get dropped off at the BLM corner or BLM Section by someone, bike ride or run the 12 miles back to Antelope to get the pickup vehicle, it was always a rush and an outstanding Clandestine Operation in Hunting.
Camo was worn to conceal from the enemy, not the game!
Frank Jr.’s Oregon Grizzly Unit Not a guaranteed kill!
This particular hunt came about with wanting to hunt Antelope sooner than later again with a rifle, plus not waiting until we had 12 or more points for hunting old haunts from the past in S.E. Oregon. My son Frank Jr. and I had 9 points saved up each. This would be his first Antelope hunt as a shooter! Getting very impatience with waiting for more points and looking out 4-6 years longer to hunt for Antelope maybe in the Wagontire, we decided since we had a couple of places to hunt in the Grizzly Unit in Oregon, that we would put in for the Grizzly Unit. Past and present I have sent many hunters into the unit with very good success!
Permission to hunt Earl Smith’s Ranch was given to us by Earl for hunting on the properties that laid in the Grizzly Unit, one piece being the “Old Gomes Ranch” and the other land lay south of the Cold Camp of Hwy 218, which included the Maupin and Hasting Buttes.
We had found a great buck on the “Old Gomes Ranch” prior to the season and he would be our first choice to chase. “Chase” Strange word with Pronghorn, as most of the time we like to ambush Lopes at water or crossings. In the Grizzly Unit you will not find the waterholes that one would find in the S.E. part of Oregon, so spotting and working in on them is the normal in the Grizzly Unit. We did not get to hunt the opener of the hunt coming in on Sunday late. Little did we know that Earl forgot about us (this happened a lot) and he let a guide come onto the land and hunt the place with his client. Having talked with the ranch foreman an old friend from the past, that particular hunt was very interesting to say the less. The client had a number of buddies with him at the time. It is hard to say who harvested the buck after all the shots that were taken with multiple rifles. Scuttlebutt was that the guide finally had to finish the buck off as it was leaving the property boundary, but then again it is only scuttlebutt! It did piss me off a lot on this one!
So the hunt had changed for the both us now. This hunt was about Frankie getting his first Pronghorn in Oregon. We would have to work old deer and elk haunts in the Grizzly Unit that carried a population of Antelope and put Earl’s places on the back burner. We would work the area around Hay Creek as I had found a good buck over in B.L.M. area during another earlier scouting trip for deer. There were the areas around Ashwood and the National Grasslands that we could concentrated on for Lopes also. None of this worked out, even with all the glassing from observation points. Water was scarce in these areas; the Lopes were not working the areas as expected. We would work another area of the Grasslands later in the hunt!
A run into the Horse Heaven and Donnybrook area was warranted. We found a couple of decent bucks that would be shooters for Frankie during the first day of the hunt, but light was fading. The 2nd day of the hunt, Frankie got on a pretty good buck near Horse Heaven. The wind was really blowing hard on the hill and the shot was at about 300 yards. That was one lucky Antelope at that particular moment of the hunt in the Horse Heaven area outside of Donnybrook.
Later a number of good herds of Antelope were located in the Grasslands near Hwy 97, but all the bucks were small. No mature bucks were hanging away from the herds that we spotted. A little dishearten for me as I truly wanted to see a Big Buck. The Grizzly Unit had gone through a major poaching epidemic of Antelope, Deer and Elk some years back along the Hay Creek Ranch, Ashwood & Grizzly Mountain area. The culprits (youth) were caught from what I understand (local rancher gossip) and given just punishment.
We finally took a run down into Clarno which is B.L.M., the Northeast boundary of the Grizzly Unit and were about to drop in on quads to get back into the basin about 3 miles were I knew some good bucks would be. Just as we are unloading a lone hunter comes up to the road off of the well warn trail. He told us he had not seen any Antelope and he had been in their whole day. Hmm! Here we have a long hunter that is working hard and walking in, who knows if he was getting into the area of the Lopes. I did not want to just head off down the trail and over the knobs with him there. He then told us he would be hunting back in there once he got some food, new socks and a little rest. Disturbing his hunt was not in my nature!
Finally Mike T., the ranch foreman for Earl Smith is located out in the hay fields on a tractor, see what glassing gets you. Mike says go ahead and hit it hard in the two ranch sections in the Grizzly Unit, I saw a number of bucks earlier in the morning on those sections. The hunts know starts to get pretty exciting for both of us. This hunt was for Frankie and I wanted to make sure he got his Lope. Since I do most of the glassing in the field and Frankie can spot them with the naked eye on the road, I was able to find a buck up on top of a draw along a fence-line at about 1000 yards. Since I could only see the horns of the Lope, I told Frankie he was about to do some hiking to move in on the buck. It was now very hot in the late afternoon, so this hike was a bit laboring!
We are able to close the distance to about 150 yards with little cover at this time. The buck was not a monster or even a big buck, but Frankie said he still wanted to harvest the buck and get one under his belt (youth and the wait). The buck started to move out, but Frankie now had a rest on a fence post on the side of the hill. He made the shot from his Browning BLR 270 loaded with 130gr. Nolser Ballistic Tips. The shot hit the buck in the chest cavity, a bit high in the lung at an angle, I would see later on. The buck staggers and drops, but then all of a sudden he is up and heading out full tilt through the sagebrush and not stopping until he was a more than about 1/2 mile out in the rocks and sage. I forgot to tell Frankie to shot if they move! Now the chase was on for us without actually chasing the buck. Using cover and moving quickly we were able to get within about 275 yards. To my surprise Frankie stands up without any cover or rest and shots offhand at the buck as he starts to run again. The buck drops and never moves a lick after that. I was quite happy that Frankie got a Lope on this hunt and he made the final shot that counted.
I never did see a buck that I would take on the rest of the hunt. The Grizzly Unit is not an easy hunt, as most areas of the Grizzly Unit are walk in area. Now if one can hunt some of the private lands that hold Lopes, it could be a much easier hunt. Would I hunt the Grizzly Unit again, yes I would. Though I want to go back to another haunt with Lopes that is going to take 12 points or better to draw. There is something about hunting the S.E. part of the state, that only one that has hunted it would realize what draws you to it!
Dave’s Coriscan Sheep Killed in the Trout Creek area of Ore.
Some stories are supposed to be a bit funny at someone else’s expense.
Such is this story about an old hunting buddy Dave Brill from Sandy Oregon.
Dave and I have in the past hunted many days together with success for archery deer in Oregon.
On this hunt Dave wanted to harvest a Corsican sheep in Oregon.At one time there were a great number of free ranging Corsican, Mouflon and Aoudad sheep running around the hills of Central Oregon.
So many years ago, as I might have stated before they were turned loose on a number of ranches in Oregon by Harry Hegardt.He had made deals with ranchers for the right to hunt the exotics on their ranches with paying hunters.
Enough of the history of how the sheep got here!
Dave wanted a sheep pretty bad, so I told him I would take him on a sheep hunt in the rim rocks near Ashwood and Gateway.I figured it would be pretty easy to get him into a sheep or two on this hunt.
To cover a vast amount of ground and get to the high spots and glass for sheep, we decided to use motorcycles to cover the ground and they would work great on rough dirt and heavy rocked roads.
After scouting for about 2 hours we spotted some sheep down on a flat near Trout Creek.
The hunt was on and it wasn’t long before Dave stalked the sheep down in the junipers and sage brush.We had just observed the small group of sheep forging the flooding waters of Trout Creek while putting on the stalk. Dave stalked within about 100 yards of the sheep and made his one shot kill on the ram. Dave shot a damn nice ram for a free ranging Corsican.In all the years of hunting Corsican’s and Aoudad’s, I have yet to see any water or barbwire fence stop them.
Now this is where the story gets good and a bit funny.Dave decided that he would cross Trout Creek at a different spot then the usual safe spot even during the high water.Well the crossing was not the best and even with a big 500 Honda, Dave did not make the crossing.The bike, rifle, pack-frame and Dave both went down in the fast and deep moving water.He did make it halfway across before the high water faltered his engine. I could see Dave and the bike going down the river, I quickly ran down the river bank and managed to throw a rope line onto the bike.As for Dave, he and his rifle made it to the shore on their own.
Well it took about two (2) hours to get Dave’s Honda running again with me dragging it all around and after putting fresh oil into the crankcase.
As you can see from the pictures Dave was able to get bike and sheep back to the truck.
Mark’s 2007 Silvies Pronghorn taken near Buck Creek
I have known Mark since the days of Burns Bros., Travel Stops in the eighties. Mark is an avid bow hunter and rifle hunter. These days Mark hunts elk with a bow and has been very successful in doing so.
In 2007 Mark asked me what unit he should put in for an Oregon Antelope Tag. I gave him a couple of units to choose form and he applied for the #2 Silvies hunt. Mark bought himself a Garmin GPS and I loaded up some waypoints for him and his wife to go by. I do believe that Mark and JoAnn camped at Chickahominy Reservoir outside of Riley, Oregon.
On the trip Mark ran into Brian Henninger and they shared information about what they had seen so far during the course of the hunt.
“As for the Lope, I really apprecate the points I got from you, it gave us the right spots to be at. I have sent a picture of the finished Lope from Artistic Taxidermy, as my lovely wife lost the camera in the Derert in Silvies and only had the cell or pictures.”
“Anyway we started off on the opener for a hike to a spot you had given us. We hiked for about a half mile and there were 3 pronghorn bucks. No I wasn’t going to end the season an hour into it! So we continued to hunt, all together we saw about 40 Lopes on that hike, none of them were the ONE I wanted.”
“By Wednesday I had my crosshairs on 6 possible takers. Then I found a nice one, not a monster but the biggest one I had seen so far.”