Bwana Bubba’s Thoughts – Native American Hunting Rights Are Thinning The Herds

Native American Tribal members have the treaty rights to hunt on all public land anytime!

Since this article has raised a great deal of eyebrows from Native Americans, let it be written that the poachers are not the majority of Native Americans.  This article is also based on Oregon and not other states.  Since all that is written has backup from hunters, I will leave it written as it is.  One other question, how many of the Native American Hunters are 100%?

This is what a couple of poached bucks could look like in the back of a pickup!
This is what a couple of poached bucks could look like in the back of a pickup!

The hunter may be unaware of illegal activity, unless it happens in the area he or she is occupying.  Those of us who have spent a great deal of time in the field hunting, fishing, hiking and camping have chronic knowledge about big game poaching.   I never paid attention too, was the fact that the Native American has been subject to poaching for a long time on off-reservation public-private lands.   I thought poaching was done by outlaw hunters capitalizing on the opportunity of out of season, night hunting, closed lands, horn hunters or other illegal means to get it done.  There is an old saying in life “if the janitor talks about it”, usually is true, in this case law enforcement officers have talked about it, besides eye witness to the incidents.

My son during the 2015 Rocky Mountain Elk big game hunt in Oregon, in a hunt unit made up of B.L.M. land (limited road entry) and private land, he and his hunting partners, it came apparent that there is a problem with poaching of big game with Native American Tribal Members, hunting off-reservation involvement.   Opening day in this limited entry by road area along the John Day River, the group were stopped by Oregon State Police Game Officers.   They had just finished a hunt from hunting from the top fence line down to the river, when the OSP Game Officers confronted them.  They were asked numerus times about the poaching of a large bull elk and the wasting game meat, plus severing the rack off.   After three times of the direct accusations and rebuttal comments back, the OSP Officers backed off.   The hunters now had open dialogue with the OPS Game Officers’ of what they had encountered.

Knowing my son and how I have mentored him to hunt and visualize the out of place objects or situation’s, noticed that things had not been right all day in the hunting area.   His group was the only elk hunters that had made a camp in the area, but there were a couple of other vehicles that were in area, traveling all over the open roads and the hillsides (off-road).   JR took pictures of one particular pickup that had no good written all over it.   The OSP Game Officers thought it was strange that he had done this Intel, but later the tire tracks matched the tire tracks at the kill zone.  Since JR., has friends that live in Madras, Oregon he is well aware of the Tribal members and their appearance.

Cutting to the chase on the “elk hunt from hell” as my son would put it; there were 6 mule bucks and 1 bull elk that had been killed on private along the boundary fence.   A great deal of meat wasted, all the racks had been sawed off.  The MO was the same for all the game animals that were within 100 yards of each other.  The deer carcasses were stacked up on each other.   Plus the fact the animals were shot prior to opening morning.  A great way to have a hunt ruin with a special opening day for a selective group that the Federal Government has given special privileges too prior to the regulated Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife opening day.

There was a great discomfort with the poaching; the private lands around the B.L.M. were now being patrolled heavily, plus legal hunters being watched around the clock by the land owners that scanned the hills with spotting scopes and binoculars.  With all the activity, there was not going to be any elk harvested by legal hunters.  The elk had moved into non-road areas, deep into rim rock of the interior on the private land.

So have any of you ever read the Treaty of June 25, 1855 for Tribes and Bands of Middle Oregon. Treaty, you find that the Warm Springs Indians are subject to only their laws and rules when it comes to hunting?  The Game Commission is the tribal council and not the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Tribal members can get their tags from Human Resources free.  Then there are the ceremonial tags that they can get when a tribal member dies of 3 deer and 1 elk.   My understanding, though not in writing that I can find, the numbers might be greater.  In the treaty tribal members can hunt on any federal lands, basically anytime…   In thought, I suppose they have to kill 3 deer to make one, since they are only taking the choice meat, (blackstrap & hindquarters) sort of like the tendency of the Wolf when it comes to consuming.  You have to make note that Indian Reservations are a sovereign nation within the boundaries of the United States of America. Oregon State Police have not justifications on reservation lands.

“Cultural hunting” shall mean the exercise of traditional, ceremonial and subsistence tribal hunting rights.

I would like to make a comment, if it is about cultural hunting, then why not hunt in the cultural method of the past with bow-arrow or spear, this way at least the game has a chance.   Plus in their traditional ways of the past it would have been by canoe, horse or walking, not by a red Toyota Tacoma or white T100 Tundra pickup.  When you can hunt basically year-round, when the deer, elk and other big game are in the wintering grounds with little chance for escape, I truly have a major problem with a treaty that dates back to the 1900’s.  Times change and market hunting has long since left this country.  This is the 21st Century, no longer the 19th Century with misguided or outdated privileges.  Game populations cannot withstand over hunting and with little regard to the state’s big game laws.   Hunting tags are normally regulated by the ODFW in this state from census on game during the winter months and harvest counts.

Oregon State Police Game Division find it extremely difficult to control and prosecute the tribal members guilty in game & fish violations on non-reservation lands.  Public law enforcement cannot enter Tribal lands to catch the guilty.  I found a great comment that the federal government (enforcement) has little to do what goes on with the 326 land reservations in the United States of America.  In the State of Oregon there are 9 Federally-Recognized Tribes with 100 different sub-tribes within the 9 tribes.

For the most part the crimes within the Reservations are handled by Tribal Police.  My turn on this is in relationship to non-reservation lands:   “is a crazy quilt of jurisdiction that allows the government to ignore things.” “How did things get this way in a country that’s not only on but within our borders, and what is being done to fix them?” The answer is two words that come up as often as “with impunity.” Those words are, “It’s complicated.”

I have no problem with subsistence hunting at all, but why is it in the instance that all bucks were taken?   How does in the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife set the quota’s for hunting or even fishing the following years?   Oregon State Police Game Division have their hands tied and spend a great deal of wasted time, trying to find the culprits of the violations that are Tribal members.  This is about hunting off reservation at their leisure, a luxury that non-Tribal citizens do not have.

I have talked with un-disclosed Oregon State Police Game Officers Retired and this has been going on in their lifetimes.   Within the game unit non-reservation lands, those that border Tribal lands, it extremely tough, as tribal members can enter from their roads into these hunt units and exit.  From what I understand there are only few Tribal police on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, north of Madras, Oregon.

Over the years, I guess I was just blind to what I saw in the field at times or on the river banks, such as fishing net with 100 plus rotting salmon, 100 yards downstream from a hatchery… An eyewitness sees and hears that 30 undersize sturgeons are taken on the Columbia River by a Tribal Member, remembering other American citizens cannot fish for sturgeon on the Columbia River.  When asked by the OSP Officer why, the comment back was “they taste better when smaller.”  Another recent incident that was given to me by reliable sources, 2015 2nd season Rocky Mtn. Elk hunt in the Heppner Unit, Tribal members sell three branch bull elk to white hunters for 100 bucks each, using a pickup truck with hoist to load into the hunters trucks.  2015 1st season Rocky Mtn. Elk in the Heppner unit, hunter sees a pickup with a hoist in the back and wonders, what the heck is that for… If you want to read about game violations on the Oregon State Police Game Division section on their webpage, you’ll see that there seems to be no arrests on Tribal Members.  OSP Game Officer’s seem to have there hands tied in this great astoristy of Oregon’ big game animals being dwindle by blatant poaching by a few.

There are many incidents of poaching by Tribal members that the public is un-aware of, such as the 9 Roosevelt cow elk remains, with the heads left at the sight along the upper Siletz River on the Oregon coast off-reservation National Forest lands during the late archery season. They had been taken with a rifle.

One last incident of poaching by the Tribal members hunting off-reservation with the killing of 9 mule deer does out of a ranchers hay field.  This information is first hand from a rancher in the West Biggs Hunt unit when I called him last week about Tribal member poaching.  The Oregon State Police Game Officers were called in.   There was not much OSP could do to the Tribal members, other than criminal trespass on private land.  The rancher did not want to press those charges…

Most think that the Warm Springs Indian Reservation only encompasses the parcel off of Hwy 216 and Hwy 26 in Oregon.  Well this is a very large chunk of land on the east side of the John Day River that borders BLM and goes un-checked with access from tribal members.  The Warm Springs Indian Reservation has more than 1 Million Sq. Miles of land, making it the largest in the State of Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife is very lenient with tags that go to the Tribal Game Commission.  In the Siletz & Grand Ronde reservation area, 25% of the allotted tags for a hunt unit within or near the reservation go to the Tribal Game Commission.

Basically all the Tribes in Oregon have the same basic Treaty from the 19th Century.  The Klamath and Modoc Tribes and Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians even have a treaty.  From my readings they can hunt any land that might have encompassed the original lands, which is approximately 2.2 million acres that they roam for more than 14000 years.   All the years I spent hunting the B.L.M., National Forest and Sycan Marsh area for Pronghorn, I rarely saw deer in a deer rich environment.  I understand that within the 21st Century these tribes just might get their heritage lands back after the Federal Government force them to be vacated with a payoff.  In this case the descendants will be the winners.

I will give a defense for the Native American, it is said that the On-Reservation resident Tribal members are poor and have little.  Food for thought comes from a recent set of photos of a Deschutes River Bighorn Sheep that was harvested by a Tribal member.   What I saw in the pictures was a bit disturbing.  I saw no meat on packs in the pictures and I did see a full-curl broomed off ram, that the head was severed at the neck joint.   In point no meat (I am sure they boned out every bit of useable meat into tiny packs), but better yet, if so poor why would you have wasted a large full shoulder cape most likely worth at least a $1200.00 and a life size cape around $3000.00 to a taxidermist.  So for about 45 minutes to 2 hours of capping, one could make some fast cash.

In my opinion non Native American Tribal citizens of Oregon, plus the non-resident big game hunters, need to stay attuned to what happens in the field. I don’t believe, unless Tribal member poaching on off-reservation public land is stopped while in the field there is little that can be changed.

Bwana Bubba

I welcome comments back!

10 thoughts on “Bwana Bubba’s Thoughts – Native American Hunting Rights Are Thinning The Herds”

  1. What happened 150 years ago is tragic but now as times have changed we are all Americans. What happens on reservation land is up to them but when it comes to the rest of the country we all need to follow the same laws rules and regulations. I come from a hunter gatherer family we follow the game laws pay taxes have jobs, if the Indians want to hunt off the reservation so be it, enter the drawing for the hunt of your choice and if you are lucky you get to hunt the area of your choice buy a tag and compete with everybody else that obeys the law. It is getting really old of all of the extra rights people think are owed to them. Oh and I may not be from a tribe but I am a Native American!
    Wade O.

  2. Well NDNHNT4 & N8iV Warrior, For one thing I am not ignorant… Having spent more than 28 years in Intel and profiling the enemy of the country, I take
    information as it comes and eyewitnesses do come forth. I am not of the Democratic mindset of making things up to gain. There is no money to be made here. It is bad enough that ODFW is run in a manner that Cougars, Wolves and even Bears have great bearing on the the impact & dwindling counts on Deer, Elk, Pronghorn and maybe even Sheep…
    This about being aware of what is happening. The deer were stacked up with the backstraps pulled and the heads removed, plus the big bull. There is a reason why the ranchers surrounding the B.L.M. were on high alert! The O.S.P. were everywhere and they did stop the hunters that were legally hunting to ask questions. You as Tribal Leaders, you might want to talk with the Rancher Wells, who owns the old Earl Smith place in Ashwood…

    Knowing that you both are of The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, you just might check it all out…

    Native Born Oregonian…

  3. I just happen to work for our tribe and I am a ceremonial hunter for the long house also. You ever want to come talk to me I work in Fisheries Dept. I hunt and fish for my tribe and my family, Why would I jeopardize my right’s to do so.
    I also buy my Oregon State Archery hunting license and tags ever year, I would also put those privileges on the line also, along with my trapping license and state brand too.
    So think before you make accusations on your people, if your even native. I don’t even know if you are. Come by the office my door is always open to speak to you, if I don’t have the answer your looking for I will find the right person in our natural resource office to talk to you in person.

    Have a blessed day.

  4. Bwanabubba…your horse crap, dog crap, bull crap, your thoughts are pretty close being a good libel case. I am a hunter, born and raised on the reservation and I am telling you right now you are thinking out of pure ignorance. It is obvious you know nothing of the 1855 treaty, and you know nothing of tribal hunting regulations, and you’re most of all ignorant of tribal off-reservation rights. you’re site is so full of bigoted lies it would make little or no sense to me to even try to correct or enlighten your ignorance. A. Hellon

  5. N8iV Hunter,

    You are most correct that not all Tribal Members are involved. Yes, there are non-tribal that poach. There is a difference in that if a non-tribal is busted, they will pay dearly and deserved the punishment… As for Tribal Members that do what they wish, there is little that can be done by CONUS public law enforcement, and most won’t deal with it. Your the first to speak up as a Tribal Member, yet many that aren’t tribal members speak out strongly about what they have seen. So we ask are you 100% Native American? Best Regards frb

  6. I disagree with all above said, I am a Tribal Member and i myself have been buying Big game tags for some time now. Not all tribal members have jobs and can afford to do so, I am fortunate to have and appreciate my Job with the Tribe. Also Don’t lump all your apples in one basket because you make yourself look stupid. Its not just the Natives Poaching it’s NON-Indians also, You read all about it on the news and on iFish. Yes we have different seasons and majority of us abide by the rules and use all the meat but just like it says in the ODFW regulations you don’t have to pack out the ribs and backbone. Thats BS i personally pack everything out none of my animal goes to waste. I also hunt with Non-Indians and i saw this personally how they leave the parts with less meat behind. So do your homework, everybody has opinions and are entitled to them. Always carry a video camera if you see something illegal happening.

  7. Roger, thanks very much for the great comment. They are suppose to follow the rules, though through the Ceremonial Rights it seems they can hunt anytime. Some tribes it has to do with death of a tribal member. OSP, should know the rules and laws. A tough one be for sure. I feel they carry little about the survival of big game species, yet work off the backs of hunters that buy tags or apply for tags. Frank

  8. Saw incidents myself this year in the Ochocos while elk hunting. Native Americans are still hunting deer at that time. They have different seasons that last much longer than regular seasons set by Oregon Fish and Game. Saw two trophy class bucks taken by them during the Rocky Mnt elk first rifle season. Also watched as they illegally drove off road to retrieve them. Spoke OSP about it and they stated they thought the Native American deer season ran until the end of November so all was legal. OSP also said that the Warm Springs indians “hit the Ochocos pretty hard for deer and elk”.

    I spend a lot of time volunteering with the Mule Deer Foundation to work on habitat restoration for mule deer in Oregon. It is frustrating to see certain groups, not bound by normal state hunting regulations, runing that habitat by driving off road through it while hunting. Plus the fact that they are taking trophy bucks, easily killed during the rut, that could be breeders and add to the gene pool.

    I agree that 160+ year old treaty’s should be reviewed. Their hunting is actually damaging wildlife and the environment.


  9. Bwana,

    I have to agree. As far as the fishing part is concerned, I believe that they have been using their own hatcheries as a source of unlimited fish. (Unclipped). We as a society have bent over backwards to redeem the perceived sins of our ancestors. Those people won’t be happy until everyone is wearing loin cloths and eating berries.


  10. Frank,

    I can remember not to long ago up in the Mt. Emily Elk Hunting Unit, prior to the opening day, I saw the local Native Americans of the local tribe killing off elk. They has the processing truck on hand to butcher and sell off the meat. This was seen more than once in my time, as that was a favorite at one to hunt. The O.S.P. when I found them said there was nothing they could do…

    Thanks Frank
    Best Regards,
    John S.

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