A little update since the writing of this post! Recently after all these years I have found that Diane Campbell, Wild “Bill” Campbell’s wife is still living on the ranch in Pilot Rock, Oregon! Diane put up with all of us that frequented the ranch! One of the greatest places to ride horses, hike and hunt for pheasant hunt, elk and deer hunt!
I had an email a while back from an old friend; well he is younger than me. He had been on a Texas deer hunt with his kids on a friend’s ranch. Mention about a dear friend that is no longer around and that the tradition of the hunt would change. How true his words were to me that day! Over the past 30+ years or more I have had the privilege of hunting a number of private ranches. Some were rancher friends that I have met via hunting with someone else, met in the road near their place, through work and from knocking on doors.Relationships with ranchers change with the times and the conditions of life.This reading with me is about a rancher that I met during a deer hunt near Pilot Rock, Oregon that I was invited on from a Naval Officer that I first met when I was stationed at the Naval Security Group Activity in Imperial Beach, CA. Rod Briece was from the Portland Metro area and was on his active duty obligation. I took him on an unsuccessful duck hunt along the Tijuana border. The day before there were more than a 1000 ducks and geese held up in tidal flats…? This story about a rancher; he went by the name “Wild Bill Campbell”, a rancher that lived up on East Birch Creek outside of Pilot Rock, Oregon. Bill Campbell was a Cattle Rancher, Horse Trader, Husband, Peacemaker, Hunter and mostly a Friend of mine.
As I said earlier I first met Bill on a deer hunt with Rod. Rod was hunting with his usual deer hunting group. I was the outsider invited to the hunt; I came ready to deer hunt prime private property on eastern Oregon Cattle & Horse ranch.Bill’s ranch was along East Birch Creek and had boundaries south near Pearson Creek and the Umatilla National Forest. There are many notorious places that are still thought of by the hunters or persons that roam the area. Such places that might be alone the 4230 road such as Foggy Knob, Four Corners, Little Pearson Creek, California Gulch, Government 80, Sagebrush Flat, Dark Canyon, Merle Canyon, Tamarack Gulch, Cold Springs Canyon, Hascall Spring, Pole Mill Rd, and Spring Hollow just to name a few spots that are like having a GPS with waypoints when talking.Right from the get goes; I knew that I was going to like Bill a lot. Bill looked like he came from out of the “Old West”; never saw him without a Single Action Revolver and or wearing suspenders.
On this hunt Bill gave me knowledge and taught me to be patient, go with the flow. On one particular day I was riding with Bill, he would stop and talk with every other rancher or ranch hand he knew. In my mind I am going is this ever going to get over with, it’s daylight out and I need to be hunting and not BS’n. There had to be a big buck waiting for me in the timber. Later I find out that with Bill talking with everyone, he is gaining knowledge on game and getting us permission to maybe get onto another rancher’s property…
Since that time I have learn to take time out during the mid-day and slow down. Bill was a man of many stories of past times. Bill had a cabin up near Sagebrush Flats that all of us would jockey on the use of the cabin. On the walls were written passages of days spent on the cattle trail moving cattle from the out of the mountains to the valley floor. I remember one passage written by Bill when he was with his father-in-law, “the snow was more than three feet deep, with drifts over your head, wind blowing hard, 10 degrees out, horses tired and a pack of coyotes following their every movement”. If one had foresight they would have taken pictures of these passages on the wall of the cabin. I understand that the cabin is gone, as an outfitter bought the property some years back from Bill’s widow. Being and old horse trader, or better yet a gun trader, I have always felt it to be a privilege to hunt someone’s property. Not much on paying with “Green Backs”, but with something that every rancher might want to rat hole. Has anyone every known a rancher that might not want a new rifle, possible good pair of bino’s, knives or how about a master case of 30-06 Remington 180 gr. cartridges.
Well Bill was always one that would want something new that he has never had in his gun cabinet. Being able to get some items demo out to me or be able to pick up a new rifle for wholesale, I could not past up the opportunity to do this barter system.We always had a place to stay, leave our horses, go anywhere, do anything, hot meal in the evening and even drive Bill’s truck up into the back country. Bill would be ready to go on a hunt at a moments notice. No one ever had to worry that he would not be ready.
His truck was never without a rifle, six shooter, knives or ammo. On the Ready! The following are a couple of short thoughts and happenings with Bill Campbell.
Oh! Bill was a Reserve County Sheriff and would go out on any call. One look at Bill and I think an outlaw would just put their hands up. One afternoon Bill and I had to go into town to the local market, we had just come out of the canyon above Bill’s main house. We were packing iron on the hip. Getting out of the truck I started to remove my holster and belt. Bill quickly said “Frank no need to do that, we pack here”, so it is probably first and last time that I have walked into a store with handgun on he hip… Looking at us would have most likely seemed like a picture from the past.Another time Bill had the county veterinarian come out and look at one of his horses that was sick. The county vet., said that he would have to put the horse down, he felt the horse was contagious to the rest of the herd. Bill slowing put his hand on his hip, of course where his 45 Colt was and look straight into the Vets. Eyes and said “I don’t think so Doc”. The Vets eyes went to the size of golf balls and he left most hastily. There was the time that Bill gave me a pink lariat for my Birthday on an early scouting trip in June. Inside of the package was a set of chaps from the turn of the century and this pink lariat. Bill, his wife Diane and Stick gave a really bad time to me on this gift. It was given to me because I thought I was a macho cowboy from the valley… Anyway I still have the lariat. My lariat was always tied to my saddle, even when I was in the bottom of Hells Canyon. It reminded me of the great times I spent with “Wild Bill Campbell” at his ranch.One of the most memorable hunts that I had with Bill was a middle of the season deer hunt at this place. Bill had dropped Ben and I off at the head of California Gulch for a two person deer drive. Ben and I split up on the two walls of the canyon and worked our way down into the timber. Ben was a great partner, when working canyons we seem to know were and what the other person was doing without ever seeing them. Anyway I had beat Ben to the bottom of the canyon and was working my way up the center into some down timber and grassy area. All of a sudden I jump a large black bear that was sleeping. The bear jumped up and was on top of a down tree broadside at 50 feet. I had my 257 Weatherby at the time. I quickly shoot into the boiler room of the bear, nothing happen, so I shoot again at the bear into the same spot. The bear is off the tree and running. I shoot twice again at the bear as it is moving left to right into the same spot but on the opposite side of the animal. The big black bear expires in the creek bottom! Now what I said to myself. One has to remember that while shooting the last two rounds I had yelled up the canyon for Ben. Ben came running down and thought that I had a small war going on. To his surprise there was a bear laying dead in the creek and not a big buck. In my mind I wanted to skin this bear and be able to have a life size mount done. We could not budge the bear out of the creek as the creek had steep walls due steepness of walls from spring flooding. We skinned the bear in the creek which took some time to do. No we knew that Bill would want the bear meat, being an old mountain man. Just getting ready to quarter the bear and we hear a truck coming to us down into the canyon. Bill with his Blue and White Ford F250 pickup stopped at the edge of the creek wall. You have to be kidding me, Bill drove to us. Morale of this story, have patience, a rancher can get anywhere to pickup game.Sometime in 1987 Bill Campbell “Wild Bill” passed away in his favorite sitting chair in the living room. I suppose he had a glass with good aged whiskey in it. He had honor, give you the shirt off his back, lone you a weapon if short and he would open his home to you to stay.“Wild Bill” I hope you are still chasing elk and deer up in the clouds!
Elk were taken every year up at East Birch Creek.