Nolan had contacted Bwana Bubba in the spring time of 2017, asking if I knew a place in central Oregon, that he might have chance to harvest a elk during the archery season. I had an old haunt that, my partners and I had hunted with great success. I was willing to share, but I wanted him to use technology, in order to give him a better idea and also stay legal on the hunt…
Last Chance Bull
Oregon Archery Hunt
The day before the end of the 2017 season, I’d driven out to a new place I’d never seen before as a last ditch effort to try and kill an elk. I’d scouted, prepared, & hunted so hard all season long to make it happen on a D.I.Y. over the counter elk tag, public land, archery elk. After my blunder on opening day when I missed a cow at 44 yards, I figured my 2017 season was over. I blew my shot opportunity for the year and it was going to be a long 12 months until I’d get another one.
As soon as I got out of the truck that morning I heard a bugle, then another bugle, and another. It was too dark to see the ridge that I was hearing the bulls from, but I grabbed my gear and took off. After about 10 minutes I glassed up the shape of an elk about half a mile uphill from me. I knew if I had any chance at cutting him off, I had to hustle. I ran up the drainage to the West of him and when I reached the top I could hear it wasn’t just a lone bull. It was a whole heard, I peered around the corner and saw close to 60 elk working up the draw. Bulls screaming, pushing cows, the whole herd was going nuts.
As I was trying to decide what to do I turned around and saw there was another hunter about 60 yards behind me. I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me”. I busted my ass to get up here and I’m going to have to compete with this guy. As frustrated as I was, I walked down to him and said “Hey, there’s a big herd of elk up here”. “What’s your plan”? “I don’t want to screw up your hunt”. I fully expected him to tell me to take a hike. Instead what he said next blew me away. He said “We need to cut them off, and get in front of them, let’s go!” I asked him what he wanted me to do, and he said “Come with me” and we took off!
I’m not a tall guy, 5’6”. But this newly met hunting partner of mine is at least a foot taller than I and subsequently covers ground much faster than I can. Before I know it I’m out of breath and desperately trying to keep up with him. As we follow the fence line between the public and private land, we keep getting glances of the herd about 250 yards away in the draw to the east of us. We dropped our packs a ways back to be as quick and low profile as we could. The herd can see us, but we keep pressing on to try and cut them off, in the valley 1/4 mile ahead of us. I keep thinking to myself “I can’t believe this is happening”. We paused at this little knoll and heard some elk coming up to where we were as they headed to cross in to the private, so we set up. I sat behind and told this guy “I’ll range for you” and before we knew it, there was a group of 15 cows being pushed by a big 6×6 up the hill in front of us. I keep ranging him, 124, 117, 111, and 110. He’s not going to get any closer. There are no trees or brush that we can get closer to either. We wait for them to cross the fence so we can keep pushing forward to where the rest of the herd is headed and all of the sudden this piercing bugle rings out no more than 100 yards from where we sat. This massive 7×7 was pushing another group of cows through the same spot! My partner slid down the hill 20 yards, but the bull stayed just out of range and wouldn’t stop. He was on a mission, away from us. We wait for them to clear and then we’re booking it to the next draw, “if we can get to it there’s a good chance they’ll be there waiting.”
Right as we crest the draw we see 25-35 elk pushing up and onto private, there’s still quite a few elk coming up the draw though. I start cow calling to try and bring the big bulls closer. There’s elk everywhere, bulls pushing cows, screaming, heads back and hot to trot. They just won’t come any closer than 120 yards. My new friend scoots down the draw another 10 yards and 6 elk bust out 30 yards below us, it’s so steep that we didn’t even known they were there. A bull stops at 60 yards, I hear “do you wanna shoot that bull?” without hesitation I said “Hell YES”. I pull out from the tree I’m behind, range him at 84 yards. I’ve been making this shot all year. I have flung thousands of arrows practicing for this moment. I can make the shot, I dial my sight to 84 yards, draw my bow, anchor, cow call to stop him, settle the pin on his lungs, and my arrow is gone.
I watch the glow of my green knock sail across the ravine. THWACK! He drops, barrel rolls 3 times to the bottom of the creek bed, stops, and it’s over. “He’s down”! I sat next to the tree beside me and cannot believe after all the work I put in, the ups and downs, the frustration, everything, that it all came together. It wasn’t over, because of how quickly he went down he didn’t spook any of the other elk, it’s time for me to try and call in a bull for my partner.
I cow call like nothing else to try and bring the 6×6 in from 150 yards but he just isn’t willing to leave his cows. My buddy takes off over the next ridge after him and I start hiking back to get our packs. While I was walking back I was overcome with emotion. It’d been 6 years since my last elk.
As any archery hunter knows, this is something that requires an immense amount of preparation, dedication, will power, and luck. But everything lined up that morning and I was beside myself. My arrow left my string at 7:32 am. By 8:30 I was notching my tag and taping it to his antlers. As I sat and looked at him I realized that I’m here alone. I have a 450-500 pound animal down in the bottom of a ravine, 1.5 miles from the truck and it’s just me. I snapped a few pictures and started the process, 6 hours later he was ready to be hauled out and I started the journey back to the truck with one of my most prized possessions, meat. It took me until 11 PM that night to get him back to the truck. My body was nearly broken, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t wait to do it again. And the phrase that kept resonating in my head stayed there until my head hit my pillow, “Never, ever give up”.
This is my story Nolan Lathrop – 2017 Central Oregon.
Thoughts go back to my early days of hunting elk with a rifle and bow. I would rifle hunt in the eastern part of Oregon for Rocky Mountain bulls, while bow hunting was in the western part of Oregon for Roosevelt bulls. So those early hunts to the east were about going into the timber and waiting for elk to come by within shooting range. One thing I never did was to build a fire to keep warm, but my uncles all did it. I remember on one hunt Uncle Floyd was deep into the pines up near Texas Butte. You could hear him cough, as he was a smoker, plus he had his fire going. That was something that his sons and I would never do. Low and behold a nice respectable 5X5 came by his fire and he put him down… So in the western part of the state, we would go into our favorite spot and walk pockets listening for elk movement and try to get in close enough to get shot. They never seem to do the calling like Rocky Mtn. elk would do. This process of hunting worked for us in those days.
Getting to the basis of this article about chasing elk down as I would put it came about some years later when we were bowhunting the rimrock, juniper and sagebrush of central Oregon for big mule deer bucks on the B.L.M., National Forest that was bordered and encompassed with private land. One particular deer scouting trip prior to the opening archery season, glassing at a mile into a basin we could see from our observation point while looking for the famous bucks of the Big Muddy, we spotted elk, not just one elk, but about 12 bulls, all being branch bulls.
This launched our elk hunting in this country for more than 20 years and still to this day when I have time. Spotting elk from distance does give you an advantage; this has led to least at 85% average of getting elk this way for me, partners and others within the hunting circles. I will say that in the early days, GPS and mapping (software) was nil. Most of the guys I hunted with were all past military and few of us still in the military, so venturing into the so call unknown and reading the land was pretty easy going.
I have found glassing ridges, hillsides, shaded areas and even into basins on an afternoon after the average hunter has headed back to camp and settle down for the late afternoon and evening happens to be my favorite time to glass for elk. The country is vast with B.L.M. and National Forest for miles in all directions. You have been glassing for about 30 minutes and you spot a group of elk which you feel is about 2 miles away. You can see with your binoculars there are some pretty good bulls in the herd. They are just grazing, with a few bedded down. It is said by most that we have probably harvest more elk in the afternoon after 1PM, than ever in the morning hours.
It is now to setup a plan to get onto these elk, as it is about 1400 or 2PM in the afternoon with visibility of at least a mile.
Getting this plan underway in the 21st century is so much easier with Garmin GPS’s and onXmaps HUNT mapping software and being able to dial in the lay of the land with precision accuracy, sort of like getting 10X’s on a target during a shooting tournament…
First off, I would have my Garmin GPS, with the Montana being my favorite which is loaded with my onXmaps HUNT PLAT map. Seeing that there is a peak off in the distance between the elk and myself, I can judge the precise distance to the elk with the mapping and GPS. The maps are up to date and show the private, federal lands, state lands and other.
The second thing I am going to do is install a number of waypoints, such as the peak and the proximity of elk as I see it on the map.
Now I take a look at the topo aspect of the terrain with my GPS and my eyes, working on a quick plan to cover the distance to within a ¼ mile of the elk. The elk appear to be very comfortable were they are and I feel they will settle down in the area for part of the evening.
Personally I have always felt to cover the ground quickly, whether I am running, sliding down a hill, but always slowly down coming up on a rise. Many times I personally feel that mistakes are made by taking too much time getting in the zone of the elk.
During my pursuit I am mentally thinking how I am going ambush the elk. I also assume that the elk will be close to where I had made sight of them. If rifle hunting, the thought of the ambush will be different than if I am bowhunting the elk as to how close I close the distance. I am a loner, but if I have a partner, he is going to be in my shadows normally, but under the same game plan. I am in combat mode when working this scenario during the hunt.
Along the way I have checked my GPS and even put more waypoints, which gives me a mental picture, plus I have setup estimated time to get to my final observation point, whether a vantage point above or even level eyesight.
Now if I am rifle hunting, I will be on the ready and try to have a vantage point within my comfortable shooting distance. A great deal of time that doesn’t always happen, but I have set this stalk up the way it works for me. I know my weapon or rifle of choice that I use on elk and I also know the capabilities of its shooting distance and putting the elk down.
When it comes to archery, I am more of a stalker of elk too within shooting range, a great deal depends with the elk, being in the rut or not, but I always have cow call and a bugle if I am going to work the herd and bring a try bull in.
With the technology of GPS (Garmin) and onXmaps HUNT mapping software, the hunter can pinpoint the game. As said before, my thoughts have always been to move fast and not worry about being careful about foot noise, until I am within a ¼ mile. In reality this is one of the funniest ways to hunt down an elk in my opinion! My partners and I have taken many bulls over the years by hunting this way.
When does common sense come into making decisions that affect the masses or majority? In this case the ODFW for Oregon, Idaho Fish and Wildlife and lastly WDFW for Washington make their decisions not for the majority in my opinion. We all know there are lobbyists that believe that a Long Bow is the only bow and we should all be shooting them. Let’s give thought to how most or the majority over the years has moved along with technology. We also know that many of those of age still might have an old bow from the past or even a Springfield carbine Model 1873, but likely don’t use them for hunting any longer. When does their arrogant policy decision dictate the policy for the majority becomes a hindrance? I would likely bet a great deal of many that most of the decision makers in the case have a smartphone and computer of some type…
I have written about this before, this time though it will not be in reference in the loss of a game animal personally or by friend. I truly thought that Oregon would allow in the 2015 at least a lighted nock for the purpose of finding game or knowing that you hit your game with an arrow projected from your bow. Just receiving the new 2015 Oregon Big Game Regulations, the lighted nock, expandable Broadhead and any electronic device mounted to a bow or any part of the bow to be illegal still.
There are at least 45 states that allow the use of lighted nocks and 47 allowing the use mechanical Broadhead. There are a few restrictions, but of course Oregon, Washington and Idaho do not allow at all for big game. Crazy as this seems in Oregon though you are able to hunt the Silver Gray Squirrel and game birds with a mechanical Broadhead.
Now that we have an abundance of wild Turkeys in Oregon, we can tackle them with a mechanical Broadhead. Hmm! Such a big bird, maybe the size of an elk or deer, that we can use the mechanical Broadhead. So the reason that the Turkey is harder to hit or the fact they have so many feathers, making it hard to find the vitals? Now give me a good reason on the Silver Gray Squirrel getting the privilege of getting taken down with a mechanical Broadhead. Yet most of us have shot them in the past with a 22 caliber or with an arrow with a blunt or target tip, creating a small hole, yet death came. Most bowhunters know they make a bird point for small game and birds. Just think about hitting a Turkey in the chest with shot from a mechanical Broadhead, guess the tail fan or beard was more important! The state allowing the use of mechanical Broadhead on turkeys just opens the door for someone to carry a mechanical Broadhead in his quiver during a combination turkey deer hunt. We have bow hunts that run the same time as General Fall Turkey season in Oregon for Blacktail deer… We all know that the number of turkeys in the Willamette, Santiam, McKenzie, Northern Indigo, Alsea and a couple others. Recently while traveling through the Willamette and Santiam corridor, I count more than 400 plus turkeys in various pockets.
The use of lighted nocks would help greatly in the recovery of big game animals after a shot. The hunter can tell if they actually hit the animal, easy recovery of the arrow in the brush, when recovered be able to tell what type of hit it might be if hit. In relationship to the above, I suppose those that make the rules figure that with lighted nocks there would be more shots taken after hours. Well since in the State of Oregon we can’t have anything with electronics on our bows or arrows; it would not help in taking an after shooting time shot. Someone wrote that on 50% of game is recovered when shot, not sure if that is accurate, but I will tell you that most of the time the game that is hit with an arrow do die. The main idea in hunting once you hit game is for fast recovery of the animal. Most bow hunters seldom get an animal to drop in their tracks with an arrow. Hell! Let’s all get real; even with the use of a rifle, many don’t anchor their game to the deck. So if you don’t find the animal, do you still hunt? Yes! Now in the State of Alaska, “Alaska limits licensed hunters to the bagging of one bear per hunting season. Under the law, the wounding of a bear counts toward the season’s bag limit.” The use of a mechanical Broadhead is allowing for a faster bleed-out on the animal, with more cutting area. This means a faster recovery in most cases of the animal, plus the fact of a much better blood trail to follow in most cases.
As for the use of electronic devices on a bow, I am all in favor of being able to attach a camera on my bow. Sometimes in a spot and stalk it would be great to get the action shot from the bows prospective. Oh! I know I can attach it to my hat, but all bowhunters know we turn their hats around in the pursuit of the animal. Then again, I can hire a cameraman to follow me around and screw my hunt up with extra feet. So with all of this I have my Go Pro and other small camera attached to my backwards cover (hat). In conclusion if you feel there should be a change, go forward and let your lawmakers know.
The opening weekend of the general bow (archery) season in Oregon had past by two weeks. After the opening the bucks had become scarce. Two of the other hunters Mark S. an Oregon State Trooper Game Division and my son Frankie had taken bucks on the opening morning with great one shot kills. The bucks for both young men were their first bow kills for bucks and also the privilege of taking Blacktail Bucks, that are very difficult to harvest in the best conditions.
I had gone out to the vineyard a 90 acre of un-fence land in rural Oregon City – Canby, Oregon area in Clackamas County, Oregon and had sat in the tree stand numerous times in vane. The year prior it was common to see at least 2-4 bucks during the archery season any given morning or evening. Even the crop of spikes and does were not coming anywhere near the draw, bewildering mind set.
Frankie my son came out to the vineyard a couple of times. On Monday the 9th of September he came out with me to hunt again. He had also been lucky enough to draw the Oregon Willamette Valley 615 Deer Tag, which allows you to hunt from September 1st, through to February 28th, the following year. On this Monday night I would work from the tree stand with Martin Onza 3 that has proven itself well the year before, but this year the bow sight would be the H H A Sports Optimizer with the single pin on the pendulum system. A sight that forces one to focus on the pin and the target. With the speed of the bow, I usually leave it set for 40 yards when I am going to stalk and 30 yards when I am in three stand. If I have time for a rangefinder, I can easy move the pin up or down on yardage with my thumb quickly.
Frankie would be packing his recently bought rifle in a 308 caliber. He would work through the timber and see if he could drive a buck my way. If a buck were bust in a different journey then he might get a chance to get his 615 tag filled.
Both us seemed to get bored without the sighting of any deer during the evening hunt. With about 15 minutes of light left Frankie came out of the blackberries on the northern sector of the vineyard and I had setup myself working the tree line just west of the tree stand in the draw.
Frankie’s new rifle came with combo setup scope that would prove to be a problem! He should have taken out his Weatherby MK V with good optics! You can have a rifle that is over the counter and inexpensive, but one should always have good optics for the conditions which includes the scope mounts!
He texts me that there is branch buck cutting through the grapes (12″ plants) and he just can’t get on him. At that time I spot the buck, but he is 80 yards from me and just walking along. I work in to get closer to him and when the buck was at 60 yards broadside, I decide it is to late to get a bow good shot. Even with the greatness of the Optimizer and the Onza 3, I would have not gotten it done.
Both Frankie and I could not get on him and get a clean shot!
The positive of this, we did see a branched shooter buck, though the buck was not a resident buck to the area. Thus ended the night of the 9th of September with the sighting of one shooter Blacktail Buck only!
On the Tuesday the 10th, I got off early from work and headed out to the vineyard. Again vineyard is a un-fenced 90 arce parcel of land that is just outside of Canby and Oregon City, Oregon. The deer come and go from many parcels of urual lands in Clackamas County. I have seen the same bucks when scouting on lands that are about 1-2 miles line of sight feeding in the fields.
I decided to give the tree stand another go and within an hour I decided I needed to do another spot and stalk. The deer just weren’t working the draw like they were the year before.
The taking of a buck in the draw during the opener and gutting the buck near the draw might have caused a problem? I can’t see why as the coyotes and buzzards had cleaned the bones and any other evidence of the kill within days.
There was not much shooting light left so I decided to place myself next to the treeline that lead out into the grapes plants (young 1st year plants). As I sat there, glassing, range finding spots that I though figured a buck might emerge from, I got this feeling that I had company and not of the human form. Everyone has had the feeling that there is something close and in many instances we don’t take advantage of the sense! In this case I moved my head and noticed a branched buck working almost in the same area that the buck the evening before. In this case I had a bit more light and knew if I did blow the movement I could get a shot off.
In one fluid motion I move from my sitting position and swung around into the kneeling position. (The buck had his head down the whole time he was moving through the plants.) He never made notice to my movement and with ease I pull back my Martin Onza 3 at 72#, the HHA Optimizer single pin sight was set at 40 yards and the pin focused just below the spine. The buck did not jump at release, as the Onza 3 very quiet! His reaction when the arrow hit was that of a rock. He just went down instantly and quivered for just a few moments. The arrow had gone through his heart! In my lifespan of hunting I have had this only happen twice before on bucks and both of them had been Blacktails also! The Blacktail buck most likely didn’t even know he was dead at impact! It doesn’t happen like this very often, but I will take it anytime I can. One never likes to have to track game in the dense cover of Western Oregon during the evening into darkness. A deer can go a little ways and disappear in the Blackberries, which make for difficult recovery on evening hunts. I have to say when there is a spark of adrenalin, old bones can move without pain!
Though the buck was only a 3 x 4 with the single eyeguard and most likely three (3) year, I would do it again. After opening day it had been tough and one should never have two legal tags. It makes it tough when your trying for the local stud buck. The rack is a very tight rack with the main beams almost touching. His brother the other 4 X 3 with two (2) eyeguards still roams the property. It appears that he will take up residency on this parcel and surrounding properties. He is a bit bigger and will make a good buck in 2014!
Since this writing I was a fortunate to harvest the Even 3 X 3 in November of this year!
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!
Thought I would share this picture of a first time bowhunter and first harvest with the bow outside of Springfield, Oregon. The hunter rattled in 3 bucks one being a forkie x spike, this 3 x 4 and a monster buck that would not come into him, but did come into 54 yards to his daughter who was also hunting. She did not take the shot as her bow was only sighted in to 35 yards… It was a great hunt for daughter and father with success and a buck that only went 75 yards!
I believe that the buck was taken on the evening of November 24th, 2012!