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!
John’s hunt started sometime in January of 2012, when he asked me about hunting for Mule Deer in Central Oregon. John works with me at the dealership and is from Grants Pass, Oregon. He comes from a long line of hunters and this year along the family has had to harvest 3 Black Bears and 3 Cougars that were threatening their farm. I should say I have seen in the later months of 2012 the Blacktails that his family have taken. I think I would like to retire down there to hunt Blacktails, Cougars and Bears.
John and his group decided they would put in for the Grizzly Unit Rifle Deer Tag for 2012 after John told his group that I would give him an area or two to hunt in the Grizzly Unit. They were successful as they had a few preference points between them. The hunt was now set and I would come up the with waypoints and mapping.
John bought a Garmin Oregon 300 from me with the mapping program that would show the BLM that they would have access too! I am a firm believer in the use of GPS and the correct mapping. In that area of the country where the ranchers and organizations that have property next to the BLM, have said that hunters with trespass given the opportunity from not knowing the boundaries. I wanted John if ever stopped to be able to prove with time stamped tracks and waypoints where he and his group have been! You will find fact with this later in the story!
I was giving John two different areas to hunt in the Grizzly Unit both being in the northern sector about 8 miles line of sight from each other. John had decide to camp down on the John Day River during the hunt.
Opening day he found himself in the walk-in only area that was bordered on three sides by private. I felt if he was in the couple of miles from the bottom of the creek to the interior they might be able to find a big mulie. It has always been a great sp0t in the past for opening day of rifle or even to archery hunt. In the old days before Young Life and the BLM made an agreement to keep ATV’s out of this area, it was easy to get the 3 miles in and then work the canyons and draws on foot after spotting deer, elk or antelope.
The morning proved to be a bust for the group and they decided to hunt the area a bit further south which had more land to cover and they could drive into key access and observation points to find game. John told me when he got back after the hunt, that the hunt into the opening day area was a big tough on him, since he has had two (2) hip replacements. You would think that John would have let me know about this when I explained the terrain!
During there trip into the BLM of H.H., they ran into the resident Oregon State Police Game Officer M.P., who knows that country like he knows his truck and struck up a conversation. M.P. told him when he came out of the northern sector of H.H. Area he had not seen a hunter or any deer. Now John and his group are a bit down on all of this great news from the man himself.
The Grizzly Unit has taken a toll with poaching in recent years and the fact that the Cougars in the sage brush, juniper and rimrock thrive. I have found many a good bull and buck that have been ambushed in a timbered draw in this area. The Grizzly Unit harbours some great bucks, but you really have to work for them. A number of Boone and Crockett’s bucks have come from the Grizzly Unit!
The next thing the group does is go to Madras, Oregon and have dinner and setup the next days hunt. John had given me a call while in Madras and asked what to do next. I still believed in the northern sector hunt and that they should maybe work within a mile of the access road, as there was a creek that ran next to it.
The next day which was Sunday they hunted the creek bottom and the shallow draws (brush laden) that came down into the creek. They started to see some game and had a good feeling that something was going to happen. Remember that private borders this parcel of BLM. John and his brother work the ridge next to the road as they are going to go back to John’s B Van and have lunch. As they are about to get on the access road, John spots a herd of 20 plus deer with 4 bucks in the group. Now the deer have not spotted John yet and John, pulls out his Garmin Oregon to see if the deer are on BLM or Private (there are a number of cross fences in this area). Of course the GPS has to fire up and access satellites. This must take a about minute to do so, my comment to John “What were you thinking not having the GPS on?”. John sees that the spot is BLM and as he does the deer finally spot them and start to move out. John and his brother have to move a bit with deer as they would be coming back their direction a bit to get into the draw of safety. John makes a great 250+ yard shot on buck and his brother targets another buck that broke away from the group.
John’s group of 4 hunters would run 50% on the harvest of bucks in the Grizzly Unit, so each man gets 1/2 a deer to feed the families this year. I feel that John would hunt the Grizzly Unit again though he did not shoot what he was really looking for though. John did a scouting trip about 2 weeks before the opener and did see a couple of the big bucks that the Grizzly Unit is famous for!
I have written as the story was told to me: Frank B.