Coast Range black-tail deer continue to evade me

Last weekend, Al and I launched our second annual assault on Oregon’s black-tail deer population. Al pulled up in his truck at 5:30am and we headed to the coast range to slog through the downpour.

Deer Hunting -- Coast Range, Oregon

I gave Katie a 10% chance of meat — low expectations. According to the stats black-tail deer hunter success rates are somewhere between 10-15%. According to Al, 12% of the people shoot 90% of the deer. The old boys that know how these wily bastards operate, or have access to the sweet rolling hills and oak savannah on private lands south and west of Eugene. That last 10% goes to schleps like us that might hit a deer with the truck and tag it.

This was the second year of our unsuccessful black-tail trips, tags unfilled. I have one more chance next weekend with Karl, but I won’t tell you where we’re going.

Al and I explored further into the folds and back roads around the Smith River Drainage. We found a really cool hike off of the Johnson Creek Ridge road, an old forest road that has grown over and goes off into a stand of old growth cedar and hemlock. These are trees you don’t expect to see on BLM clear-cut wasteland. We saw a giant red-legged frog (Rana aurora), and a canopy of alder covered the trail — golden leaves arching over top.

The coast range will swallow you whole. Al tells stories of a guy falling over the side of a ravine in his car — nobody found the body for five years. The land is wrinkled, smashed between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific tectonics; it’s unstable, full of giant rocks calving off onto the road, land slides.

It rained all day long and all I wanted was to go home and sit in the hot tub with a coffee. I wanted to hunt a little, then go get a burger and some soup at a bar, maybe watch the Cleveland Browns. But there is nowhere to do that. We were in a soggy, timber-hacked wilderness fifty miles from Eugene, hemmed in by straight up and down ridgelines.

We were soaked through early and I have to say that the Seattle Sombrero is one of the best purchases I’ve made in the gear department. The Montrail Torre GTX boots held up particularly well too.

Clambering over recently clear-cut, slash covered hillsides, full of mud and invasive weeds wore us down, but we persevered almost till dark. We saw dozens of mushrooms, of which I’ll have no idea how to begin to identify. We also managed to flush a grouse and about a dozen mountain quail. Four shots fired, no birds injured.


About mstansberry

Matt Stansberry currently lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife and son.
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6 Responses to Coast Range black-tail deer continue to evade me

  1. Bpaul says:

    That’s too bad about the hunting… as for the mushrooms, you just missed the best mushroom class to be had on the west coast (in my humble opinion)

    Breitenbush Mushroom Conference. Some of the best educational money I’ve ever spent:

    If I weren’t in school I’d go every year.

  2. mstansberry says:

    Sweet god man. Mushrooms and a sweat lodge? Really? Have you stayed there? It sounds awesome.

  3. DMorris says:

    Next time stay in the truck. Wait for the rain to stop and look in the clear cuts. The deer will get up and feed making them a lot easier to spot. Stay out of the thick timber you’ll never see them they’re way to smart.
    P.S. by good pair of binoculars not bushnell’s or tasco.

  4. steve says:

    dmorris is right. Fair weather black tails dont exsist. They will tend to frequent clear cuts after a heavy rain. Spend time glassing clear cuts and timberlines and your sucess will be better.

  5. john says:

    steve and dmorris are right. glass glass glass. units after units. thats all I do and am one of the 10% and toss your bushnell and tasco binocs
    learn to shoot over 500 plus yard, invest in a good scope. and a good rifle.
    look for units that have no roads through the middle of them and no roads in the bottom. invest in a packframe. cause you ll be packing from the bottom by the timber.

  6. Nevin K says:

    yeah a packframe with a padded waist strap is a must i live on the coast and am also one of the 10 %, i know of some great area, have been scouting for years. Just finish guide school in Swan Mt. Montana, if you want to be sucessful in your 2012 season send me an email ;

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