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.
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.
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.