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Old 01-13-2002, 07:19 AM   #1
WildHawg
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Default Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

I have 9 preference points now, and figure I finally might get a chance at a quality buck. I am willing to hunt with any weapon that is legal besides a pistol--what's my best opportunity for a good muley??

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Old 01-13-2002, 12:59 PM   #2
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

I have never hunted it, but i know the Trout creek hunt takes a lot of points and has a reputation for trophies. it is definitely remote and doesnt have a lot of hunters or tags.
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Old 01-13-2002, 01:18 PM   #3
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

The best bucks are of course those that live long enough to let their gene pools show what they come from. To the best of my knowledge the very best bucks in this state come off of Mt. Jefferson. But let me warn you that Mt. is as close to hell as any man want to get. It is the toughest hunt I know of. I suggest you call the local biologist and ask him where you could get some great photos of the Jefferson bucks. You will not believe your eyes. Colo and Wyom bucks have nothing on these babies. But just try to find one at bow range....I tried for more than thirty years and didn't do it. I hope someone does
someday. But you must see them in Dec-Jan when they are driven down by the snow...seeing is believing and it will help you when you just don't think your body has any more to give. Good Luck.
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Old 01-13-2002, 03:02 PM   #4
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

My Dad hunted the eastside of Mt. Jefferson in the 50's; took some nice bucks. I went there in the mid 70's, tracked some into a manzanita patch (about 40 acres) where you would've needed a tall ladder to find them. From '80-'92 I had sole access to a ranch on the Main fork of the John Day where the smallest I shot was 23", biggest 34". There was a book of Oregon rack records published about five years ago that might point you to the right area; can't recall the title.
Good luck, Jay
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Old 01-13-2002, 07:17 PM   #5
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Trout creek mountains is proably the best unit to look at. I have talked to quite a few guys who have hunted it and they all said that there are a lot of quality bucks there. I hunted a ranch in the fossil unit for elk and saw some absolute monsters there. All on private land though
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Old 01-13-2002, 07:41 PM   #6
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

You might look at the late Metolius bowhunt, there's some real hogs that rut and winter between Green Ridge and the Deschutes River. That hunt takes place in November.

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Old 01-13-2002, 07:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Wildhawg,

Just as an example of how I use the Tag Guide look at the following example from just some of those hunts mentioned: The Trout Creek hunt, number 168A in 2001, is in an area with 95 percent public land. With anything over seven preference points, you have a 100 percent chance of drawing a tag. From '97-'99 the harvest success was 56 percent. 42 percent of the animals harvested were four points or better. The Hart Mountain muzzleloader hunt, hunt number 170M in 2001, takes place on 100 percent public land. With anything over eight preference points, you've got a 100 percent chance of drawing a tag. From '97-'99 the harvest success was 42 percent. 44 percent of the animals harvested were four point or better. The Juniper muzzleloader hunt, hunt number 171M in 2001, takes place on 90 percent public lands. With eight preference points (that's as high as the Tag Guide lists), you've only got a 68 percent chance at drawing a tag (approximately the same odds as drawing the Trout Creek hunt with only six preference points). The harvest success rate between '97-'99 was 70 percent. 87 percent of the animals harvested were four points or better.

This is all from the 2001 Tag Guide, so get the new one to check for slightly newer figures. I only wish I had them for all the states I apply in--it's a big help, in my opinion.

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Old 01-13-2002, 11:11 PM   #8
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Nine preference points?! That means you've pretty much not drawn a tag since they instituted the draw. What have you been puttin' in for, the Governor's lawn tag?

Hate to have to be the one to say this, but your best bet for killing a good mule deer in Oregon is a time machine. I hunt mule deer exclusively--except for white tail in other states--and the hunting has got progressively worse over the years--in particular since the winter of '92-'93.

I bow hunt, and spend at least two whole weeks hunting every year--plus a few weekends. Last season, I hunted in eight different units--three of which are widely considered among the best mule deer units in the state (Southeastern Oregon Desert)--and what I saw was alarming to say the least. Oregon's mule deer herd has been managed into the ground. It's a tragedy, really. Between over hunting, poaching, and unfavorable weather and habitat conditions, the mule deer herd has had more problems that it could overcome.

To answer your question specifically, Hart Mountain or Juniper muzzleloader hunts would be your best shot. Hart Mountain because it's on the refuge; Juniper because of the time of year (Dec.). As a practical matter, though, I wouldn't expect a true trophy in either these days.

Should have added that, at least for me, true trophy mule deer generally start at 30". What passes for a trophy these days is considerably smaller--many guides advertise a 20" buck as a trophy. The last time I was on Hart Mountain--went on a bow hunt with a friend in '00--I saw one really good buck in five days. Back even as recently as the mid-80s, it was common to see more than you could count in a day--no kidding.

Get a copy of the Oregon Tag Guide. They maintain statistics on harvest as well as draw success. While looking for new ground to bow hunt, I've had success by researching the Tag Guide--noting units/areas where it is very difficult to draw rifle tags, with high amounts of public land, high harvest success rates, and large percentages of bucks with four or more points in the harvest.

Good luck.

[ 01-13-2002: Message edited by: Bubzilla ]

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Old 01-14-2002, 07:47 AM   #9
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

I'll agree to disagree with you Bubzilla :grin:

I spent every summer from 1987 to 1999 working "in the brush" on a surveying crew. Much of this work was on the east side. In 1999, I spent from May-October working north of Buchanan, which is east of Burns 18 miles. The area we worked was mostly "fringes", that is, the broken ground between the USFS timber, the BLM sagebrush, and the irrigated private ground. I saw more "trophy" bucks in this area than I saw at any other time in my field career. I define trophy as those animals wider than 2" past their ears (24-26"), with MASS as well. One day just before the 4th of July, we came around the corner to find 8 mature bucks standing in the road. These were in velvet, of course, but all were impressive, beginning with the two 20" forkies, and topped off with a 32" 4x4 with heavy eyeguards and a cheater coming off the right side. The others were decent 22-26 3's and 4's. I really believe most of these animals were in pretty much the same age class, even the forkies, which were much larger than your average 2x.

I've seen two other bucks larger than the monster around Burns. One was a incredible animal that we saw 3 years in a row elk hunting in the Catherine Ck. unit. The last 2 years, he was a 33" class 5x5 with long eyeguards and EXTREMELY heavy...I thought he was going to let us measure him out the pickup window one morning, he was so rutted up and stupid. The other we saw twice on a small island in the Snake River near Ontario, OR. He was very close to 30", but the incredible part was the mass and the amount of points jutting out all over the place. A friend who watched him a while through a spotting scope counted 12 points on one side and 9 on the other.

In the last three years, there was a 36" 4x4 taken in the Snake River unit, and a 40" freak of nature taken in the Imnaha. According to the biologist we spoke to, neither made B&C...no depth to the forks, and very little mass. But if you're looking for something to really ogle over, nothing beats a 40" muley, regardless of how spindly he is.

Do we have as many animals as say, Wyoming, or Colorado? I don't think so, but check the statistics. Would you believe we're very near Idaho for the state with the second highest elk population in the country??

If I had that many points, I'd probably look at the Juniper and Upper Metolius muzzleloader hunts, just because of there track record for big animals. The North Malheur is another option, although it would be a better bet if it were a couple of weeks later, after elk season, rather than just after deer rifle. Another option would be to contact the last few years raffle and Governor's tag holders...most of these people either do a ton of research, or have someone do the research for them. I believe that one of the NE raffle tag winners works at FMO in Oregon City...maybe his name is Kurt, don't remember.

Now that so much of the Steens Mountains is locked up to no motor vehicles, this area may be the place to be in a few years (of course, it's always been great). Thousands of acres that were once accessible by 4x4 or ATV are now walk or pack in only. This will be nothing but good for the big bucks!! Add the 50,000 acres of Juniper burned off by the combined efforts of the ODFW, BLM, and the RMEF, and wow, I can see the monsters now.

Bub's got it right about that tag guide...there's a reason those hard-to-draw units are, well, hard-to-draw. The guide is a great tool for your research.

Where-ever you get your tag, post back here. I've got a lot of BLM field connections in my line of work, I can do a little checking for you.

Congrats for having the persistence to hold out that long!!

kyle

[ 01-14-2002: Message edited by: TheRogue ]

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Old 01-14-2002, 10:34 AM   #10
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Wow!!!! 9 preference points, wanna put in as a party, :grin: my 0 points will average us out at 4 for this next years drawing. I didnt think so.

I have seen 30 inch muleys in the Fossil unit but it is almost all private land. :depressed: I almost got a shot off at a 32.25 inch muley before he crossed the ridge ahead of me, he got killed later in the day by somebody else. :depressed: That one really hurt.

Good luck finding that special place to take a trophy. Trophies are in all units, pick a spot that you will only be able to hunt with 9 points, as you may never get to go back and hunt that place again.
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Old 01-14-2002, 04:29 PM   #11
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Howdy all,
Thanks for the help. I've been applying for the Juniper Muzzleloader for the last 9 years. This year, my son turned 13, so I included him in my party for Starkey Experimental Forest, along with my wife (we all averaged 5 points). Thought it'd be perfect for the boy, with only 25 tags, and 40 sq. miles to wander. Still, no luck.
Heard they did GREAT at Juniper, with snow to push 'em out of the refuge for a change! Sheesh!!
My son tells me to apply for my own hunt this year, as I've been waiting so long. Why didn't I become this selfish last year?? Ma has 6 pref. pts., and the boy has 2, so 4 between them aint too bad either!
Leanin' towards Trout Creek. Anybody out there have 5 or more pref. points wanna join in? Only serious hunters need apply...
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Old 01-16-2002, 09:23 AM   #12
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Rogue,

I always appreciate finding someone who disagrees in an agreeable manner. Let me respond--hopefully in as polite a manner as you did.

I'm not saying there aren't some nice bucks in Oregon. Heck, there are some monsters. I saw one two years ago that would have made even the most experienced mule deer hunter wet his pants. My point was, and I stand behind it, that Oregon's mule deer hunting isn't even a shadow of its former self. And frankly, there's not much in terms of hard evidence to argue otherwise.

You mention checking the statistics. Do you know how many B&C heads have come from Oregon? How many of those have been placed since the mid-80s? Would it shock you to find out that less than 5 percent of all the mule deer scored for the book came from Oregon? And that the overwhelming majority of those heads that did make it were killed decades ago?

Obviously the record books aren't the sole criteria for evaluating the health of a deer herd--some might even argue it's no criteria at all. And obviously there are trophy mule deer killed that are never formally scored; let alone registered in the books. It's impossible to ignore the fact, however, that Oregon nonetheless has never been known for producing lots of trophy animals. I would only add that the trend is towards an even poorer environment to produce trophy class mule deer.

The facts are quite disheartening, really. Mule deer populations have been in decline for many years in this state. Those reductions have been more drastic over the last decade; so much so that the federal government has decided to fund a study aimed at determing the cause of the losses. There are a lot of various theories, but there's no real consensus other than that the data assures one thing: if population trends continue, mule deer herds will eventually collapse. This article discusses some of the theories for population declines which are virtually everywhere in the West.

"Where have all the mule deer gone?"

Just as a one last anecdotal note, I'd add that my Grandfather's study has three mule deer mounts. All were killed near Lakeview, Oregon. Two are listed in Oregon's record book--one, a huge non-typical, is in the top fifty ever killed. At the time these deer were harvested, two in the '60s and the last in '88, there were literally hundreds of deer in the area, and many very large bucks. Currently, if you see a handful of does in the area in a day, you should consider yourself lucky--that's not an exaggeration.

As for Wyoming and Colorado, have you ever hunted there? I have--the last time was last year. There, like here, the general consensus is that mule deer herds are in decline. How did I do? Got a very nice white tail in Wyoming--in what used to be top-notch mule deer habitat.

You're right that Oregon does, or at least did, have one of the West's largest elk herds, though. I'd only observe that herd counts in Northeastern Oregon indicate very poor cow to calf ratios, and drastic population declines in the last few years (there was a very informative article about the problem, which many blame on prededation, in Washington-Oregon Game & Fish a last fall). I would also add that, despite herd size, Oregon produces very few record book elk. Why? Hard to produce big bulls when management practices virtually guarantee the harvest of all juvenile bulls--let alone cows and calves. Ever read the regs of state with true trophy elk hunting? How many allow the harvest of spikes--let alone promote it? How many offer hair tags as the alleged premier hunts? If your answer was none, you'd be right.
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Old 01-16-2002, 06:33 PM   #13
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Bubzilla, I find you arguments, or points as a better term, convincing. I also agree that there are monsters in most units of the eastside. It is pretty likely that you have a fairly recent P&Y or B&C recordbook. The topic that has raised the temperature here, I think, is "trophy" muley. It is my experience that many large antlered deer don't make the book. Yet, many book animals are not as "big" but score high because of their symetry. I have lost my P&Y book from the 80s, but if I remember correctly many of the 180-190 class bucks were little more than 24 inches wide but had long symetrical tines. If you would be kind enough to check your book would you share with the board the average width of say a 190+
scoring 4X4. My guess is that it will surprise a lot of the fellow board members. What score does it take to make the books now. P&Y use to be quite a bit less than B&C.
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Old 01-16-2002, 06:34 PM   #14
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Yup, I'd agree with most all of what you said. There's no doubt that we have a small % of B&C bucks. There's probably several reasons behind this, genetics probably #1. Another reason is probably that, with years of low population and then drawing-only tags for years, many, many people take the first thing with antlers on top of head.

One thing we have going for us is that except for the very NE corner of the state, we don't have to deal with the "whitetail invasion" that many of the mountain and plains states are seeing now. Whitetails are much more adaptable and aggressive than mulies. We're also finally recovering from the horrible droughts of the late 80's-early 90's, and the winter of '92.

If there's a few more years of decent wintering and good summer feed, we should be on par with other states in terms of opportunity for mature bucks. Whether or not the genetics are available in an area, and the hunter can pass on the first 15 forked horns, is something else.

As for elk....Colorado is the only other state that is in the situation that we are/were in. Very high elk populations, low bull/cow ratios, declining winter range. I believe it's just about ready to catch up with them, unless the population is lowered, they're going to have some serious winter kill. And what seems to go first?? The old mature bulls. They almost have to make some changes in their season/bag limit structure, and soon. In the last 20 years, Colorado is not known for their B&C bulls, just as a place to go kill any bull (exception, huge private ranches).

I don't really like the spike only seasons, either, except for the fact that the stats show there really aren't any more spikes killed yearly now than before the regs changed. This is because of the low number of applications, and the fact that 90% of the hunters out there have always shot the first antlered animal they see. (Hey, didn't I just say that about deer?? :grin: )

So, I guess I actually agree with you pretty much, except your original outlook post looked so darn DREARY .

Kyle
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Old 01-17-2002, 07:18 AM   #15
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

bigshark,

You're exactly right about the scoring methods for both B&C and P&Y. In fact, spread isn't even really a factor in either. Both provide what's called a "spread credit"--points added to net score for actual spread--but it can't exceed the length of the longest main beam.

Also, the very nature of the deduct system that both employ, do, as you suggest, create a skewed sense of what is and is not a "trophy." At least SCI, which I'm not terribly familar with, attempts to take a wider view of what constitutes a "trophy"--rather than focusing on some mythical "perfect" animal. But, if memory serves correctly, Oregon hasn't exactly dominated SCI, either.

As you stated, P&Y has much lower minimum scores to make the book. For a typical mule deer, P&Y requires a net score of 145, while the B&C minimum is 190--pretty big difference.

Sorry for being so negative, guys. Wasn't my intent. I'm just very concerned about what I see happening to this state's mule deer populations. ODFW promised that the draw system would help us turn the corner, and return to the days of plenty. That hasn't happened.
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Old 01-21-2002, 07:29 PM   #16
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

I would go for the Juniper Muzzleloader hunt. Hunted the Steens last year and saw a few bucks while hunting. Last day drove on the way home right though the middle of the refuge along the river. Over 80 bucks in 10 miles, most within rock throwing distance. One buck was a monster 7x9. A true B&C buck. 30" plus mainframe plus cheaters. Now if they ever leave the refuge I can't say.
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Old 01-22-2002, 08:30 PM   #17
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Default Re: Best Mule Deer hunt in Oregon?

Check this pick out!!

http://www.monstermuleys.com/cgi-bin...osID1/243.html

No info to go with this buck, other than 2001 season, public land....now that's a beauty of an Oregon animal....or for any state, really!!

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