New Hunts for Oregon’s Blackpowder Bucks
By Gary Lewis
This fall, a few of Oregon's muzzleloader hunters will grab their long-barreled rifles and sling their 'possibles' bags in pursuit of Columbia whitetails in the North Bank Habitat Area and for elk along the south coast. Both hunts represent a unique opportunity.
North Bank Habitat Deer Hunt
Hunt No. 123M2 in the 6500-acre North Bank Habitat Area takes place from December 9 to December 17. The bag limit is one white-tail buck (minimum forked horn) or one black-tailed deer. An estimated 10 tags were available for this hunt and it is likely that most hunters will, at least initially, try to take advantage of this opportunity to take a Columbia whitetail.
Lewis and Clark were the first to identify this deer for history. An animal of the river bottoms and low foothills, the Columbian whitetail began to disappear from much of its original range as development spread throughout the Willamette Valley and along the Columbia.
Poachers took their toll and farmland displaced habitat. In the 1930s some feared the deer was extinct, but remnant populations were found. In the late 1960s, biologists estimated there were less than 1000 animals left. In the 1970s, the Columbian whitetail was listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act and the recovery effort was underway.
Today, two distinct groups remain; a thriving population of about 6,200 animals in Douglas County, and approximately 800 deer in the Columbia drainage, inhabiting several islands and the mainland on both shores.
The Columbian whitetail was de-listed in 2003 when management of the herd was turned back over from the Federal government to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Last year, as part of a five-year joint study with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the ODFW established the first hunt in almost 30 years. For the 2005 season, 23 tags were made available to the public and 110 tags were issued to private landowners in the region through the Department's Land Owner Preference tag program.
This year, a few lucky muzzleloaders will make smoke and history of their own with a Columbia whitetail buck.