Easy Draw Any Deer Hunts
By Gary Lewis
For 15 years, Bill Herrick bought his son Tyler a hunting license and for 15 years, Tyler didn't hunt. First there was college and then there was a career to start, but the elder Herrick carefully banked points on his son's behalf.
Last year Tyler told his dad he was ready to go hunting. The Herricks together with their friend, Blake Miller, applied for the Metolius 139M1, which allows a bag limit of one deer.
They had a seven-day season and they only took one day off. They saw an average of eight to ten deer per day, but they were all does. Several opportunities to fill the freezer came and went and the trio found themselves down to the last day, and the last two hours, with three intact deer tags.
Their collective hopes for trophy bucks diminished, it was time to fill the freezer.
Weather in the Cascades began to build. Dark clouds brooded on the tops of the peaks and blanketed the mountain passes. Rain came in squalls and it became difficult to keep powder and caps dry.
The elder Herrick had missed an easy shot earlier in the day, but he had the feeling he was going to get another chance.
In an aspen grove, Herrick spotted a small band of does and began to follow. Several times he cocked the old Thompson/Center Hawken, only to let the hammer down again. Time and again the deer presented fleeting shots as they fed through the trees.
After a 200-yard stalk, one of the deer turned broadside to look along its backtrail, Herrick eared back the hammer, set the trigger, aligned the top of the front sight on its vitals and touched the set trigger. Boom.
A white curtain hung in the air and Herrick walked into the cloud to kneel beside his last ditch mule deer.
"Any deer you get with a muzzleloader is a good deer," Herrick said as he skinned out his trophy doe.
Easy-Draw Any-Deer Hunts
In the Oregon Big Game Regulations, several hunts offer the opportunity to take a deer of either sex with a muzzleloader. Two are west-side hunts and the other is on the east slope of Mount Hood. And you don't have to apply for 15 years.
The 100M North Muzzleloader hunt runs from the general rifle season opener through the end of November in the Willamette Unit. There are shorter, November seasons in the Trask, McKenzie and North Indigo.
According to the numbers, most hunters hold out for a buck, at least for awhile. In the 2014 season (the last for which the data was available) harvest ran highest, at 40 percent in the McKenzie Unit. The Willamette was no slouch either, with 32 percent hunter success.
In the McKenzie, hunters took 14 does and 120 bucks; 44 bucks were four-point or better.
With 8 percent public lands in the 123M 1 Melrose-North Sixes hunt, it might be difficult to find access. But there are good numbers of deer and a few landowners that allow trespass when asked nicely.
In the 2014 season, 75 hunters spent 302 days in the Melrose, while 38 hunters hunted 170 days in the North Sixes. At 34 and 32 percent success, both units kicked out a good buck harvest in this November hunt.
In the 2015 season, ODFW split the White River and Hood hunts away from the 100M hunt to create the 141M Hood-White River hunt. With 50 percent public lands, access is good on the north and east slopes of Mount Hood.
Harvest seems to run highest in the White River, but more than 50 percent of Hood hunters bagged deer as well.
The thing we want to do is spend more seasons in the field. For a lot of us, that's why we picked up the muzzleloader in the first place. Compared to the rest of the blackpowder deer offerings, these any blacktail hunts are easy to draw.
A person who sets their sights on the 100M hunts can expect to draw a tag about three out of every five years.
Because of the high percentage of private land, the 123M1 hunt offers the best drawing odds. In most years there are more tags than first-choice applicants.
To draw the 141M hunt will require a bit more persistence. Expect to hunt this one once every three years or so.