Elk Hunting in Oregon
One of the most popular animals to hunt in Oregon is elk. Gary has gone on many elk hunting trips, and knows a lot about how to hunt elk and where to hunt elk. Going elk hunting in Oregon? Turn to Gary Lewis for the best elk hunting stories and elk hunting articles you'll find online!
Fifty-some years ago the USMC turned Russ Barkman into a lean, mean fighting machine. Now, not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine, 71-year-old Barkman wanted to hunt elk in the wilderness. His neighbor and friend, Karl Findling, would help. Growing up in Michigan, Barkman didn’t hunt elk until he moved to Oregon in his late 50s. Elk eluded him. Two years before, Findling and Barkman had packed into Hells Canyon, but Barkman had not been ready, physically or mentally. When he had a chance to close the deal on a spike bull, he missed. The experience haunted him.
We pedaled up the mountain, bows in racks on our handlebars, the afternoon sun in our eyes. Dave showed me where the elk had crossed the road that morning. Stashing our two-wheeled steeds under some trees, we set off up the hill. We walked up a range cattle trail, billowing dust clouds at every step, up through the jack pines that grew at the top, where we paused for water and shelter from the 95 degree heat. We guessed the elk had slipped down into the canyon below us and were bedded for the day. Watching for sign, we moved on, looking into canyons, pausing from time to time to call, whispering to each other about the sign we were finding on the hilltop.
I crouched behind a stand of small firs waiting for the herd to come through. The elk had seen me and stopped, whirling to run back through the trees. Anticipating their next move, I had run down the trail to watch a clearing.
This fall, a few of Oregon’s muzzleloader hunters will grab their long-barreled rifles and sling their ‘possibles’ bags in pursuit of elk along the south coast.
They consumed meat, cornmeal, berries, nuts, roots and whatever else they could find. Along the Missouri, they hunted game. On the Columbia, they swapped for salmon. According to Stephen E. Ambrose, in his book Undaunted Courage, each soldier in the Lewis and Clark expedition ate up to nine pounds of meat per day. 33 people and a big Newfoundland dog gobbling seven to nine pounds of meat would require the equivalent of two buffalo calves, two elk or six deer per day.
You may wonder what my qualifications are for writing about elk hunting mistakes. “What makes you think you’re so smart?” you may ask. Well, I hunted nine seasons before I tagged my first elk. Nine years of blown chances, and missed opportunities make me the expert. Plus, I’ve hunted with some of the other masters in the field.
At the crest of the mountains where the John Day River begins its journey to the Columbia and the Powder River flows east, a rusty wheelbarrow stands silent testimony to the history of our region. Chinese immigrants once struggled to earn their way in this new land and grizzled miners pulled their fortune from the unforgiving granite.
One thing I find when I talk to hunters from around the country is that they are jealous of Oregonians. In many states, whitetail deer are the only big game to hunt. We have 11 big game species and none engender more downright envy among our less-fortunate countrymen than Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt elk.
There comes a tipping point. You can throw up your hands and go home or you can come at the problem from another angle. In the Burnt River country you can see where dreams made it to the tipping point. Here they took gold by pick, by pan and by water blast. The names that prospectors gave the features of the land speak of hope, hard work and homesickness: Texas Butte, California Mountain, Dixie Creek, Eldorado Pass, Gold Ridge.
Have you ever found yourself complaining about too many hunters in your favorite area? It’s a sentiment that would have resonated with Daniel Boone, who – legend has it – saw the smoke from his neighbor’s fire and decided it was time to head west, in search of more ‘elbow room.’