A Teenager's Eastern Oregon Trifecta
By Gary Lewis
Trifecta. A horse-race betting combination wherein you pick three horses to win, place and show. That's the standard definition. But consider the long odds of drawing an antelope tag and adding that to a busy deer and elk season. Think about becoming proficient with bow, rifle and muzzleloader. That's the trifecta a 16-year-old from Bend tried to pull off.
When Camden Hammer, a junior at Summit High in Bend, checked the tag drawing results in June, he found he had drawn a cow tag in the Northside Unit and an antelope tag for a muzzleloader hun t in the Silver Lake Unit. That was cause enough for celebration, but it also meant he'd have a busy hunting season.
The elk hunt was slated for mid-August and the antelope season was scheduled for early September. In the meantime, he'd bowhunt deer in the Upper Deschutes Unit. School was about to start. It was like he had three horses to ride before the closing bell.
There are several antlerless elk seasons in Northside Unit, where success rates ran 28 to 50 percent last year. Lets say the odds against him were 3 to 1.
Hammer opted to hunt the Upper Deschutes Unit for mule deer on public land. It was an archery tag, so he'd hang a trail camera and a tree stand. Last season, 775 hunters in the Upper Deschutes spent 6,281 days to tag 138 deer. The odds against him were 5 to 1. Just drawing a pronghorn tag is an accomplishment of sorts. It usually represents an effort of several years. Along with 30-some other hunters, Hammer drew the E Ft Rock - Silver Lake (476M), which, last year, paid a return of 13 animals. We'll say the odds against him were at least 3 to 1.
A Stumble in the Clubhouse Turn
Remember August? There was smoke in the John Day canyon fire on the mountains.
Hammer carried a bolt-action 270. His uncle and dad were with him, stalking elk in grassy foothills. He blew a 200-yard shot on a cow. That evening, stewing over his miss, he sat at a waterhole and the elk stayed away.
An hour before dark, they found a small herd skirting across the flats. Father and son belly-crawled into position and Cam, his rifle rested on his pack, made a neck shot on a cow.
Easy Going in Bow Season
Before the season Hammer set several trail cams, patterned some public land bucks and found a place to hang a stand. A certain 4x3 mule deer caught his eye in the trail cam images. It was the fourth day of September and his third day in the stand when the buck showed up.
"I figured he was at 25 yards, so I held between the 20- and 30-yard pins." He tickled his release trigger and launched an arrow, right through the buck. After his heart rate had calmed down sufficiently, he climbed down the tree and followed a short blood trail to his trophy.
Down the Backstretch
The next day, Camden and his dad were on public ground in the Silver Lake Unit.
"We were in the scab flats," Hammer said, "in the junipers." They spotted a lone buck on the move.
"He made a beeline right toward us," Hammer said.
Cam dropped to the ground and set up, easing the hammer back on the Thompson Center in-line. When the buck turned broadside, Hammer found the vitals in the peep and eased into his trigger press. At the shot, a white cloud of smoke hung in the air. Hammer stood and walked into the smoke. He found his buck laid out in the sage. He'd accomplished a feat he'd scarcely thought possible back in August. He'd taken an elk, a mule deer and an antelope with a rifle, a bow and a muzzleloader - in the space of three weeks.
He'd beaten long odds, and all before the bell rang. It was a teenaged, eastern Oregon trifecta.