Logging Tracks Through The Blacktail Deer Mountains

Five Point Buck

A five point blacktail buck relaxing on an off day. He was with an nearly equal four point buddy.

Blacktail deer are one of Oregon’s most challenging and popular big game animals. The general rifle season runs from the warm, dry, noisy days of late September through the increasing wet, cold and silence of early November. To the uninitiated, a month plus of hunting days seems a guarantee of success. Such is just not the case.

Additionally misleading many towns along the foothills of the Rogue Valley mountains have their visible, resident, blacktail deer. These are wild animals that have become accustomed to living with a human presence. Common sense and law dictates no hunting within the city limits. With no natural predators to fear, city-living deer have become quite problematic. Town people complain of damage to property. The crowded and unchecked deer population poses a risk to itself of disease. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife monitors the conflicts and offers advice:
Living With Wildlife .

In the mountains the wild blacktail buck challenges in degree of difficulty to hunt. In the wild environment the blacktail deer are very wary and secretive. They favor steep, clearcut logging areas near timbered hillsides. Most of the time they rarely leave the brush except at night or low light. Smaller than an elk or mule deer, the dark blacktail is difficult to spot. The ability to freeze and hide when a hunter is close by is legendary. When he has to run it is usually with a wheeze, a quick escape into the timber and he’s gone from sight.

I like to begin my pre-season scouting early in September. That is when the upland bird hunting season for quail and grouse begins. Migratory banded tail pidgeon season opens mid-month. The bird seasons give me an opportunity to hike and observe the blacktail mountains. If I’m lucky I might even catch a glimpse of a nice buck in his summer haunt. I remember once in August when for some reason I was up there walking along a familar old logging road. A little movement ahead brought me to a halt. From my crouched position I observed six bucks cross the trail ahead one after another. The last one to cross over was a beauty with eye guards and four antler points on each side.

I’m not always so lucking to see the mountain, blacktail deer during preseason scouting. What I can find are the signs of activity. Deer bed areas tell where they have been spending summer rest times. Browse that has been eaten down is a good indicator of a hot area. So is seeing a lot of deer droppings. Deer tracks and trails are not always so apparent in the early fall. The ground is hard and dry. The hood prints don’t show up well. Find a good trail wore with lots of hoof tracks and you may have located a good spot to watch on opening morning. Particularly if this traffic path leads from the feeding areas of the open hillsides to the shelter and safety of the timber. Then you might be fortunate to see a group of bachelor bucks moving leisurely downridge at first light. You have my word on that.