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BlackTails of the Hood
Russ Van Orman

Mount Hood National forest encompasses some 1,067,043 acres and most of it can be hunted. Mount Hood lies 1 ½ hours from the center of Portland, Oregon. Many hunters overlook this great hunting opportunity to take a nice Blacktail deer but instead opt to hunt for Mulies in Eastern Oregon.


I have had some great hunts in the Hood River unit, which hardly ever runs out of tags. In the same general area the White River unit is excellent, too. However, on occasion, the applications for tags can exceed the numbers that are available. Parts of the Mount Hood national forest fall with in Oregon’s general deer seasons and the license can be purchased over the counter.


Moving to Oregon from upstate New York provided me with a unique situation in finding a place to hunt. Back East, I hunted in the same general area around Naples, NY for twenty years. No problem. You just purchase your license in the fall and wait for opening day to arrive.  022_22.JPGOregon has many different hunting units and you need apply in March to have a tag for the following fall. Not knowing where to hunt for deer posed a real problem. I started talking to people at work. My friend Steve suggested that we hunt the White River unit. It is usually a sure draw tag and according to him there were plenty of deer. I did some research and discovered Blacktails were located higher up towards Mount Hood and Mulies could be found down in the valley areas that are semi-arrid. Oregon’s deer season starts the first weekend in October. The temperatures can range from 30 to 90 degrees depending on the year.


My first deer hunt in Oregon, the temperatures were in the 80’s. It seemed more like fishing weather than hunting. I decided to hunt high in the thick brush where it might be little cooler. My friend went lower in search of a mule deer buck. The higher in elevation I climbed the more deer and fewer hunters I saw.  My friend Steve didn't see any deer down low. The last evening of our hunt three does and a spike came out of woods about forty yards away into the clearcut I was watching. The spike was a nice deer. So, I took careful aim with my 30-06 and brought home some venison.


The following year I did some more research and discovered the Northeastern side of Mount Hood falls with in the Hood River Unit which always has tags left over. I applied and received a tag.


During that season, I hunted in rain mixed with snow opening day. I had done some prior scouting late in the summer and discovered a clearcut about half a mile from a service road. There had been plenty of big tracks and sign everywhere during my scouting trips.


Opening morning before light, I quietly walked halfway up the clearcut and sat down along the edge. As night gave way to light, I started to make out deer shapes feeding in the clearcut and meadow below.  I scanned the deer below for a buck and saw a couple of small spikes.  With the season just starting, I decided to wait for something larger.


Once in while I would hear a car drive slowly by as people were road hunting (which is illegal in Oregon), but other than that nobody disturbed my sanctuary. The deer fed below me and I watched. About noon, the deer moved into the timber surrounding the clearcut. I took my sandwich from fanny back and started munching. Thinking to myself what a great day to be in the woods, I drifted off into a midday siesta.  Waking up, I looked at my watch and it read two o’clock. I scanned the lower clear cut with my binoculars. There was nothing to be seen. I got to my feet and slowly headed up to the top of the clearcut. The clearcut was older cut which had been burned- over and not re-planted with trees. The burn- over provided a large meadow with browse for the deer. Interspersed within the meadow, there were a few brushy patches. I had just reached the top of the clearcut when I noticed one of bushes started to move. I though to myself "how weird there isn’t any wind". Suddenly, I realized what I had thought was brush was actually antlers. Quickly, I raised my 30-06 and shot. The bullet hit a small pine right in front of the buck. The buck quickly turned and I adjusted. This time my bullet hit home.  The buck turned out to be a large 7 by 6 Non-typical. A real Brag’n buck.

The following season, the forest service road that I hunt had been washed out with heavier than usual fall rains. Plus, my wife decided to go with me to see why I spend so much time in the woods hunting. I decided to hunt in an area that I had driven by, but had never hunted in.  It was early in the morning as I parked my car. We headed up the forest service trail. The higher we went the colder it got and snow started to fall. By the time we got to area that over looked a small ravine, there was 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground. We sat for about 2 hours and the snow kept coming down. I could see my wife was getting cold so we decided to head back down the trail and not get snowed in on
the mountain. About halfway down the trail to my truck, I saw something move just 10 yards from me. I squinted through the snow into the old growth timber, and there stood a doe with two fawns. I motioned to my wife to stand completely still as the fawns started to approach us. One of the fawns stopped about ten feet away.  The other keep coming, I could see it was a button buck so I held out my hand and the little buck stretched its neck out and sniffed my glove. I spoke softly and told him to send is Granddad my way…. With that the mother doe gave a soft snort and headed downhill with her fawns following her through the snow and old growth. I stood there for minute thinking what a great day in the woods it had been. My wife was fascinated with what we had just experienced. That season, I didn’t bring home the protein but I had successful hunt. Why? We both have memories of a lifetime.  

The following season work commitments prevented me from taking my usual week of deer hunting. I did manage to hunt the opening weekend. However, the temperature reached 90 degrees both days. Not the best hunting weather. The weather started to get cooler by midweek. I talked with my friend Brian about going hunting on that Thursday since the weather was changing and getting colder.


We arrived at my favorite clearcut by 5:30 that morning. In my scouting over the last three years, I discovered that a mile beyond this clearcut was another old clearcut which was surrounded timber then dropped off into a ravine.

First light found us watching the first clearcut. Brian was sitting on the upper part and I was sitting further down next to some dark timber.  After about three hours, I started slowly walking up through the dark timber to try and push a deer to him.  By the time I reached where he was sitting, it was midday. We took a short break 019_19.JPGthen decided to hunt the next clearcut over. We reached the other clearcut without seeing a deer. We decided that Brian should head down into the ravine then walk up towards me through the timber. I would walk slow through the clearcut then sit just inside timber line until we met.


I slowly made my way through the old clearcut, uphill to the timber noticing lots of fresh sign and tracks. Walking into the timber, I couldn’t see into the timbered ravine below. Trying to get in position to see into the ravine, I quietly walked on one of blow downs to minimize my noise. I heard some small twigs break to my right. Slowly I looked to my right and a large buck was sneaking uphill right inside the timber line between me and the clear-cut. Quickly and quietly, I raised my 30-06 as not to scare the buck. When he was about 30 yards away I shot once and the buck jumped then fell next to a stump. It was hard not to run up to my trophy; I was pumped full of adrenaline. However, I slowly made my over to the trophy so not to scare him. No need. This buck was large 6X6 and the antlers were very symmetrical.


I quickly radioed my friend Brian, and told him of our good fortune. He made his way up the ravine to where the buck lay. We congratulated each other on a fine hunt then started the long drag back to the truck.


Later that fall, I was having breakfast with some hunting buddies before we set up an elk hunting camp (that is another story for another time “Elk of the Hood”). When another hunter walked up to our table and asked “Would you guys like to see a nice deer?” We walked outside and saw large 7 X 7 Blacktail buck in the back of his pickup truck. He explained that he was a retired Forest Service Ranger and that each year he hunted the general season section of the “Hood” and was very successful every year.


Well, guess where I’ll be hunting..... And just maybe I’ll see you hunting the Deep Countree of the Hood.


**Before you go, please check the Oregon state hunting regulations for season dates and unit boundaries.

*** Check with the Mount Hood Forest Service for road closures, trail locations, and maps. They're located in Sandy, Oregon.