I have been so busy at work that I have been unable to update this blog. For that I apologize. Today I was able to get out for a quick scout of the BLM land near Gray Butte. (between Madras and Redmond, Oregon.) I have hunted rabbits and ground squirrels here in the past, but recently I have heard reports that the Mouflon Sheep from the Crooked River Gorge have expanded their range to include this area which lies east of the gorge.
This area gets quite a bit of attention this time of year from hikers and mountain bikers, and some of the local ranchers graze cattle here under permit. So with all the activity, especially in spring you would think this place devoid of wildlife. You would be wrong.
This whole area is inhabited by jackrabbits, ground squirrels, coyotes, deer and mountain lions.
I started late and decided to take my ATV so I could cover more ground, rather than hiking on foot. I unloaded the ATV in a parking area near the Gray Butte trailhead, then proceeded to upper Ketner springs at the head of Cougar canyon.
Moving further down, the canyon narrows substantially and becomes a bit rocky and narrow. There are several side canyons which warrant exploration, but today I have no time to explore them properly. I continue down what has become a bumpy but really nice ATV / Horse trail, taking in the scenery and having a general look around but by the time I get to the lower spring I have still not seen any major signs of wildlife.
I checked the water holes for tracks but all I find are a few sets of rabbit tracks and a single line of deer tracks heading up the hill away from the water hole.
A little farther down I came across the one thing I really did not expect, although I suppose I should have expected them. People that is, but not just people, people in an F-350 diesel pickup. Uh,,,yeah,, probably not a great idea to drive something that big down cougar canyon, but that is human behavior isn’t it?
They were wedged in at a narrow point in the trail, and were stacking rocks trying to improve the road enough to make it through the choke point.
After introductions I found that the average age of this group was about 68 years old, so I stayed to help and provide a motorized escape should someone need help. I didn’t get a shot of the wives, but they were stacking rocks too and it was about 75 degrees out there. I’ll bet that was not what they had in mind for Mothers Day, but there they were.
To their credit after about an hour of road building, they did make it through the choke and continued on their way.
Myself, I would have turned around and called it a day rather than risk damaging my truck or myself at the bottom of a canyon 5 miles from the nearest actual road.
The rest of my scout went without incident. I circled the butte and returned the the trailhead. I saw only jackrabbit tracks and people hiking.
No mouflons this time, but perhaps I just didn’t see them. I will definately return, though I will try not to do it on a weekend and in the middle of the day.