Snowshoe rabbit season

High Rock

Okay, technically rabbits have no season in oregon but I like to wait until the showshoes start to turn white before I start hunting them.

So today I decided to check and see if they had begun to turn, unfortunately for them, they have.

Snowshoe rabbits, or technically hares are classified as unprotected mammals in oregon and are therefore huntable all year around and with any weapon, so they are perfect airgun quarry. I like them best during cold weather when they change their color from gray to white.

The change in color is triggered by the amount of light they are exposed to rather than the color of the environment they live in, so this time of year (just before the snow falls) you get a few of what I call earlybirds. Some of the rabbits go white before the snow, which makes them much easier to see.

Cedars

Today I was hunting cedar thickets near Mt. Hood in the national forest. Snowshoe hares live at altitudes higher than 4000 ft. Although I have seen them lower in places, generally they are up pretty high in the mountains.

My stratagy for today was to find a likely looking patch and scout for signs of rabbit activity, then if I think they are there, wait for them to come out just before dark.

Well I waited as long as I could, then started stalking around the edges of the thicket. I never could sit still for very long. So after spooking 3 hares without getting a shot (they were still gray and very hard to see in the shadows), I came across a white one sitting under some brush 20yrds away. I had to aim a little low as my Hatsan AT44S long is sighted in a 50yrds, but I squeezed the trigger and Mr. bunny is in the bag.

I continued this tactic until dark then headed back to the truck. I spooked two more gray rabbits with the same results as earlier, and near the truck another white one, but this one was headed for Canada, he took off and never stopped. Smart bunny!

Well at least I got one for the pot, and I know where to look for more once the weather turns. I can’t wait to hunt them in the snow. Then it will be more tracking and spotting as they are nearly impossible to see in the snow.

 

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Badgers near Burns

Well again archery season is nearly here and I have not practiced nearly as much as I should have. I have gone out a few times to check the sights, and the flight of the new arrows I bought for this year, but as always work has kept me from really doing it up right.

I did get a chance Sunday to go scout an area which is new to me. It was recomended by a customer who like me is an avid airgunner, and has, over the last year or so become a friend as well. He told me the area was home to a good sized heard of elk, and also had a good population of badgers. Well I had to check that out didn’t I?

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I got a late start as usual and drove halfway across oregon to get there, but by noon I was in the area recomended, the edge of the ochoco’s between Paulina and Burns. I had no idea where to go so I just sort of wandered about on the logging roads there.

I saw quite a few deer for that time of day, but the area was much dryer than I had hoped, and there was thick smoke in the air. I hope the fire is not too close as I would like to explore more of this area and perhaps hunt here.

As for the badgers, my friend was not lying. I saw several of them and as they are considered vermin here in oregon, I shot a couple for their hides.  The hides are not worth much this time of year, but come winter when the fur is thicker they bring about $20.00 each. Still I was very please to have found such a populated spot, badgers are usually sparsely populated and spread over a very large area. Here however, there are badger holes every few hundred yards, and I’ll bet things really get rolling after dark as badgers are nocturnal.

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I also spotted a cougar coming up from a small creek near Allison station, It was not a huge cougar, but a cougar none the less. I grabbed my rifle as I have a valid cougar tag and went after it to try and get a good shot. I went to where it entered the timber, but did not follow it in there. Instead I scanned the area using my scope and checked for it looking at me from some hide just inside the timberline. It may have kept going, but I doubt it. I was probably lurking just inside the cover of trees watching me. That’s the feeling I got anyway. So after scanning the hillside I went back to my truck.

As I was putting my rifle in the truck I saw movement a few yards away and guess what, another badger. This one was smaller than the last one, but really nice looking. Very clean and healthy considering the unrelenting heat we have had lately. Anyway, like I said. Jason wasn’t lying when he said there were a lot of badgers here.

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He also said there were a lot of elk, but on this trip I did not see any. All in all some beautiful and very dry county here. There is water in the form of three creeks that I found and I am sure a few springs which I did not find, and there is a good sized lake with a campground nearby.

I will definately be back much earlier in the morning next time, and hopefully I will see some of the elk that are surely there. And I will be back when the weather gets cold enough the make the badger pelts thick.

 

An illustrated guide to the best game meat cuts

Hunting season starts soon, time to refresh that memory…

ON TARGET in CANADA

There are plenty of hunters out in the field bringing home dinner and we figured we would share some great guides on the best cuts and how to get them from your harvest!  Click on each picture to enlarge for greater detail 🙂

This diagram is the basic overview of the quarters and can be applied to deer, moose, elk and caribou.

illustrated deer

This second diagram is a more in depth cut selection and is coded for the sections as well.  Again, this can be applied to deer, moose, elk and caribou.

deerchart

Ensure before you properly care for your game in all stages of meat preparation to give not only longevity to the meat, but reduce the risk of cross contamination of any bacteria that could not only spoil the meat but could also make you very sick.

Happy hunting!

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Quick Scout Cougar Canyon

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.

6X6 at Upper Ketner Springs, Oregon.

6X6 at Upper Ketner Springs, Oregon.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mouflon at Crooked River

Well it started off simple enough, a friend and I were headed to Crooked River to hunt for the feral sheep that have been living there for the last 20 years or so. We met up at my shop in Madras, OR. and loaded up our gear.

I was hesitant to take my Hatsan .25cal AT44S-10 but there are a lot of cottontail rabbits where we were headed and with a larger caliber air rifle, well I was afraid there would be nothing usable left after the shot, So the Hatsan was chosen. I have taken lots of game with the .25 in the past, but I was worried that it would not get through the skull of a sheep for a clean kill.

Sheep are notorious for having a thick skull. I mean look at the way they fight with each other, ramming heads, and they do that all the time. Over a lifetime that had to build some pretty thick bones and my fear was that I wouldn’t have enough energy to penetrate it with a .25.

Well over the next two days I would have a chance to find out.

We headed down Highway 97 to Terrebonne, OR. then out to Crooked River Ranch, then onto the BLM property just west of the settlement there.

This area is beautiful. With a Golf Course, General Store, Scenic overlooks gazing into the Crooked River Gorge, and abundant wildlife (mule deer run through the residential properties here like squirrels at a nut farm).

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On the far western edge of all this is a narrow strip of BLM controlled land used primarily for day hiking and bicycling.

We arrive shortly after daybreak and set about getting ourselves in order, then head out down the trail to find our quarry.

After about a mile of hiking the canyon rim, we stop to check the gorge. looking over the edge can be a sketchy prospect in itself, there are no guard rails here and the rocks can be loose at times and this time of year everything is muddy, so if you loose your footing you can fall to you death quite easily.

That said, the gorge is absolutely beautiful with the river running strong at the bottom approx. 600 feet below.

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As we stand there looking off into the gorge checking for sheep along the walls, movement catches my eye. On my left and only 30yrds away lay our quarry, three mouflon.

The largest of the three is standing watching us, and the other two are laying in the sage.

I motion to Jason to take a shot, but my movement set them in motion. We both try to get in a hasty shot, but shooting through the sage at a moving target it would be a miracle if we put down a sheep, and sure enough we watch them run along the canyon rim unharmed from our attempt.

After reassembling our composure we set about tracking them down with the hopes that we can re-engage, and this time with more deliberation and less surprise. We find them again a few hundred yards up the trail, just over the edge of the canyon. This time we are not surprised. I take my time and check the range finder, 33yrds an easy shot.

The sheep are standing on a large rock in a kind of “bowling pin formation”
so I sight in on the front one, a nice sized ram with a 3/4 curl. I steady the shot, squeeze the trigger while aiming right between the lookers, and….

I had my answer. The pellet (JSB exact king) bounced off without any damage at all. DAMN!!!!!

Jason lines up with his Evanix Tactical Sniper .357 and shoots with the same results. I am surprised by this as I have seen many videos of Ian Harford (Team wild) shooting Mouflon and Corsican rams with a .357 of the same power as the Evanix, but at any rate we were underpowered for this game, at least for a head shot.

We followed the sheep for another hour or so before the got down in the gorge too far for us to safely pursue them, we would have to concede the day to the sheep and try again the next day.

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As we made our way back to the truck we discuss the events of the day. We decided we were simply out gunned and we would have to step up our game if we were to be successful here. The mile long walk of shame went quietly after that and we made our way home for the night.

The next morning I had an appointment so I was not able to join Jason until after noon. Jason had already relocated the sheep not far from where we left them the night before, and had found a way to get down into the gorge without dying (hopefully).

This time I brought my Sam Yang 909 .45cal rifle. I know this one will put the sheep down without any trouble. Jason brought his compound bow, so we had confidence the sheep would be coming home with us if we got another chance like the day before.

We made our way down the canyon to where the sheep had spent the night, approx. 1 1/2 miles from the truck.

We could see them down at the bottom by the river, but it had rained that morning and the skies were still threateningly gray. The ground was soft with the fresh rain and the rocks were very slick. I surveyed the trail Jason had found and decided this was more than I was willing to do for a sheep.

Jason however, is younger and stronger than me, and despite my advice to wait for a better / safer day, he was going after them.

The plan was for him to make his way down the muddy 60deg. rocky slope to the river, and for me to keep him in sight so if he did loose his footing I could call 911. This is NOT a great plan!

Well after much nail-biting on my part Jason was safely down by the river and looking for sheep. I was stationed on the canyon rim with a view of the area, though not the sheep. I could see the only two ways out of there so if the sheep made a break for it, I would be waiting on top.

After losing sight of Jason below the riverside cliffs, I settled in for the wait. I am not good at waiting, but I also never leave a friend behind, so I settled in next to a sage bush and waited.

After what seemed a very long time two of the sheep emerged from the unseen land by the river. They made their way to a shelf directly below me and proceeded to feed for the next hour and a half.

As there were originally three of them down there, I was hoping that Jason had the remaining sheep with him, and that I would be seeing them both soon.

I ranged the two sheep below me at 88yrds and calculated the holdover given the steep angle of the shot, but decided to wait and see what happened when Jason returned.

The sheep were on the trail Jason had used to get down to the river and as far as I could see there was no other way for him to return. So when he comes up the trail he should push the sheep up the hill before him in which case I would have a 20yrd shot at them when they reached the top, and I would not have to drag them up that hill. This seemed like the best plan, so I waited where I was and did not take the shot.

The sheep stayed where they were until sunset. We were losing the light fast and I figured in 15 more minutes I would not be able to see at all without a flashlight. I still had not seen Jason, although the sudden movement of the sheep did give me hope he would make it out soon.

The sheep were moving the wrong way, and not coming up the hill, so I get up and moved to the other side of a large rock formation to see if Jason had found another trail up from the river, and much to my relief he had. I could see him making his way up through the rocks inching along with a dead ram. By the time he reached the top we needed a flashlight to see. Talk about cutting it close! Jason didn’t even have a light with him, had he been any later he would have spent the night in the gorge, and me on the edge.

As it went it was well after dark when we made it out with the sheep, but Jason had his reward for all his hard work, and I had my friend back from the gorge safe and happy. What a great hunt we had. It was Jason that brought up how fortunate we are to live in Oregon, and to have opportunities to experience hunting like this.

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In most places hunter would either pay tons to hunt like this, or not be able to do it at all.

 

Scouting Forest Hogs in Winter

ochocosnow

I have been hearing a lot of reports of the wild hogs moving into different areas around Madras, now that the weather is getting colder. I did some research and it seems that the hogs move into the forested areas in winter to get shelter in the trees.

So I went to those areas on the edge of the forest to check it out. The areas where the reports came from were along the edge of the National Forest near Prineville Oregon. This is a beautiful area with many creeks and habitat ranging from sage to pines and firs.

The day I went was the morning after a snowfall so I could look for tracks crossing the road. I was hoping in this way to identify the areas the hogs were using before setting out on foot. This is a fairly large area and would take months to cover on foot, so I worked my way along the boundary between private and public land. Moving from water to water checking for activity along the creeks and in the draws, and for tracks crossing or running the roads.

Much to my dismay most of the tracks I found were from hunters using hounds. Running them down the roads to pick up the scent of whatever they were hunting. There are very few things that can be legally hunted with hounds in Oregon, so I will not speculate here on what they were after. With the hounds running the roadways along the boundary at night. (fresh tracks in the snow that fell the night before) I was not expecting to see much.

I moved further toward the area of another sighting, but the access to that area is closed in winter as the roads are too bad, and the animals winter there and need a safe place. I will have to pick up the chase another day.

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What I did find was a lot of beautiful snowy country and a few Elk, Deer, Grouse and Rabbit. I know from reports that the hogs are in this area. ODFW has listed this as an area they are known to inhabit as well, so I will not give up. I think hunting hogs in a forested area would be quite an experience, and one that is definitely on my list.

Grouse Pot Pie

ON TARGET in CANADA

pieThis isn’t so much a pie as it is a stew, but the baking powder biscuits certainly give it the look, feel and flavour of a good ol’ homemade meat pie. Of course, you can forgo the biscuits. Either way, it tastes great.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 ruffed grouse breasts, bone attached
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 tbsp pickling spice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 3-4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard (or shortening)
  • 2/3 cup cold milk

Preparation

  • Stock

  • Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan or stockpot; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Take out breasts…

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