Discover Oregon in pursuit of white-tailed deer


When Lewis and Clark launched their expedition to explore the western half of America, they couldn’t have imagined the habitat they would encounter at the end of their journey.

The Pacific Northwest is considered a temperate rainforest. Giant trees and endless ferns create a dense jungle-like environment. The lush and thick habitat makes it quite a challenge to take on an elusive black-tailed buck.

Nathan McLeod grew up in the small blue-collar town of Clatskanie, Oregon. This quiet community of about 2,000 is located about 40 miles inland from the mouth of the Columbia River. The whole region depends on the lumber industry and the McLeod family is no different. His father, Larry, and his father’s brother, Steve, both spent their careers working at the local paper mill. On weekends, they hunt, fish and gather.

I understand this kind of community. Growing up in Northwest Indiana, these men worked in steel mills. I get the grainy culture, and I love it.

McLeod and I have teamed up to co-host the Driftwood Outdoors podcast. We spend at least two hours a week talking about the outdoors. Over the past several years, I have listened to him describe in depth his long-standing experiences of hunting white-tailed deer on the Pacific coast of Oregon. It piqued my interest to the point where I knew I had to experience a black tail hunt on the coast myself.

Uncle Steve, as we have affectionately known him, despite being technically Nathan’s uncle, served as our guide. Steve is an accomplished hunter and locally recognized as one of the best black tail hunters. Let’s put it this way, Steve had to add on his house to have room for all of his taxidermy. This includes, a wide variety of African game mixed with giant elk, mule deer and black tail deer.

Black tails in coastal rainforests don’t grow as big as their Midwestern white-tailed cousins. But the Black Tail offers a much bigger challenge to kill, making it a trophy regardless of its size. I quickly learned not to have expectations of the great woods. A “forked” horn is a shooter.

Uncle Steve is a testament to hunters who have become an expert in a specific experience based on a lifetime of participation. He has been hunting black-tailed deer in the same hills since he was little. Unfortunately, in recent years much of the paper company’s land has been leased and locked behind doors. While the number of places Steve can hunt has drastically decreased, he still knows more than one good place to strike a tag.

On the first day of my hunt, we deposited a lot of boot leather, which allowed me to get to know the terrain well. There is a fair amount of road hunting in these areas. Uncle Steve’s success from year to year has a lot to do with his willingness to put on his boots, put on a bag and go off-piste. We didn’t see but three times the whole first day and we hiked many miles of terrain.

The second day started just as slowly. Steve cursed the weather. Sunny and 65 looked nice, but he said you wanted it to rain and make it miserable when black tail hunting.

As the sun approached, we decided to climb a high hill and sit in triangular glass for the deer in three directions. Nathan must have looked north, I was sitting facing south and Steve was going to face west, but before he sat down he spotted a deer in a clearcut and called out to me. It was a dollar. We took off after. After closing the distance far enough, I had my black tail male. A magnificent “3 at the fork” representative of the species.

Most of this experience for me was getting to know the people and the place that built my good friend. I was able to understand the traditions and passions of like-minded people from across the country. The Oregon coast couldn’t be more different from the broken forest, Missouri farmland that I call home. Their deer hunt and our deer hunt are not alike, but the love of the outdoors and the passion for wildlife and wild places are shared as strongly as if we had been neighbors all of our lives.

I took my buck’s backstraps and prepared them on a pellet grill. This meal brought together ten people around Uncle Steve’s table. As a hunter, I felt a sense of pride in providing meat which led to the fellowship of a family reunion.

I asked Nathan what makes black cock hunting at home so special. He said: “The vast land of rolling clearcuts bordered by massive forests filled with lush vegetation is the type of environment I was raised to hunt. The scenery and the experience is something that I will carry in my soul until the end of my days. The expanse of the landscape along with the challenge of finding a finicky and elusive little black-tailed deer makes this one of the most challenging and rewarding hunts I have ever seen. “

With my tagged money filled on the second day, I had time to spend exploring the area. It was not a waste. We have dug knives in the waves of the Pacific. Nathan’s mom, Connie, and his buddy, Brad, both took me under their wing and helped me dig my limit of 15 enough. We threw Larry’s boat out to go fishing, but it was too hard. We took a few more in the harbor. I visited a maritime museum, visited a few antique shops, ate some local seafood and, to top it off, visited Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter before returning home.

When it comes to special outdoor destinations, the mouth of the Columbia River should be considered special. As Nathan put it, “There are deer, elk, salmon, rainbow trout, sturgeon, anadromous cutthroat trout, some of the best waterfowl in the state, waterfalls, hiking trails, historic sites and it just scratches the surface. There is something for every taste. . “

Meet at the bottom of the trail.


Brandon Butler is an outdoor columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at [email protected]


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