I haven't been hunting as much since I moved up state. I was spoiled back home: I knew every nook and cranny of "our" hunting grounds (private land we have permission to hunt on). I have a pretty good feel for the movements of the black tail deer: when they're up eating, when they're bedding down, the "look" of a good spot to find them, how the weather effects their behavior, what time to be up, and when to call it quits and try again tomorrow..
Here, I'm not familiar with the terrain or the subtle differences in deer species. I don't know any good spots, and what's worse, it's a lot more crowded. People come from all over the country to hunt deer and elk here (whereas not many people care for hunting tiny little black tails in the coast range which is steep and brushy as a rainforest). I've heard from many locals that opening week of rifle deer season is a feeding frenzy.
I've never had to deal with crowds in the woods, and I it's not worth it to me to deal with it to get some venison. And honestly it's a bit intimidating to try to"break into the market" as it were, especially with a forest so crowded with trophy hunters who take themselves too seriously and think they own certain sections of public land.
I'd much rather drive five hours to my old stomping grounds.
Dad and I both drew a controlled cow tag for a landowner preference hunt in 2012. For those who haven't heard of it, basically a large landowner, in this case a private forestry company, asks the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue special hunting tags just for a specific region for controlling elk populations that are getting too big. And, in this case, damaging newly planted trees. The hunt was for the month of January, but I could only drive down for four days
It's a large area, and there's one or two herds (50-100 individuals) who travel through it. We drive the network of logging roads until we cut tracks, then, depending on the age of the tracks, we'll park and follow them until we find either a good place to come back later and ambush them, or run into the elk themselves. This is the method that's bagged us, between my dad and myself, an average of one elk every year for the last 10 years. The trouble is, if the herd isn't in the boundary of the hunt, there's nothing you can do about it. That's what happened this year.
Alas, this is, as a wise man once said, why they call it hunting and not gathering.
It didn't help that was pregnant and couldn't hike very much. I got dizzy and short of breath after only two miles of uphill hiking with hardly any brush. I wanted to yell, "hey! stop being stupid, I'm trying to procure some high quality protein for this fetus!" But since I didn't know who to yell at, I went back to the pickup and ate a granola bar instead.
This is the last elk I got, back in 2008: