In 1829, the explorer David Douglas found Columbia whitetail along the Cowlitz and the Willamette rivers. In those days, the subspecies was found as far north as Olympia, Washington, as far east as The Dalles, Oregon, and west to the mouth of the Columbia. Habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and outright poaching led to decline, but the subspecies’ stronghold has remained the Umpqua Basin in southwestern Oregon.
Two distinct groups of Columbia whitetails survive there: approximately 800 deer in the lower Columbia drainage and a thriving population of approximately 6,400 animals in Douglas County. Hunting for this second population opened in 2005 with 23 permits available in the public drawing, and 110 going directly to landowners, as most of the hunting available was on private land. Speculation that too many tags were issued through the private lands program proved wrong. Under the watchful eye of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Columbia whitetails are a conservation success story.
For this season’s hunt, Oregon has issued 146 permits in the public drawing, in addition to 54 private land permits. It’s important to understand that Columbia whitetail hunting is largely confined to private land with either a licensed outfitter or a trespass arrangement. The deer are still protected everywhere outside the Umpqua hunt area, where the private land hunts take place. The North Bank Habitat Management Area is the only large block of public land where you can hunt Columbia whitetails, and the only real public-lands opportunity. North Bank Habitat Management Area consists of 6,500 acres located along the North Umpqua River, just northeast of the city of Roseburg.
If you are interested in hunting this subspecies of whitetail deer, here’s what you need to know about getting a tag. The rifle hunts are in the highest demand. Hunt 123A (the Umpqua area hunt) is a 12-day hunt that takes place the first two weeks of October. Available hunting is mainly on private lands, although about 50 percent of the area is public land. In 2008, 117 hunters vied for 22 tags offered in the drawing. In 2007, the last year for which data was available, 37 hunters tagged 27 bucks for a 73 percent success rate.....