Mule Deer Hunting Quality Declines In Beulah Unit of Central Oregon


Published: April - 2008

If Oregon is on your list of possible hunting areas this season, you need to know that the once highly-productive Beulah Unit in the east central part of the state is in deep trouble. Over the last decade, the Beulah Unit attracted national attention as a place where a hunter could find good numbers of quality mule deer bucks. Deer herd management by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) and predator control by local ranchers and hunters kept deer numbers high. Mature mule deer averaged 24- to 26-inches wide and 165- to 195-inch Boone and Crockett bucks were not uncommon. Things have changed.

For starters, there are too many hunters in this unit now. ODFW, we hear, is simply issuing too many tags for this hunt unit. In the 2000 season, 1,124 tags were sold to deer hunters. Those numbers have crept up incrementally, culminating in 2,268 tags being sold last season. They've overdone it, says one outfitter who asked to remain anonymous. It's not a quality hunt when there are too many hunters. We're seeing fewer deer numbers and smaller deer.

One of the factors that contributed to hunter overcrowding last season was fire. Three forest fires burned in the Beulah last summer. One of the biggest burns was the Juniper Fire near Juntura, which charred some 30,000 acres. A lot of junipers went up in flames, which is good, but some of the perennial grasses were lost as well. Often, native grasses are replaced by cheatgrass, which is bad because it reduces the carrying capacity of the land in several ways. Also, the Irish Springs Fire near Ironsides Mountain claimed 50,000 acres. Some of the better bitterbrush and aspen stands were lost, along with tall sagebrush. Some landowners plan to re-seed the ground that was burned, which will be good for the deer and elk in years to come. Hopefully, ODFW will assist those landowners with funds from the Access & Habitat program.

Adding to the problem is two years' worth of poor fawn recruitment. Both the 2006 and 2007 fawn........(continued)

 
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