A Fresh Look at Hunting Oregon's Columbian Whitetail Deer


Published: June - 2013

The Columbian whitetail, the westernmost subspecies of whitetail deer, was reportedly common in pioneer times but became critically endangered during settlement. It was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973. Populations of this whitetail subspecies exist only on a few islands and refuges along the Columbia River and in a separate population in Douglas County near Roseburg, Oregon.

This second population has been delisted from the ESA and management returned to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hunting was initiated in 2005, and while hunt opportunities have expanded since then, they still remain very limited. For example, only six separate hunts were offered for Columbian whitetail in 2012, with only 27 total rifle tags, five total muzzleloader tags and 65 total archery tags available during the public hunt draw. More about these public tags in a moment.

To put this opportunity in perspective, the Columbian whitetail is an attractive trophy because of its limited distribution and availability, but not necessarily because of its size. SCI scores Columbian whitetail as a separate category, and the deer are probably of most interest to those completing their whitetail slam or those adding another checkmark to their life list. Average Columbian whitetail bucks will weigh 120 to 150 pounds, and a mature buck will have antlers in the 100- to 135-inch class.

This isn't an easy hunt. I have personally hunted for other species in this area three times and have seen Columbian whitetail only in the headlights at night, so hunting them is no easy feat. However, individual deer have a very small home range and good bucks can be scouted, patterned and taken by competent hunters. Access to the right property is critical. The majority of the whitetail habitat in Douglas County is on private land, and some of these tracts are very small. Some landowner permits are available; the best are picked up by outfitters. One of the questions to ask any outfitter is exactly how much property he has to hunt.

........(continued)

 
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