Anticipation is high for upcoming whitetail seasons in two states many don’t immediately recognize as whitetail producers. Both Oregon and Wyoming hunters have enjoyed the advance of whitetail deer range in recent years across their diverse landscapes, which are typically associated with some of the West’s best mule deer hunting. Good numbers and sizes of mulies are certainly available in the Beaver and Cowboy states, especially in Wyoming, but whitetails continue to colonize agricultural areas and river valleys in both. Populations are heaviest in the northeastern portion of both states, but that’s changing as they adapt and expand alongside human activity.
The Northeast corner of Oregon’s Blue Mountains and its drainages have become a hotspot for whitetails in recent years, including bucks reportedly stretching the tape into the 170 class. Those deer in Wallowa, Union, and Umatilla counties receive remarkably light pressure that doesn’t usually come until the approach of the November rut. Right now, even with temperatures dropping across the West, deer in northeastern Oregon are still largely on summer patterns although contacts in Wallowa County report an uptick in deer movement around their ranches.
Meanwhile, near the Oregon Coast in Douglas County along the Umpqua River, a small population of Columbian white-tailed deer is also still in summer feeding patterns, hiding out in dense, brushy thickets. This small subspecies is declared as Endangered across much of its range but is much healthier in Douglas County, where hunting is allowed for these diminutive but challenging whitetails. A big Columbian whitetail buck is around 100 pounds, like a Coues deer, and a giant trophy buck looks like this one captured on remote camera by Tim Pickett of Southern Oregon Outfitters. Pickett is one of a very few number of guides with good access to these deer, and his clients do well. This year, however, two hunters missed opportunities on the same monster buck, and Pickett will now hunt a potential record Columbian himself when his season opens next week. To read more about this small subspecies that evolved in the great river valleys of the Pacific Northwest, check out one of last year’s reports.
Wind River Whitetails continues to be a reliable source of deer information out of Wyoming, and owner/operator Mike Reinhart was glad to finally report in early this morning that a weather change has improved deer movement and viewing, both on game cameras and in-person. He and his wife, Teresa, manage intensively for trophy whitetail opportunities and mostly hunt bucks in the rut, but they watch deer closely every day. Here’s Reinhart’s first report this season from his ranch near Riverton, WY.
“The good news is we have cooled off about 25 degrees and amazingly overnight activity increased three fold. Our trail camera activity was really dismal until about two weeks ago when a cool front moved through. When that happened, the trail cameras blew up and we started seeing the deer that we are use to seeing. The antlers are hard and the deer are extremely fat and healthy. We try to stay constant with our movement on the river and we usually pick up our disk from the cameras every Saturday.
Prior to last season, we had identified 6 trophy bucks that were high on our hit list. Only one of those was harvested last fall. The other 5 made it through the season and started showing up before they dropped their antlers. This kind of deer is usually the last to start showing up on cameras, and that occurs in October. Cant wait to see what another year has done to 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 year old deer. We have placed 4 new stands in areas we have never hunted on the upper and lower ranches. We have hunted these deer for several years out of the same blinds and have done really well. After having several generations of deer raised on our ranch, they proved to us last fall that they are indeed getting smarter. We built some fully enclosed scent free blinds this summer and have placed them in areas that we believe will put us in front of some really nice deer.”