Get Ready for Roosevelt's
I was stuck—again. My legs were hopelessly tangled in blackberry brambles, the thorns tearing at my legs like a dog on a T-bone steak. The biggest dang ferns I'd ever seen in my life were blocking my vision. My bow was held at arms length above my head and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't push my way any further. I was only 20 feet off the logging road, and I wanted back on that road—now! Three times I had tried to plow my way through the nasty vegetation, each time making it less than 30 yards. Two hours into my first morning of Roosevelt elk hunting and I was already frustrated and bleeding. My brother just laughed at my lack of patience.
A little different than Wyoming huh? he said.
There was a cow elk about a half-mile away in a different clear cut and no matter what we tried; it was physically impossible to get there in a straight line. I'm used to spotting elk in Wyoming and running to close the distance. Obviously, here it needed a different tactic. Plan B: STAY ON THE LOGGING ROADS.
My brother, Riff, and his family moved from Cody, Wyoming, to Astoria, Oregon, in 2004. In December 2005 my wife and I went for a visit/blacktail hunt and I was intrigued by all the elk I was seeing. I decided to come back in 2006 for a crack at a Roosevelt. I left Cody on September 14, and by the evening of the 15, Riff and myself were out elk hunting. I was hunting a unit where a cow elk or antlered bull 3 points or better was legal. With only a few days to hunt, I was not going to be picky. I wanted a Roosie and my brother wanted a full freezer.
With no elk spotted that night, we reviewed some Weyerhaeuser road maps of the area and selected a clear-cut Riff knew of that was difficult to get to for the morning hunt. Weyerhaeuser owns miles of timbered lands near the coast and controls driving access on their roads. This brings us back to Plan B. With Riff chuckling, I clawed and cussed my way out of the blackberry brambles and then we discussed which logging roads might lead us to the elk. Instead of a sprint to the elk like I'm used to in Wyoming, we had about 3 miles of logging roads to navigate to get there. An hour later, with clothes drenched with sweat, we were finally in the right area.
Now let me clarify something—clear cuts on the coastal range just mean there are no trees. The brush, stumps and uneven ground can still make elk only yards away disappear. I stealthily scrambled up onto a huge stump for a better vantage point and was immediately busted by a cow only 40 yards away. Game over. Good to know I could screw up on Oregon elk just like I do with the Wyoming ones!
Riff had to take my nephew to hunter safety so I'd be flying solo that afternoon.
Once again I parked at a Weyerhaeuser gate, slipped my pack on, grabbed my bow and started walking. After a mile or so of climbing, I was seeing more and more elk sign and was starting to get excited. Soon I entered into a large clear-cut and while glassing the upper end about a mile distant, spotted the back of an elk. I sat for a few minutes and was able to identify several more. I couldn't locate a bull larger than a spike but a cow was good enough for me. I continued climbing the logging road slowly until I felt I was approaching the safety zone of the elk's vision. Then I worked myself over to the dense timber (better described as a Jurassic Park Jungle). I swear you never actually walk on the forest floor, only on downed rotten logs, moss covered everything, giant ferns and slugs. After pulling my way through the jungle until I felt I had gained enough elevation, once again I headed for the clear-cut.
It was a perfect setup. I figured the elk were about 300 yards away over a slight rise. Two minutes later, arrow on the string, I knelt next to a stump watching a half dozen elk feeding below at 60 yards. The ocean breeze held steady, and for the moment, I just absorbed the scene. It was surreal looking over the elk and seeing the setting sun in the Pacific Ocean. I'm used to snow covered Wyoming mountaintops. Darkness was coming quickly.
The elk were feeding towards me and soon a large cow was feeding broadside. My trusty Hoyt came back smooth and I focused on a few hairs behind her shoulder. The arrow looked true on the mark and soon elk stampeded for the forest. I was surprised she made it. Listening intently in the fading light, I was sure I heard her fall, but could still see other elk standing there. I waited a few more minutes until full darkness and snuck my way back to the road. I was not going to risk the chance of blowing those elk out and her going with them. I'd wait till morning.
At daybreak Riff, his dog, Blackie, and myself were on the logging road with our frame packs. The elk was lying right where I thought and after a few quick photos it didn't take long to break her down for packing. I knew Roosevelt elk had bigger bodies than Rockies but it was still a shock when I stood with the full weight of a front shoulder, backstrap and neck meat. We left the hindquarters bagged up and hanging in the shade and started out.
We messed up shortly after the standing up part. Remember Plan B? We didn't, and it was truly a nightmare. The road switchbacked and we thought we'd save time by cutting through the clear-cut. We each picked our own route through the mess of branches and logs, and right when we made it to the road Riff slipped on a log and rolled his ankle pretty bad. After sitting for a while and despite my urging him not too, he still packed the quarter 3 miles out to the truck.
The rest of the day was spent at the doctor's office for x-rays and then back at the house. Early the next morning, I made the two round trips with Blackie for the hindquarters while Riff spent the day with his ankle wrapped in ice.
That evening Riff (on crutches) and his wife showed me some of the local historical sights and we visited the farmers market. There is so much to see and do there I'll definitely make another trip. After saying a choked-up goodbye to my brother at 5 the next morning, I started the 1,100 mile drive back to Cody, thinking that I'd need to bring a buddy or two back to Oregon to try these Roosies again.
Oregon is a great state for a Do-it-Yourself elk hunt. With a general license you have the opportunity to hunt American elk on the east side of the Cascade Range or Roosevelt elk on the west. For Roosevelt's, I recommend the Saddle Mountain, Wilson or Trask units in Clatsop County and Tillamook County. There are literally elk everywhere! You must purchase a hunting license for $76.50. General elk tags cost $361.50 and you must purchase it by late August. Bowhunter education is not required in Oregon. Download the Big Game Hunting Mail Order Application at www.dfw.state.or.us. You can have your own new adventure at an affordable price. Season dates are typically from late August to late September. General deer tags are also available to non-residents in Oregon, allowing you the possibility of combining your elk hunt with a blacktail hunt. There are plenty of public lands and lots of timber company lands. Check the Weyerhaeuser Company website for local contact information and for maps.
Logging roads seem to be your best bet for covering country and finding elk. A mountain bike is a huge asset for covering more miles of road than you can hike. Make sure you have a bow case to strap on the bike or use a good bow sling. Also, make sure to schedule time for visiting local areas of interest, Sunday markets, etc…. A very good option is to take your spouse and she can visit the plentiful shops and markets and the coast while you hunt! Life is short. Get out for some new experiences. Bowhunting Roosevelt elk near the coast of Oregon is a blast. Try it yourself.