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After missing out on most of deer hunting season last year, I was very excited to be able to hunt a full week this year. There were only two of us this year, and we drew tags for the same unit we have been hunting for the past few years, White River 141B. Opening day was Saturday, September 29th. It is a tough unit to hunt as it is on the crest of the Cascades in Northern Oregon. The area is mostly dense mixed forest.
John and I went out to our spot the weekend before opener and setup camp. This has become our tradition and ensures we get the camping spot we like. This year I brought my 10x10 canvas spike tent which is heated with a wood stove. Normally I use the tent for snow camping, but it's great for hunting with two people.
I also brought along a second wood stove for cooking outside. We tested it out by cooking cinnamon rolls for breakfast in my dutch oven. It worked great and the rolls were delicious.
This year I built a toilet so we'd be more comfortable during our week long hunting trip. I even built in a covered toilet paper holder. After digging a hole we had the perfect commode for deer camp!
Like every year, we brought way too much food. We started to run out of places to put it all.
To save space in my canvas tent we used bunk bed cots. They ended up working out really well and were quite comfortable.
The night before opener we saw several does browsing near our camp. One even came within 30 feet of us. We sat in our chairs and watched her for nearly 15 minutes as she came closer and closer.
We woke early on opening day and began deer hunting at sunrise. We ran across a few does, but unfortunately no bucks.
After hunting we went back to camp and cooked a big breakfast in the dutch oven. We hunted a little in the middle of the day and then fell asleep in our chairs back at camp. We awoke to a US Forest Service law enforcement officer who had driven up to our campsite. There was a fire ban in effect and he was out warning all the hunters. We often have fire bans in late summer, but this one was unique and a good example of the lazy management techniques employed by our current forest service administration. Most fire bans only ban open fires, not wood stoves. They also usually ban chainsaw use. This fire ban was against all fires, cigarette smoking, charcoal BBQs, ATV use, and internal combustion engines except automobiles on roads. The law enforcement officer confirmed we could not use our wood stoves, but apparently there was an exception where chainsaws could be used before 1 PM. I disagree with fire bans since responsible use of campfires and wood stoves does not usually cause forest fires. But who am I to argue with the law? The officer left after confirming we understood the rules.
John and I decided to go fish Badger Lake on Monday after a couple unsuccessful days of deer hunting. The rough road to the lake was busier than usual since the Forest Service had paid a contractor to cut down and move hundreds of dead trees threatening the road. The law enforcement officer had told us about it. He had said there was lots of blown down trees blocking the road and that was the reason for the two month long tree cutting project. As we drove by pile upon pile of trees, it became evident they removed way more trees than just those threatening the road. I think it was more of an excuse for the Forest Service to provide wood for firewood cutters.
Badger Lake was very low. There was no water going over the damn. There was, however, still a small pool on the other side of the damn with a bunch of trapped trout. Hopefully the rains come back before the pool dries up.
John and I found a nice shady spot on the shore and started catching trout right away. They were biting any kind of PowerBait® we threw at them. We ended up catching 4-5 dozen trout, but released them all. They were all in the 8 to 12 inch size range. We were hoping to catch something bigger, but it just wasn't meant to be. At least the fishing was good quantity-wise and the weather was nice with only a light breeze.
We concentrated our deer hunting efforts in the mornings and evenings. We saw does every trip out, but the bucks remained elusive. Due to the dry conditions, every footstep sounded like an elephant walking through the forest. Luckily we had some pretty heavy winds at times which helped dampen the sound as we traipsed through the forest.
The weather was relatively warm the first half of the week with highs in the upper 60s and lows in the 40s. Midweek we pulled out the sun shower and cleaned up to start the second half of our trip clean. It was good timing, as the weather drastically cooled off after that with highs in the 40s and lows in the low 30s.
As the weather cooled, we ended up using the wood stove in the tent to keep warm at night. It also worked well to cook dinner. We had a great meal of chicken simmered in salsa and corn in the dutch oven. It's something I will definitely cook again.
On one especially cold morning I found some cool ice formations in a swampy area. There were even frozen deer prints. Now if we could just find some bucks.
After lots of effort, John and I left empty handed. It was disappointing, but we still had a fun trip despite the fire ban. Hopefully the rains come back soon.