So I went solo this year and burned all of my 16 points on Sled Springs and will let others vie for Oregon's limited elk tags. This may be my last elk hunt in OR, but have had by fun in Mt. Emily, cascades and Alsea units, oh and not to forget W.Beatty's for antelope - what a nice time that was. Misadventures sometimes make the best memories. And Metolious and Whitehorse for deer.
So as usual I am doing my GE scouting, map acquisition, and phone calls to get the strategy figured out. I am hopeful since I took 4 weeks off of work and that will have to do in place of boots on the ground scouting. If you are in Sled Springs and see a Big Brown Burb stop by for a beer. Cheers, Ed
If I approach Sled like I normally approach a unit that I haven't hunted, I should have a good time and have some chances. I don't always get a bull but I try to have fun. I don't mind burning my points in OR and putting my resources in other states that are more friendly, because I have a stack in AZ and NV and also have some units in other states that I can meat hunt until drawn in AZ or NV. Also, I want to hunt more mule deer and elk season overlaps with the places I want to deer hunt. Just saying I am not regretting using up my 16 points. Cheers, Ed
The TMA is no longer open until 3 days before archery, Hancock closes their roads and no longer allows camping at fire danger level 2, which will be in July. They close their lands to all access at level 3. There will be no camping on their land during archery season unless we get freak rain. You will need to camp on forest or in town at the Kiwanis park. If you hunt the east side, camping on forest works fine. If hunting the TMA, camping in town is the way to go, and a 40 ish minute drive. Elk are not everywhere but are easily found. Get a good full suspension bike, two pair of upper level bike shorts, and start riding if hunting the tma. We road 20 miles on our morning hunts last year. When I had the tag a few years back I only needed to ride a few miles. It all depends on where they are.
That's the breaks. I did manage to get into elk most days, and there were plenty of elk around, but they were not as vocal as I expected. They would bugle at night and late late afternoon, and sometimes in the morning.
No access issues and didn't run into many hunters when I was in the field. I encountered a lot of bear sign, saw one near a wallow, and captured one on my game cam coming thru at night. I found a pile of scat that might have been wolf though not positive as it could have been bear as well.
Most of the guys I talked to where friendly and I appreciated that. Of the hunters I talked to, who claimed multiple years of hunting on the Sled, also reported that the elk were not as vocal as they remembered in prior years, with most speculating that the wolves changed the elk behavior.
I have hunted in Idaho where wolves are a problem, and in my limited experience I would say that the wolves have not impacted the hunting as much as they have in Idaho. There were plenty of elk in the areas I hunted and I think the weather had something to do with getting the bulls into rut mode. It was chilly at night, and warmed into the 70's most days. There was plenty of water to keep the elk disbursed, and wallows were being used at night for the most part, if they were being used at all.
One hunter I chatted with saw a bull in the road 80 yards from my camp while I was making lunch (11:30ish), and on another day, they got a shot at a bull in the road 1/2 mile from my camp at 4:00pm. So, being lucky in that unit is important. I talked to a handful of guys who I know hunted hard and were into elk most days using aggressive calling (bugling) and they went home empty, though one shot a spike near the end of his hunt.
The cow/spike hunters were everywhere and were focusing on easy access areas. I know of a couple of cow kills, one at my water hole. The gut pile stank when the wind was right, and after that not a single cow came into water, but the bulls still came in (trailcam pictures). Seems the cows learn quick. By the fourth day the gut pile consisted of the hide and the contents of the stomach, that bear ate everything else.
Most any elk tag holder had one or more hunting partners with a cow or spike tag which increased the number of hunters in the field. Seems that the ODFW could come up with a better plan for the cow/spike hunters, like letting them hunt the first 2 weeks of the season or in the period after the bull season before the rifle season. That would be my only complaint that would have made the hunt have more of quality hunt feel, especially since, in my case, I burned a lot of points to make it happen. Maybe I'll get a cow tag next year now that I know the unit...LOL. Sorry about that.
I saw very few bucks, and the largest being a 20-22" 3x3. I had a deer tag, and got winded at 40 yards as they were walking into my shooting lane. It was a chance encounter and was just not lucky enough to have the wind hold.
Overall, I got 90% of what I was hoping for, a vacation, being out in the woods, a good time, meeting good people, and having shot opportunities. The 10% disappointment was not seeing the quality of bulls that probably are out there and the lack of elk vocalization. I didn't see any bulls over 300. There were a couple of bulls that I didn't get a good look at, but the head bone that I was able to see didn't stand out.
I would have stayed through the last day of the season 9/23, except I had a good friend's wedding to go to (9/22) and pulled stakes on 9/19 due to the 16 hour drive. I also would hunt that unit again if I could amass the points needed, though would monitor the impact of the wolf population should they continue multiplying and hurting the elk population to a greater extent. I'm 62 and in 10 years god willing, I think I would have enough steam left to hunt that unit. The problem is the inevitable point creep and I doubt I could over come that.
I also would recommend anyone who is not familiar with that unit to try to pre-scout it. It is a big unit and I didn't touch a quarter of it, though I covered 5-15 miles a day and focused on pockets where I didn't see a lot of hunter activity. Also, satellite scouting doesn't do justice to the terrain.
I'd also like to thank everyone who gave me hints and information which helped me on my hunt. Cheers, Ed