Access To Oregon's Ag Deer

There are some big bucks in the agricultural lands of western Oregon. Problem is, if you don't own the dirt, you probably have nowhere to hunt the deer. Here's your trail to success. (November 2009)

The Willamette Valley and other portions of western Oregon contain some of the world's richest agricultural grounds. With fertile soils, good rainfall and cool air from the Pacific Ocean, farmers are able to grow many different crops.

Scout out the land you want to hunt. Locate the landowner and offer to do some work on the farm in exchange for trespass rights.
Photo by Troy Rodakowski.

And the real good news is, farmers are growing awfully nice deer in the process.

When deer herds expand, problems with crop damage increase drastically. Growers find themselves battling deer and elk herds to maintain the integrity of their crops.

But if you hunt western Oregon, you know that finding locations that contain pockets of good deer can be very difficult. If you're willing to do some homework and establish good relationships with landowners, your chances of success will grow.

It's very hard to just drive into a stranger's yard and ask permission to hunt. So, first you might want to do as much research about likely locations as possible. Ask your local Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife field office for possible areas that have had problems with deer herds. Go online and check out, or call (503) 947-6000 for an office location and personnel near you.

You might hear of where there have been damage tags or emergency hunts issued in previous seasons.

Once you have an idea of where you want to hunt, go to your local county public records office, or visit to see who owns the property.

Another good resource is the Oregon State University and the Department of Crop and Soil Science at or (541) 737-3002.

You'll want to take drives into the country and look for small wood lots adjacent to production fields.

Once you are able to locate a likely tract, do your best to get to know the owner of the property. Ask if you might be able to help around the farm or ranch. They will surely appreciate the good gesture to say the least.

Get to know the boundaries of the property, respect fences, signs and equipment that may be in the area. Ask the landowners where and what times they see most of the deer on their property. They will likely give you some great starting points.

Never assume that you are allowed to do anything without asking first. For example, if a landowner says it's OK to drive down a muddy road, walk it anyway. I assure you that come springtime when the ground dries out it will be remembered and appreciated.

There are many deer found in the lowlands around river systems and foothills of western Oregon. However, many small wood lots near river-bottom farm ground hold large numbers of deer.

Christmas tree farms and vineyards also contain some great populations of deer. Small patches of woods that are 5-10 acres in size can be home to a surprising number of deer. In fact, many areas where I have found nice bucks are not very large at all.

Once you are able to obtain permission, scout during the early and mid summer as much as possible.

In the late summer and fall, scout for fresh sign, such as tracks, trails and rubs. Find bedding areas in between fields and trail entrances near the edges.

In the late winter and spring, look for shed horns in and around the bedding areas. Stay as late as possible in the evenings and watch the edges of the fields as well as travel routes between wood lots when the deer begin to move and feed.

Ag deer will feed early in the mornings and in the evenings. During the middle of summer, they are more frequently spotted during daylight hours in and around the fields.

Farmers often harvest late into the night and see many deer feeding in the headlights of their equipment. Ask the farmers what kind of deer they are seeing and where. This will give you a good idea where the quality bucks are.

The Eastern portions of the Trask Unit between McMinnville and Monmouth have quite good numbers of deer. The productions here consist of rolling hills with larger patches of timber and some smaller creeks. Western portions of the Santiam Unit between the towns of Silverton and Molalla have quite a bit of agriculture. The deer here have quite a bit more cover from larger timber tracts and Christmas tree farms.

The Willamette Unit is lined with agriculture from around Portland south to Cottage Grove. The deer here are found around river bottoms and near the foothills. There are many deer located near E.E. Wilson Wildlife Management Area, Finley WMA and Fern Ridge WMA.

The eastern portion of the Siuslaw Unit near the Interstate 5 corridor from Eugene to Cottage Grove holds quite a few nice pieces of property. Some of this property is accessible through the fringes of private timber holdings.

The Melrose, Powers and western portions of the Evans Creek units have also had good concentrations of deer. Locations between Sutherlin and Roseburg have growing deer populations as well. These areas become more heavily wooded and include quite a bit of oak savanna habitat that is home to various cattle ranches and small-scale farms.

Lands to the northwest of Grants Pass have produced quite a few deer over the past few seasons also.

From mid-October until the end of November, deer in these ag areas are constantly on the move.

During the 2008 season, we had some valley snowfall. The snow and cooler temperatures prompted the deer to feed more often during daylight hours. By taking advantage of this weather, I was able to harvest a nice 4-point buck just before dusk. He was the last deer to arrive near the ryegrass field where my blind was located. There were 15 deer in the field when he finally appeared. The rut was winding down, but he was still checking many of the does.

I prefer hunting from a ground blind or tree stand, especially late in the season. If you are able to construct

a blind on the property you intend to hunt, make sure to place it where you can watch the edges of fields, as well as the wooded trail systems. This will help you see deer moving in the cover and through the openings.

For tree stand hunting, find frequently used routes that converge. Use plenty of cover scent, such as your favorite brand of doe-in-heat or buck scents. Spray to neutralize human odor. Hang scent drippers or dispensers with doe-in-heat around your blind or stand. You can never have too much scent in my opinion. I have had many deer walk within 1-2 feet of me without even knowing it. Wash clothes in outdoor detergent.

Look for rubs, pieces of hair and fresh droppings. Grunting, doe bleating and rattling work well in late October and November. Make sure not to over-call. Short sequences of about three to five minutes seem to work best.

Parcels of cover that are very wide can be pushed through when slow hunting and glassing. Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes in one spot before slowly moving to the next. Hunting the edges of corn, ryegrass, clover and vegetable crops is likely your best bet. Deer can't resist the nutrients provided by them during this time of year.

Dry slough beds provide great places for deer to move before the bottoms fill with water late in the fall. Also, the fringes of cover near vineyards and Christmas tree patches are some great places to catch deer moving.

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