Northwestern Whitetail O. v. leucurus & O.v.ochurus
Hunting the Northwestern Whitetail in the northern Rockies, or splendor of Oregon & Washington State, is the ultimate in scenery, challenging terrain and adventure in one of the most beautiful areas of the world. It is part of the quest for the whitetail SLAM that will be forever etched into the mind, heart and scrapbook of your hunting life as an experience beyond compare!
Two sub-species of whitetails are present in the Northwestern Whitetail subgroup of Whitetail SLAM
(O.v. leucurus), commonly called the “Columbia Whitetail” is the westernmost representative of all whitetails and was first documented 1829 by explorer David Douglas along the Cowlitz and the Willamette rivers. Back then the subspecies was found as far north as Olympia, Washington, east to The Dalles, Oregon, and west to the mouth of the Columbia. Habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and outright poaching led to decline, and in 1978, they were placed on the US endangered species list. Protection & sound management over several decades led to population recovery, and this coveted deer was delisted as an endangered species in 2003. Today more than 6,000 Columbia whitetails call Oregon’s Umpqua River Valley home. Approximately 800 deer are in the lower Columbia drainage and a thriving population of approximately 6,400 animals in Douglas County. Hunting opened in 2005 with 23 permits available in the public drawing, and 110 going directly to landowners, as most of the hunting available was on private land. In 2010, Oregon issued 146 permits in the public drawing, in addition to 54 private land permits. This is definitely a population success story and a credit to sound management practices, with great promise for hunters of the present and future!
O.v. ochrourus, commonly called the “Idaho” or “Northwestern” Whitetail, is found in the Northern US Rockies (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon & Washington) and in Alberta and British Columbia of western Canada. Noted for their dark color and robust size, these high plains deer can also be found at mid-level elevations in mountain ranges, to above 6000’. Sightings have occurred as far north as the southern areas of the Northwest Territories but the vast majority is found in includes Alberta and southern British Columbia, making this animal one of the northernmost dwelling of all deer.
The Columbia is smaller bodied and has smaller horns than many of its cousins. A 140” B & C buck is a really nice trophy, although some can reach up to 160”. Unfortunately, the subspecies is not currently recognized by either B & C or SCI, so any trophies taken are not likely to score well, but many are lobbying for its recognition and we hope it will be soon. The Northwestern whitetail O.v.ochrourus is a large bodied powerful animal capable of growing large racks even at young ages. River-bottom and ranch land whitetails are well nourished and strengthened as a group from harsh winters, thus producing great specimens and a very health herd throughout the west.
Those looking for a unique hunt, on astoundingly beautiful habitat, should consider the Columbia whitetail. There’s no shortage of animals and with growing opportunities to draw and attain prized tags, the time to go is now! Rocky Mountain Whitetail habitat of the Northwestern Whitetail includes cottonwood and willow dominated shrub communities in river bottoms, croplands, and dense coniferous forests. Regardless of what state you hunt through the northwest, or even north into British Columbia. Best populations are present in agricultural areas with river bottoms.
Columbia whitetail hunting is largely confined to private land with either a licensed outfitter or a trespass arrangement. The deer are still protected everywhere outside the Umpqua hunt area, where the private land hunts take place. The North Bank Habitat Management Area is the only large block of public land where you can hunt Columbia whitetails, and the only real public-lands opportunity. North Bank Habitat Management Area consists of 6,500 acres located along the North Umpqua River, just northeast of the city of Roseburg.
Rocky mountain whitetails compete with Elk, Mule Deer, and other ungulates for attention of hunters and sustenance alike in the area; but due to their durability in hard winters, and their large body and antler size potential they are becoming a dominate force in both population and hunter interest. Outfitted hunts and public land opportunities abound, and trophy class animals are plentiful throughout the range due to lower hunting pressure than many other areas of North America. Hunting opportunity is wide open in the western states and many superb locations can be found easily online or through outfitter associations in various states and Canada.
Peak breeding times occur from November 10 – thanksgiving in Washington & Oregon, and peak rut is generally accepted timing throughout the Rockies in the last 2 weeks in November.