Oregon offers diverse deer hunting opportunities among beautiful landscapes, with both over-the-counter general tags and controlled tags available. Western Oregon’s reclusive black-tails live in the lush habitat of the coastal mountains and western Cascades. Eastern Oregon’s mule deer live in the more open country of the High Desert and the northeast. Oregon also boasts a growing white-tail population and opportunity to hunt them in controlled hunts in the southwest and northeast portions of the state.
Types of Deer
Features: The most distinguishing feature of white-tailed deer is the tail. Whitetails have long, wide tails that can easily be seen, especially when they are startled and raise their tails. White-tailed deer antlers differ from mule and black-tailed deer in that there is one main beam with points coming off. Mule and black-tailed deer have antlers that fork on the main beam.
Habitat: White-tailed deer share the same habitat as eastern Oregon’s mule deer. Deer both graze and browse. Forbs and browse (stems and leaves of woody plants) are favored forage during the growing season. Grasses are consumed during some seasons. In many areas, the availability of forage is strongly associated with logging or fire, which create favorable forage conditions for whitetails.
Techniques: Standard deer hunting techniques apply. Spot and stalk, or set up near food -- both are effective.
Features: Columbian black-tailed deer are smaller and darker than mule deer. As the name suggests, black-tailed deer have a wide, triangular tail with a dark brown or black top and a white underside.
Habitat: Blacktails are a subspecies of mule deer found in western Oregon from the Coast Range east to the Cascade Mountains. They are edge-adapted species using the region’s dense forest cover to hide during the day and more open early successional forest to feed at dawn and dusk. Places with a mix of forest age classes offer the best habitat for black-tailed deer.
Techniques: Scouting (for scat, rubs, scrapes) and knowing their habits are key for harvesting a secretive blacktail in its dense habitat. Scent control is important for hunting. Spot and stalk, hunting blinds, still hunting, and rattling antlers are other techniques used for blacktails.
Features: Mule deer are larger and lighter in color than black-tails. Mule deer have a thinner “ropelike” tail that is white with a black tip. Their antlers are forked, as opposed to having a main beam. And as their name implies, they have large ears, like a mule, that stand at an angle.
Habitat: Mule deer occupy a wide range of habitat types; some live in desert shrub-steppe, some in woodlands, and some in conifer forests. In general, however, mule deer occupy the more open, rugged areas. Although mule deer commonly are considered “browsers," they consume a wide variety of plant material and in some seasons graze extensively. Many herds spend summers on higher elevation range (often public land) and move to lower elevations in the winter (winter range is usually private land) to survive the harsh conditions.
Techniques: Thanks to the more open country of eastern Oregon, it’s easier to spot mule deer using optics. Scent control is important for hunting mule deer. Spot and stalk, hunting blinds, still hunting, and rattling antlers are other techniques used for mule deer.
Columbian white-tailed deer
Features: Oregon’s rarest deer has a brown tail that is longer than a blacktail’s wide tail. Its antlers will branch off from a single main beam, unlike mule deer and blacktail antlers that branch twice.
Habitat: The Columbian whitetail is a subspecies unique to Oregon and southwest Washington and found in just a few locations—along the lower Columbia River in Oregon and Washington, and in the Umpqua Basin near Roseburg (where it is expanding its range).
Techniques: Just a few controlled hunts for this subspecies exist in the Umpqua Basin region and tags are limited; see the regulations for details.