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#8, In the woods, tour stop 2
deer herd talk

Rick Ward, Tribal Wildlife Biologist: You can see there is a lot of that old decadent mahogany out that there, and that stuff is big. It definitely has some value as thermal cover in the wintertime, but at the same time, it’s old. A lot of it out there is not providing forage in and of itself. It’s crowding out other potential forage species. So, what we would like to do in a situation like this is first of all get rid of the juniper, and then put some selective fire on the ground, maybe some mechanical treatment of the mahogany. It seems to respond well to mechanical treatment and will sprout back. A lot of times if you get into some of these thickets of mahogany, you will find a lot of little ones that are just kind of sitting there, not really growing, just kind of holding their own, so you can remove some of that large stuff that is shading it out, then it will release and come up and provide a lot of good forage. Someone had a question at the last stop that they wanted to…

Man: What do you think gave rise to the peak population of deer in the ‘50s and ‘60s, which you said back at the head quarters…

Ward: Right. Did you ever hear that question? The question is, what gave rise to the large deer populations in the ‘50s and ‘60s? That is a phenomenon that didn’t just happen here. The mule deer throughout the west kind of went through the same kind of boom and bust cycle in the 20th century. You know, numbers only go back… I think the Northern California interstate deer herd that a lot of you are probably familiar with, that was one of the first deer herds that started having counts done on it, and that was in, I want to say, the mid-to-late ‘20s. So, specifically what was going on before that is pretty much speculation. The common belief is that market hunting prior to the turn of the century probably led to some all time low numbers of mule deer around the turn of the century. There was some pretty heavy livestock grazing. You know, the tragedy of the commons that kind of thing, removed a lot of the grass, allowed shrubs to come in, and then a lot of cattle were removed off these common-grazing lands. They converted the shrub habitat, and there was a certain amount of over-story timber removal. All that kind of contributed to create some pretty good mule deer habitat. It just really saturated them with forage, and so you had this rapid rise starting in, probably about the ‘20s or ‘30s. The numbers started to come up, and they peaked in the ‘50s and then kind of took a nosedive and then came back up in the ‘60s, and then, you saw what’s happened since then.

Bill …down over here in these scab-rock flats, I think there are a lot of reasons why our deer declined, and I’ve heard people say, "Well, you know, the Indian people are killing off all the deer." But before Termination, about 80 or 90% of the Indian people lived here. This was their home. They hunted year round. There were deer all over, all through here. Really what happened after that, you heard our chairman say this morning, the declining in the deer herds… Look at the thousands of miles of roads that were built to spotlight if you want to. I never killed a deer with a spotlight. I either hunted foot or horseback. The Indian people hunted deer all the year round. We had numerous amounts of deer. I grew up in the Beatty/Sprague River area, and right where the deer wanted to winter there are subdivisions. We’ll come by that on Drew’s Road on the tableland and underneath the rim. That’s where the deer wintered. So, what do they do? They built a road right down through there, and there’s a subdivision there. You could stop anytime of the day… Klamath County got a lesson in subdivision. They just sold you a piece of land off of the map. I know that because I tried to show a person from San Diego. He bought 20 acres up across the tableland, off of a map. No plats, no nothing. So, that was a prime deer wintering range. It’s Charlie Mountain. There were hundreds of deer that wintered in there, hundreds of them. I was raised on a ranch right up there, and my granddaddy used to tell me, he grew up in that area, and go up to where ever the deer wintered, and said kill a barren doe. Everybody knows what a barren doe is, what she looks like. Don’t kill an old eunuch, so he never did do that. You literally could go up there and shoot what you wanted to, and gut them out, and put a rope around them, and put them on your horse and go home. If you want to talk about restoring our deer habitat, get rid of some of the roads in your forest management plan and have a wilderness area. They have them in other places, no roads. You go in there and you can hunt. You can walk, or you can go horseback. You don’t have to drive, and that would to a long ways in eliminating spotlighting. Like I said, I grew up in a different era, different time. I would never do that, and I never had to do that. I wasn’t taught to hunt that way. My granddad was 93 years old when he died in ’58. That’s they guy that taught me to hunt, and that is the way we hunted. They hunted by tracking deer. That’s why I said I came down here and right over here, if you went a little further, you could see some more scab-rock flats and little rim rocks, and deer wintered in here. One of the reasons why this bitterbrush is not ate back and it’s dying off, there’s no grazing on it. Years back, when the Tribes… The Tribes were environmentalists, if you will. They didn’t even know what the word was. You fed your cattle then on the river in the wintertime. In the spring of the year they went out, they never came back in that area. They never came back on it until the hay was out, and they brought them back in September or October. That’s the way it was done way back. Now the Sprague River Valley has turned into another Fort Klamath. They don’t hay there anymore; they graze cattle. My father-in-law told me who was high robbins. When you get to the start of the tableland, from there on, there is a lot of water. He said there are artesian wells all over there, and that was way back in the ‘50s he told me that, so when you go that way, there’s probably 30 or 40 artesian wells from there to Beatty where were going and maybe more. I know one place that’s got an artesian well. The house sits on top of it. That’s there water pressure. Over there another 150 feet, some other 10-inch pipe that is used for irrigation. Back this way 150 feet is another one that irrigates that way, so you see the enormous amount of water there, and a lot of this water runs uncapped. But that’s not us. That’s ADR. That’s somebody else who is supposed to be doing that. They’re not doing it. There are no regulations on water up there, but the deer herds to me, you’ve got too many roads, and the public and our young people need to have an education on hunting. Not to hunt just because you see a deer out there, hunting for a reason and a purpose. If you’re hunting for meat fine. If you’re hunting for sport fine. But in a wilderness area, and I think I discussed this with the chairman. Here are some excellent ideas. If you go out to Sprague River now, and some of the people that live here, there’s a subdivision there called Forest Estates. Those people kill deer all the time. There are no Indian people. Those people kill deer all the time. There was a time in the ‘60s when a subdivision was something new, you could be the ranch and stop anytime of the day and hear gunshots. Go up there to the garbage dump and see parts of deer left there with just the hams cut off. I don’t think only the Indian people are doing that. Most of our people moved away from there. They’d like to come back, but heck no, not here for them. There are no jobs available.  Tribal days when we had a lot of cattle here, and our way of life has been decimated, all through our rangelands, our deer hunting, your forestry. You’ve seen that. There were, at one time, 21 mills in this area. They cut timber, and people had jobs. What is there now, about 3?

Man: There is 1 sawmill in Southern Klamath County and 1 sawmill in Northern Klamath County.

Bill: You have Jeldwin. You have Collins, and that is basically what you have. I don’t think they took any bigger trees. It all comes down to management, whether you’re talking about forest or whether you’re talking about deer. It’s management.





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