Mt. Washington Cougar Kill

Early in the millinium on a cold October day, I drove to Central Oregon to participate in the last three days of elk hunting for the year. The north portion of the Mt. Washington Wilderness was my chosen hunting area. In particular, I was searching the steep slopes below timberline for elk bedded down during the day. To add to the experience, there were several scenic lakes in the area that can only be reached by bushwhacking. 

A “hidden” lake

Early morning light on the north side of Mt. Washington

Hortense Lake

There was a large harvest moon with clear skies providing ample opportunity for elk to feed at night. To make matters worse (for the hunter, not the elk), there was up to 6 inches of dry, crusted, snow on the ground that crunched at every step. And, this area has seen multiple wildfires over the years, leading to endless blowdowns to climb over and around. Oh well, no one ever said that elk hunting was easy.

Harvest moon in the early morning hours

For the first time in all my years of hiking/hunting in wilderness areas, I happened upon an elk (a spike bull) that had been killed by a cougar. The cougar had partially covered the elk with beargrass, returning to feed on it the previous night. The ravens were leaving the carcass alone which is always a good sign the predator remained close by.  I have found many fresh cougar kills over the years of adult deer. I’ve learned to respect the kills and leave the sites quickly.

Cougar kill

On my third day of hunting I hiked into the open meadows of Upper Cache Creek Basin before dropping back into the thick timber. I still had not seen a live elk, nor many fresh tracks. Lo and behold, after about four hours I jumped a raghorn bull (a young adult male in human terms) off his bed in the timber. After a short run he stopped at close range to see if anything was following. To build up some good karma and to allow him to grow for a few more years to become a majestic herd bull, I didn’t shoot. And, that was the last elk I saw.

But, I spotted quite a few mule deer over the three days in the area and many fresh tracks of snowshoe hares, bobcats, pine martin and coyotes. It was fine hunting trip indeed, even if the elk won again this year!

A Mule Deer Doe keeping an eye on your humble scribe

The Sisters

Shadows on the snow

Summit of Mt. Washington








Categories: Mt. Washington Wilderness Hikes, Oregon Cascades HikesTags: ,

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