Fish and Wildlife takes a subtle dig at my hunting prowess
My futility as an elk hunter has finally attracted the attention of Oregon’s wildlife managers.
And if I may be so bold, belated attention it is.
Although I suppose they have wolves with a taste for mutton and veal to worry about, and those sea lions munching salmon, and the occasional coyote snatching suburban cats.
Still, the scale of my ineptitude in the pursuit of elk had some years back attained the status of legend, at least in my view, and so I can’t help but feel that the biologists have failed to give my constant failure the recognition it deserves.
I’m not talking about buck fever, either. Or bull fever, as the case may be.
Any hunter can miss an elk at 500 yards.
(And many have.)But it’s no small feat to go out autumn after autumn, traipsing all over supposedly elk-occupied country for miles a day, and never come across so much as a just-weaned calf who’s misplaced his mom.
Now, though, the fish and wildlife department has acknowledged my achievement.
The agency went about it, though, with a certain slyness that struck me funny when I detected it.
Which happened the other night when my father-in-law came over so we could log onto ODFW’s Web site and put in for tags.
(The state gladly sells me an elk permit each year. And why not? It’s pure profit. The state gets the money without having to worry about replacing an elk.)
Each hunt has a number, and some also have a letter.
The designation for our elk hunt?
As in, “Why bother?”
And who says those bureaucrats in Salem haven’t a sense of humor?
Last Saturday, May 15, the Oregon Department of Transportation dedicated the Raymond Moles Memorial Wildlife Safety Corridor in Grant County.
This is the first such event I’ve heard of, and apparently it was a big thing.
State Sen. Ted Ferrioli, the Republican from John Day (perhaps a redundancy there) who also represents Baker County, made a brief speech, according to a press release from ODOT.
Raymond Moles, who died in 2007, apparently was distressed about the number of deer and other animals being run down by cars along Highway 26 through the John Day Valley.
His advocacy prompted Ferrioli to sponsor the legislation that created the wildlife safety corridor. It runs, by the way, for 52 miles between Picture Gorge and Prairie City.
The idea behind a safety corridor is rather more tame than you might have expected (you were perhaps thinking of high-voltage electric fences in the barrow pit?).
Basically the state put up a bunch of signs reminding drivers to watch out that there’s not a four-point buck standing in their lane.
Which is good advice.
Except deer don’t read.
And even if they do read they lack headlights, and most fatal deer-car encounters happen after sunset.
(Elk, of course, not only read, they prefer to enjoy the classics in their original form, whether ancient Greek or Latin.)
Nonetheless, I think Ferrioli ought to parlay his momentum with the Moles corridor into a similar bill for Baker County.
The carnage along Highway 7 through Sumpter Valley convinced somebody a few years ago to staple brightly colored “DEER” signs to ODOT sign posts between Salisbury Junction and Sumpter.
I don’t know who we ought to name the thing for but I’m sure a suitable candidate could be found.
In the meantime, if Grant County, and in particular its grilles, are running into trouble with elk as well as deer, I’m willing to offer my services for a reasonable price.
Pay me to ply that stretch of Highway 26 and I’ll guarantee no elk comes within half a mile of the pavement.
Yet I’m powerless to resist the urge to lampoon any situation which freezes in the spotlight of truth that sometimes yawning chasm between the rural and the urban.
I can’t at any rate think of a more apt context in which to place an event that celebrates the sage grouse and the pronghorn antelope but which takes place in downtown Portland.
The tony Pearl District, specifically.
The presentation, which happened Thursday, was put on by the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
It was part of a spring series in which state wildlife biologists are invited to talk about Oregon’s native fauna.
I don’t intend to malign the concept.
In fact I think it’s a fine idea. Admission is free, too.
The Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation is an admirable organization, having spent millions of dollars to improve fish and wildlife habitat in the state.
And yet it seems to me a trifle silly to fete sage grouse and pronghorn in a place which neither animal has come within dozens of miles of.
Not alive, anyway.
I submit that any of a couple dozen sites are more appropriate.
Frenchglen, for instance.
Or Fields, which, I’m willing to wager, boasts better burgers and milkshakes than anything you can get in the Pearl.
(And I’m not talking about tofu.)
Also Burns, Wagontire, Lakeview, Paisley, Jordan Valley, Crane, to name but six.
Baker City is well-suited to a discussion of pronghorn and sage grouse, as well.
You don’t have to travel but a few miles outside the city limits to see either species.
Or both, if you’re lucky.
The reality, of course, is that a couple million people live within two hours’ drive of downtown Portland.
Draw the same size of circle around, say, Fields, and you might have enough people to fill a Grange hall.
And only then if everybody shows up.
Which they might, if you make a potluck out of it.
Demographics aside, I’ll continue to believe that the best place to chat about sage grouse and pronghorn is a place where, if you step outside, you can smell actual sage.
And I mean the shrub.
Not the herb used to season one of those elitist entrees on a menu that sounds like it was written by a snobby college sophomore who happened on a French thesaurus in the library.
Although I relish breast of free range chicken topped with sweet agrodolce sauce studded with pine nuts and raisins as much as the next gourmand.