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Hunters note rapid decline in C.O. deer and elk population; poachers and predators factors

(Updated: adding video, comments from avid hunter)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Hunting season is over. and hunters are concerned deer and elk in Central Oregon are not around like they used to be. Elk and deer populations are rapidly declining, and local hunters even started to notice when they were hunting this season.

Doug Stout has been hunting since he was a kid. Now he's the vice president of the Oregon Hunters Association's Bend Chapter. He gets a hunting tag every year and often recreates on the trails off of Cline Falls Highway.

"When I'm out there hunting, I feel closer to nature," Stout told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday. "Whether I harvest a big game animal or not, every day in the field is so valuable and so treasured."

But that sense of solace is being threatened, as deer and elk populations are seen a decrease.

Officials with the Deschutes National Forest reported local mule deer populations have declined 56% between 2004 and 2021

Population growth, a resulting lack of habitat, predators and poaching are all responsible.

"It's extremely concerning and disturbing for me. It's a very treasured resource, and it's an extremely valuable resource," Stout said.  

There was evidence of suspected poaching Wednesday off of Cline Falls Highway. A bucket filled with fresh blood and deer remains laid spilled out on the side of the road, accompanied by trash bags full of suspected remains. Stout believes the scene is a result of poaching.

"This was definitely the act of a poacher. No true hunter would do this," Stout said. "That deer was probably killed not too far from here last night."

Stout says he'd like to see more wildlife habitat protection and funding for law enforcement to patrol poaching.

"The numbers are there, the facts are there on this decline, and something needs to start happening soon," he said.

Author Profile Photo

Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.



    1. More than likely it is those dump pedal power people on the trails startling them and then having to have SAR get a gang of people together to “rescue” the crashed peddlers that take their training wheels off tooooo early. But hey, No worries, Creepy Sleepy China Joe Obiden will fix everything, Just ask Hunter and the ATF!!!!!!!!!

    2. iTs THoSe ExPeRt BeNd ReSiDeNtS tHaT PrEtEnD tO Be SmArTeR tHaN EvErYoNe ElSe. IsSuEd HuNTiNg TaGs ArE BaSeD oN bIoLoGisT’s EvAuAtIoN oF tHe WiLdLiFe PoPuLaTiOn, NoT hUmAn PoPuLaTiOn, BuT nIcE tRy.

      1. Are hunting tags being issued in greater or smaller numbers these days? Do you believe that hunting drives deer populations? Or is it the other way around?

        1. Issued tags have been fairly consistent from what I can tell. The amount of predators in Cental Oregon have increased, even according to this story.

          ODFW is what drives the amount of hunting tags issued. Just like almost all state agencies, they waste more money than they earn so they have to find ways to keep money coming in. So yes, in my opinion, hunting can drive populations, especially when ODFW can’t manage their budget and issue just as many if not more tags every year to keep their money flowing in.

    3. You really need to seek professional help. You have the TDS, and until you get the help you need, it may haunt you the rest of your life. It obviously fills almost every thought you have.

  1. It is most likely the population growth. Probably cougars too, but to a lesser degree. The loss of habitat that accompanies population growth is inevitable when we keep expanding the UGB. A restriction on the bike trails and ATVs during critical times of the year is probably necessary.

    1. Deer have been in the news feed since KTVZ went online. I took a deep dive into the subject somewhile back. Here’s some national facts on deer: Populations have increased an order of magnitude since pre colonial times (that means populations were 10% of what they are now). That’s easy to understand when you consider the next fact: Most american deer sustain on human agricultural endeavors. Deer eat what humans grow. Commercial forestry reports more insured losses from deer than any other agricultural industry. More that $1 billion in losses annually. The history of this country is, the more humans work the land, the more deer populations grow. How this dynamic is somehow backward here in central Oregon, I don’t know but it bucks everything that is understood on a national level. These are all verifiable facts btw. Start by searching “deer wars”.

      1. Whitetail deer tend to thrive in agricultural and suburban areas. Mule deer not so much. Range wide mule deer are thought to be declining while whitetail are expanding like rats.

          1. You forgot the Jewish Space Lasers and the caravans of illegal rapists hiding out in the pedo-ring HQ in the basement of that pizza parlor with no basement – I mean, anything else is fake news.

        1. lots and lots of mule deer living in town and our subdivisions – hasn’t KTVZ even done some articles about having to make it illegal to feed them in your back yard?

  2. I’d like this article to expand on the specifics of “human disturbance”. Deer live in my yard and I have yet to find a disturbance that makes them flee. But I know the government is never wrong so I’m forced to conclude I am not a human.

    1. There is a difference between apple eaters and wild deer. IF the people would stop feeding them – on purpose and through planting shrubs, flowers, and trees – then the Deer would leave town and go eat the natural foods or some farmer’s crops. Oh, wait, “town” is now where the deer and elk used to winter, my bad, sorry. Maybe people should have to plant native shrubs on their property to feed the critters instead of all the “pretty” items. That would use less water as well.

      1. ^ boomer sitting in front of his computer in his daytime-jammies pecking out ‘witty’ comments, has no friends, tells anyone who will listen about a football he caught back in highschool, longs for the good old days, has never been out of the country (cancun doesn’t count, sorry)

        1. @Keyser Snooze – get out of Mommy’s basement and check on the rest of the world, there is more green out there than just what comes in your baggie.

        2. You want some real psychology? Stereotyping aside, when people profile others they have never met, they generally apply character traits they see in themselves. So judging by what you wrote, I’d say you also are dissatisfied with life. As are many this time of year. But sunny days will return. In the meantime, try not to be such a schmuck 🙂

      2. I keep seeing comments about “used to winter” – if by some chance this is true why is it only the last 20-30 years since the deer have moved to town? I will agree they are in town because of all the free food being given to them, it is not just the flowers, some of our neighbors are feeding and watering them ’cause they are cute.

        1. Skizcancel. Sorry accidentally pushed the wrong button and posted when I hadn’t finished commenting. Elk meadow off brookswood all used to be heavily forested with lots of elk now all it is is nothing but subdivisions of homes for human transplants. Of course you would know that if you hadn’t been raised here for many decades. Hey I have lots of wildlife in my yard and what seems to be a lot of deer, but I still know that the over urbanization of bend has caused a decrease in land for wildlife. Yep we used to have more elk in bend but with all the urban sprawl for transplants they have diminished.

    2. Skizcancel. You must be a transplant or you would know that some of the human disturbance has been the over building on open land in bend. The Old Mill district used to be farmland.

    1. It all depends on the tag you want. Some tags are issued by a random drawing. Others are available for purchase over the counter. Perhaps you’re trying to draw a highly desirable hunt, while the OHA guy is willing to hunt most anywhere. The result is the guy with higher expectations might have to wait years to get a tag ….. while others get to hunt more frequently.

  3. I think they are all out in my neighborhood east of town. As to Skiz says’ point it is weird the numbers are declining in CO when it is the opposite everywhere else.

    1. “Everywhere else” deer may be thriving …. but not in Oregon. We live in an arid high desert with lots of public land and comparatively little agriculture. Mule Deer are the predominant deer. However much of the U.S. to the east of Oregon is agricultural land that is dominated by Whitetail Deer, an entirely different species, with different life requirements and behaviors. One species thriving, while another struggles is a consequence of a variety of factors including reproductive potential, food, predation, disease, climate, water, hunting, habitat destruction, human encroachment, human tolerance, and so on. There’s no simple answers to complex questions.

  4. Drove over Awbrey Butte tonight I passed 2 good sized herds. At Awbrey Glen the deer are feeding on golf course and the residents landscape. CO deer have come to realize where the food is plentiful and the only threat is getting picked off by a Tesla.

    1. ^ punisher stickers all over his truck, gets winded walking out to get the mail, ‘patriot’ who hates about 80% of actual americans, has no idea what dry fire is, yells at his tv until his wife tells him to shut up

    1. There was evidence of suspected poaching Wednesday off of Cline Falls Highway. A bucket filled with fresh blood and deer remains laid spilled out on the side of the road, accompanied by trash bags full of suspected remains. Stout believes the scene is a result of poaching.

      Couldn’t it just be a vehicle strike harvest?

  5. Good news bad news?
    The deer population has decreased, no more out of state hunter should be allowed.
    Bad news Prius driving State employees driving on HWY 97 and 20 are responsible too.
    Good news is California poachers are now hereby arrested on site.

  6. How about all the fat-tire mountain bikers and other “recreationists” that are so environmentally self-righteous but refuse to stay out of mule deer and elk winter and fawning/calving areas during the signed season those areas are supposed to be off limits? The “non-consumptive” recreation people around here these days are nothing but an army of thoughtless ants destroying all that they claim to love in the name of Instagram photos and “the outdoors is my gym” mentality. Hypocrites.

      1. I doubt this is true. The Motos are simply easier to recognize. You can hear a motorcycle for miles. It is obvious when one is operating in an area they should not be, or in a closed time of year. A MTB? Not so much. For better or worse, they are more difficult to detect by humans when they are someplace they shouldn’t be.

    1. Starting with closing FLAGLINE trail! People keep riding it when it’s closed. 20-30 years ago few people knew about it.Let alone poached it during the closed elk calfing season!!

  7. “Hunters note” – oh, ok then – what a hoot!

    – even though completely caused by human behavior, we’ve gotta fabricate some enemy to blame ‘cus it makes us feel better (we define ourselves based on the enemies we believe in) and we really can’t handle any sort of accountability – kill all the predators and kiss the deer and elk good bye (no, humans are not predators, just pointless killers)

  8. Out east of Bend, the area has elk, deer, and antelope, plus hoards of dirt motor bikers who don’t stay on the trails and travel wherever the mood strikes them. It can’t be good for the animals….

  9. People, in general, don’t understand the role we play in causing declines of animal habitat. There is an area 1/4 mile from me that has signs posted every year for the “Cooperative Winter Deer Closure” . The closure is from Dec 1st thru March 31st to give deer a chance to have an area to over-winter without being hassled. The “No Motor Vehicles” signs go up and are either torn down, shot at or ignored. Just saw 2 vehicles jamming out of the area past the “closed” signs…one lady in a car and another in a truck, smiling and waving as they took their stolen “Christmas” tree..illegally cut and illegally taken on public land. Apparently, a large portion of human beings think that their actions don’t matter or that what they want to do supercedes any rules that are put in place to try to mitigate our relentless assault on the natural world. Thanks, ladies, for driving motor vehicles and using a chain saw in an area that is clearly marked as closed to these activities for 4 measly months of the year. Thanks for teaching your children that it’s ok to take whatever you want, whenever you want and thanks from all the licensed hunters for helping further decrease the mule deer population…Oh, and could you please remove all of the non-biodegradable tinsel and other garbage from your “Christmas” tree before dumping it on the side of the road when you’re done with your holidays? Thanks.

  10. This is nothing new. The decline in animal population has been easy to see
    for quite awhile. It’s a big factor in Oregon having the lowest number of
    hunting tags and licenses sold a few years ago since the 60’s if I remember correctly.
    That and the ever increasing cost of the tags and licenses.


    As anyone can see there are now 6000 cougars in Oregon whereas in the 1960s Oregon had only 200 cougars. Since a cougar kills at least one elk or deer per week, scientifically speaking it appears that the number of cougars in Oregon is a much bigger threat to deer and elk than the increasing human population here. FYI the human population in Oregon was 2 million in the late 60s and now is a little over twice that. So yes humans are a factor but when you have 6000 cougars that kill 300,000 deer or elk per year, it is obvious where the real issue is. BTW I am not a hunter, just one who can see the obvious without any bias.

  12. really? Have to add predators to the reasoning? Isn’t that part of the food chain, and how it works in the wild? Can’t just blame humanity, lets throw the animals on there while they do what is natural to them.

    1. That’s because the dramatic growth of the predator population is a big problem.
      ODFW is supposed to help maintain a balance in nature but that’s a little hard to
      do when stupid regulations like not allowing the use of dogs to hunt cougars are
      implemented. While it’s not as big of a problem yet, the reintroduction of wolves
      is also creating a problem. Not just for wildlife, but also for livestock, and wolves
      don’t always kill for food, they kill just because.

    2. Just because there is a post button, doesn’t mean you should press it. Maybe save the comments for something you have half a clue about? You can’t see that a large increase in predators will result in a large decrease in prey? Cats used to be kept in check by hounds and hunters. That was banned a number of years ago. We are reaping what we sow. We no longer manage the predators. They will depopulate the deer and then starve themselves out.

  13. I wish Oregon F&W would pay us a visit and establish a relocation program for the hundreds of deer on our property. We’ve never had so many and we don’t have a salt lick. We are not intentionally feeding them, but they take what ever they want. I have deer poop a foot thick.

  14. Look at the explosion of the population in central oregon and you wonder why the wildlife is taking a hit? Central Oregon is dying a slow death, smothered by the stupidity.

  15. Of course a bunch of dumb libs commenting knowing nothing about which they speak of. And we as hunters called this years ago when the cry babies had dogs banned for hunting cats. The writing was on the wall. Of course nobody on the left has any common sense though. Everything they touch gets absolutely ruined.

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