Last June I played in a Youth for Christ golf tournament. While our team has not always done as well as we would like, I have done well in the prize drawings afterwards. Tickets are a buck a piece, 6 for five dollars and I always chip in for the six. This year I won two rounds of golf at Kah-nee-tah Golf Resort on the Warm Springs Indian reservation. Since Jeri and I were making a trip to Portland, we decided to take an extra day, spend the night at the resort and play golf early the next morning before the heat and wind arrived.
We departed this last Monday morning, the car packed with clubs and luggage for our three weeks in Hawaii, and headed to town to do a couple of last minute errands and gas up the Camaro for the run to Warm Springs. Less than a half mile out of Imbler I spotted what I thought at first glance was a herd of deer in an alfalfa field. It turned out to be a herd of antelope. It has only been in the last 15 years that antelope have been visiting our valley and usually are seen in the southern part in the wildlife refuge. This is the first time I have seen them anywhere near the north end of the valley and they were only about 100 yards from the highway. This was quite a treat for us as we seldom get to see antelope.
Our journey required three hours of driving on I-84 before turning south on highway 197 at The Dalles. We were about 10 miles east of The Dalles when I remembered to start looking for the big horned sheep that some people have spotted along that section of the Columbia River Gorge. Jeri and I have looked every time on our numerous trips to Portland and back and have failed to see any of them. During this time of year with the grasses brown and dried out from lack of rain, they tend to blend into the back ground and are hard to see. Jeri and I were looking high near the top of the ridges when I suddenly caught a glimpse of them low just off the freeway on the other side from us. There were seven rams, just standing and laying around, not thirty yards from the traffic of trucks and cars roaring by at high speeds. I don't know if they were waiting for a bus load of ewes to show up or what, but they sure weren't bothered by the traffic noise.
Which leads me to one of my pet peeves. The Forest Service, BLM and Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife have over the past 20 years closed numerous forest roads under the guise of protecting Elk and Deer habitat from human intrusion. Yet we constantly see deer and elk along side major highways feeding and resting seemingly oblivious to the traffic and noise. Each winter we have herds of elk trek through our place stomping the winter wheat into the ground and leaving 25 yard wide trails through our and our neighbors fields. Each spring we have a small herd of 15 to 25 bed down at night in the pine trees a hundred yards from our house and graze in our neighbors and our pastures during the day. We love seeing them and their calves and don't have a problem with them other than the wheat damage.
There is a family up the road from us that wants to build a house on their property and can't because Fish and Wildlife has determined that they are in an Elk Habitat area and that would be detrimental to the elk. Excuse me! My house has not been a detriment to their movement in this area, not even when we had dogs! If the safety of the animals is the concern, there are more road kills of deer and elk than taken by hunters in this state. I'm not sure if that is a reflection on the accuracy and ability of our hunters or the driving abilities of Oregon drivers. I have seen semi-trucks disabled from hitting elk when the impact shoved the radiator into the engine.
My question, then, is why does an occasional vehicle on a forest service road disturb deer and elk but heavy freeway traffic doesn't. And why can't my neighbor build on his land because it might upset the elk, yet those same elk flock around our house apparently undisturbed.
One of the reasons we live in this part of the country is the diverse wildlife. It is a privilege to have them virtually in our back yard. But with that comes the responsibility to protect that same wildlife. In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God said to Noah "The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into you hand thy are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant." Gen. 9:2-3
Mankind has been given authority over fish and wildlife and everything that creeps and crawls, and with that authority comes responsibility. We are to care and make sure that each species is provided for, but not to the detriment of the one who has authority over it. I will tolerate the elk trampling my winter wheat and occasionally taking out the top wire on my fence when they can't quite get their fat fannies over it, but I will not stand by and have someone dictate to me or others where or where not I can build a dwelling or how I can use my land based on some perceived needs of these same animals that we have authority over.
I have friends and neighbors who shoot coyotes, but not on my land. Coyotes don't bother me and I don't bother them. They eat a lot of gophers and field mice, and yes, a few cats along the way. I would hate to see the day when someone tells me I would have to change my farming practices because of the coyote, deer or elk. As far as I am concerned, elk habitat is in the mountains where they spend the majority of their time, on national forest and BLM land. Now that the elk spend the spring in my back yard, does that now make it elk habitat? Time will tell.
As for now, I will continue to enjoy the wildlife that blesses Jeri and I with their presence, and will continue to forbid hunting on our land. But if this recession turns into a depression and we get hungry, I do own some pretty high powered rifles that will help fill the freezer.
Our round of golf was very enjoyable, I shot 88 and Jeri didn't keep score, the round was free but accommodations and meals were not.
If any of you are involved in betting pools as to when I will get my first speeding ticket in the Yellow Hellfire, if you have before the 13th of September, you loose. No tickets so far, and it is parked until the 13th when we return from Hawaii. Aloha and Mahalo