Native American Tribal members have the treaty rights to hunt on all public land anytime!
This is what a couple of poached bucks could look like in the back of a pickup!

This is what a couple of poached bucks could look like in the back of a pickup!

The hunter may be unaware of illegal activity, unless it happens in the area he or she is occupying.  Those of us who have spent a great deal of time in the field hunting, fishing, hiking and camping have chronic knowledge about big game poaching.   I never paid attention too, was the fact that the Native American has been subject to poaching for a long time on off-reservation public-private lands.   I thought poaching was done by outlaw hunters capitalizing on the opportunity of out of season, night hunting, closed lands, horn hunters or other illegal means to get it done.  There is an old saying in life “if the janitor talks about it”, usually is true, in this case law enforcement officers have talked about it, besides eye witness to the incidents.

My son during the 2015 Rocky Mountain Elk big game hunt in Oregon, in a hunt unit made up of B.L.M. land (limited road entry) and private land, he and his hunting partners, it came apparent that there is a problem with poaching of big game with Native American Tribal Members, hunting off-reservation involvement.   Opening day in this limited entry by road area along the John Day River, the group were stopped by Oregon State Police Game Officers.   They had just finished a hunt from hunting from the top fence line down to the river, when the OSP Game Officers confronted them.  They were asked numerus times about the poaching of a large bull elk and the wasting game meat, plus severing the rack off.   After three times of the direct accusations and rebuttal comments back, the OSP Officers backed off.   The hunters now had open dialogue with the OPS Game Officers’ of what they had encountered.

Knowing my son and how I have mentored him to hunt and visualize the out of place objects or situation’s, noticed that things had not been right all day in the hunting area.   His group was the only elk hunters that had made a camp in the area, but there were a couple of other vehicles that were in area, traveling all over the open roads and the hillsides (off-road).   JR took pictures of one particular pickup that had no good written all over it.   The OSP Game Officers thought it was strange that he had done this Intel, but later the tire tracks matched the tire tracks at the kill zone.  Since JR., has friends that live in Madras, Oregon he is well aware of the Tribal members and their appearance.

Cutting to the chase on the “elk hunt from hell” as my son would put it; there were 6 mule bucks and 1 bull elk that had been killed on private along the boundary fence.   A great deal of meat wasted, all the racks had been sawed off.  The MO was the same for all the game animals that were within 100 yards of each other.  The deer carcasses were stacked up on each other.   Plus the fact the animals were shot prior to opening morning.  A great way to have a hunt ruin with a special opening day for a selective group that the Federal Government has given special privileges too prior to the regulated Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife opening day.

There was a great discomfort with the poaching; the private lands around the B.L.M. were now being patrolled heavily, plus legal hunters being watched around the clock by the land owners that scanned the hills with spotting scopes and binoculars.  With all the activity, there was not going to be any elk harvested by legal hunters.  The elk had moved into non-road areas, deep into rim rock of the interior on the private land.

So have any of you ever read the Treaty of June 25, 1855 for Tribes and Bands of Middle Oregon. Treaty, you find that the Warm Springs Indians are subject to only their laws and rules when it comes to hunting?  The Game Commission is the tribal council and not the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Tribal members can get their tags from Human Resources free.  Then there are the ceremonial tags that they can get when a tribal member dies of 3 deer and 1 elk.   My understanding, though not in writing that I can find, the numbers might be greater.  In the treaty tribal members can hunt on any federal lands, basically anytime…   In thought, I suppose they have to kill 3 deer to make one, since they are only taking the choice meat, (blackstrap & hindquarters) sort of like the tendency of the Wolf when it comes to consuming.  You have to make note that Indian Reservations are a sovereign nation within the boundaries of the United States of America. Oregon State Police have not justifications on reservation lands.

“Cultural hunting” shall mean the exercise of traditional, ceremonial and subsistence tribal hunting rights.

I would like to make a comment, if it is about cultural hunting, then why not hunt in the cultural method of the past with bow-arrow or spear, this way at least the game has a chance.   Plus in their traditional ways of the past it would have been by canoe, horse or walking, not by a red Toyota Tacoma or white T100 Tundra pickup.  When you can hunt basically year-round, when the deer, elk and other big game are in the wintering grounds with little chance for escape, I truly have a major problem with a treaty that dates back to the 1900’s.  Times change and market hunting has long since left this country.  This is the 21st Century, no longer the 19th Century with misguided or outdated privileges.  Game populations cannot withstand over hunting and with little regard to the state’s big game laws.   Hunting tags are normally regulated by the ODFW in this state from census on game during the winter months and harvest counts.

Oregon State Police Game Division find it extremely difficult to control and prosecute the tribal members guilty in game & fish violations on non-reservation lands.  Public law enforcement cannot enter Tribal lands to catch the guilty.  I found a great comment that the federal government (enforcement) has little to do what goes on with the 326 land reservations in the United States of America.  In the State of Oregon there are 9 Federally-Recognized Tribes with 100 different sub-tribes within the 9 tribes.

For the most part the crimes within the Reservations are handled by Tribal Police.  My turn on this is in relationship to non-reservation lands:   “is a crazy quilt of jurisdiction that allows the government to ignore things.” “How did things get this way in a country that’s not only on but within our borders, and what is being done to fix them?” The answer is two words that come up as often as “with impunity.” Those words are, “It’s complicated.”

I have no problem with subsistence hunting at all, but why is it in the instance that all bucks were taken?   How does in the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife set the quota’s for hunting or even fishing the following years?   Oregon State Police Game Division have their hands tied and spend a great deal of wasted time, trying to find the culprits of the violations that are Tribal members.  This is about hunting off reservation at their leisure, a luxury that non-Tribal citizens do not have.

I have talked with un-disclosed Oregon State Police Game Officers Retired and this has been going on in their lifetimes.   Within the game unit non-reservation lands, those that border Tribal lands, it extremely tough, as tribal members can enter from their roads into these hunt units and exit.  From what I understand there are only few Tribal police on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, north of Madras, Oregon.

Over the years, I guess I was just blind to what I saw in the field at times or on the river banks, such as fishing net with 100 plus rotting salmon, 100 yards downstream from a hatchery… An eyewitness sees and hears that 30 undersize sturgeons are taken on the Columbia River by a Tribal Member, remembering other American citizens cannot fish for sturgeon on the Columbia River.  When asked by the OSP Officer why, the comment back was “they taste better when smaller.”  Another recent incident that was given to me by reliable sources, 2015 2nd season Rocky Mtn. Elk hunt in the Heppner Unit, Tribal members sell three branch bull elk to white hunters for 100 bucks each, using a pickup truck with hoist to load into the hunters trucks.  2015 1st season Rocky Mtn. Elk in the Heppner unit, hunter sees a pickup with a hoist in the back and wonders, what the heck is that for… If you want to read about game violations on the Oregon State Police Game Division section on their webpage, you’ll see that there seems to be no arrests on Tribal Members.  OSP Game Officer’s seem to have there hands tied in this great astoristy of Oregon’ big game animals being dwindle by blatant poaching by a few.

There are many incidents of poaching by Tribal members that the public is un-aware of, such as the 9 Roosevelt cow elk remains, with the heads left at the sight along the upper Siletz River on the Oregon coast off-reservation National Forest lands during the late archery season. They had been taken with a rifle.

One last incident of poaching by the Tribal members hunting off-reservation with the killing of 9 mule deer does out of a ranchers hay field.  This information is first hand from a rancher in the West Biggs Hunt unit when I called him last week about Tribal member poaching.  The Oregon State Police Game Officers were called in.   There was not much OSP could do to the Tribal members, other than criminal trespass on private land.  The rancher did not want to press those charges…

Most think that the Warm Springs Indian Reservation only encompasses the parcel off of Hwy 216 and Hwy 26 in Oregon.  Well this is a very large chunk of land on the east side of the John Day River that borders BLM and goes un-checked with access from tribal members.  The Warm Springs Indian Reservation has more than 1 Million Sq. Miles of land, making it the largest in the State of Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife is very lenient with tags that go to the Tribal Game Commission.  In the Siletz & Grand Ronde reservation area, 25% of the allotted tags for a hunt unit within or near the reservation go to the Tribal Game Commission.

Basically all the Tribes in Oregon have the same basic Treaty from the 19th Century.  The Klamath and Modoc Tribes and Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians even have a treaty.  From my readings they can hunt any land that might have encompassed the original lands, which is approximately 2.2 million acres that they roam for more than 14000 years.   All the years I spent hunting the B.L.M., National Forest and Sycan Marsh area for Pronghorn, I rarely saw deer in a deer rich environment.  I understand that within the 21st Century these tribes just might get their heritage lands back after the Federal Government force them to be vacated with a payoff.  In this case the descendants will be the winners.

I will give a defense for the Native American, it is said that the On-Reservation resident Tribal members are poor and have little.  Food for thought comes from a recent set of photos of a Deschutes River Bighorn Sheep that was harvested by a Tribal member.   What I saw in the pictures was a bit disturbing.  I saw no meat on packs in the pictures and I did see a full-curl broomed off ram, that the head was severed at the neck joint.   In point no meat (I am sure they boned out every bit of useable meat into tiny packs), but better yet, if so poor why would you have wasted a large full shoulder cape most likely worth at least a $1200.00 and a life size cape around $3000.00 to a taxidermist.  So for about 45 minutes to 2 hours of capping, one could make some fast cash.

In my opinion non Native American Tribal citizens of Oregon, plus the non-resident big game hunters, need to stay attuned to what happens in the field. I don’t believe, unless Tribal member poaching on off-reservation public land is stopped while in the field there is little that can be changed.

Bwana Bubba

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