Four years ago, Frank Kirkland was looking for a way to break his hunting party's 20-year drought at killing an elk. So he decided to let luck determine a new place to hunt.
"Basically, we threw a dart at a map," says Kirkland, 53, of Portland. "I literally stabbed my finger at the map and that gave me a general area to hunt."
His finger landed on the Huckleberry Mountain area of the Rogue River National Forest near Union Creek. On the ensuing opening morning, Kirkland joined the bull-shooters' fraternity by killing a 4-by-5 point elk, essentially proving the old proverb that even a blind squirrel can eventually find an acorn.
Now, four years later, Kirkland can still use his lucky finger to find his next hunting haunt, but he can do it by clicking a mouse instead of tossing of a dart.
A new interactive hunting map is now available online so the Kirklands of the world literally can get the lay of the land — and more — in their quest to find the best public hunting access out there.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has launched a new website sporting an interactive hunting map of the state that offers immense details of where to go and what you'll find anywhere in Oregon.
It's based on a Google map, but includes features heretofore found only by hunters who made countless telephone calls and logged hundreds of miles scouting various terrains for the critters there.
"It's to plan and scout your hunting trip before you go," says David Lane, ODFW's statewide marketing coordinator, who oversaw the project. "It lowers the barriers for people to go out and enjoy the shooting sports."
The map details things such as wildlife management units, public-access areas, state wildlife areas and private landowners who allow access to their properties.
Computer-surfers can study the terrain of areas they might consider for hunting — even searching for hunting spots based on the species they prefer. For instance, click on a little bubble off Highway 97 near Crescent and you'll discover the Timbers Travel-Management Area, where hunters can find year-round access (but limited vehicle traffic) to industrial timberlands to hunt myriad species.
But there's no overnight camping in the Timbers. And no bathrooms.
"Between the satellite function and the terrain function, you can get a good sense of what you'd be walking into," Lane says.
"And with the ownership layer, you'll know what you're walking into — public or private property."
If that's not enough, the map has printable screens, driving directions, and links to ODFW's recreation report, which details more information on hunting and fishing opportunities.
And for the GPS crowd, latitude and longitude coordinates are available.
"Folks love their hand-helds now," Lane says.
Find it all at www.oregonhuntingmap.com/.
The project comes largely from a $70,000 grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has programs that focus on putting hunters into the field wherever and whenever possible.
ODFW kicked in another $5,000, and the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation administered the project.
The map is the creation of The Gartrell Group in Portland and represents a major upgrade from ODFW's old hunting map that generated more than a million hits since it first hit the cyber world in August 2008.
Not one of those hits came from Kirkland's computer.
After his wild 2006 stab landed on Huckleberry Mountain, he studied various paper maps and determined the land had a rolling topography that likely included some decent meadows preferred by elk.
"I picked out what I thought would be public access with relatively open ground and not extremely mountainous," he recalls.
They set up camp at Huckleberry Campground next to a party that hunted there regularly and yearly shot at least one bull, Kirkland says.
On opening morning, Kirkland barely strolled out of camp to spy and shoot his first bull, becoming part of the 6 percent of Rogue Unit general-season elk hunters who bag a bull — and positioning Huckleberry Mountain as the group's new favorite spot.
"We were really happy with it," Kirkland says.
Kirkland returned the following year to shoot a bear, skipped the 2008 season altogether and returned last year for a late-season bear hunt that ended fruitlessly.
Kirkland says he's not going to abandon his old methods for finding new places to hunt.
"I'd probably use the new map, but I don't know to what extent," he says. "It'll be part of my list of tools for looking around."
While the map might help him find a place to hunt and tell you how to get there, it still won't get a bull hanging in camp, Kirkland says.
"What I really want to know is exactly where those guys who camped next to us go," Kirkland says. "They's successful every year.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail email@example.com.