EAGLE POINT — Tyler Herzog treaded through the grassy fields of the C2 Ranch in search of a black-tailed buck deer that these storied cattle fields are known to call home.
Guide Danny Howell pointed the 15-year-old toward a three-point buck about 100 yards away, and Tyler found its silhouette in his scope.
Youth and adult hunters can register for a free lottery drawing for a chance to hunt deer on the 9,500-acre C2 Ranch near Lake Creek this fall.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking applications for 28 youth hunters to hunt deer on the ranch between Dec. 15 and Jan. 2.
Those hunters must possess a Hunt 630T Youth Deer Tag to participate in these one-day hunts.
Also, applications are being accepted for six adult hunters to take part in two-day hunts during the late-season archery deer hunt Nov. 10 through Dec. 2.
Applications are being accepted online and must be completed by 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27. Winners must contact C2 Ranch to set up a hunting time. Participants must have the required licenses and tag to hunt legally on the ranch.
The application can be found at www.dfw.state.or.us/lands/AH/docs/C2_Application.pdf.
"I saw him eating some leaves," Tyler says. "I said, 'I'll take him.' "
And that he did, in one clean shot of a round he loaded himself just for his special day at C2.
"It was a really fun experience," Tyler says. "I've never been with a guide before, so that was cool."
It also was free, part of a unique agreement that grants a handful of hunters incredible access while also helping to create better habitat for wildlife on the ranch off Highway 140 east of Eagle Point.
Tyler's hunt was through an agreement state wildlife biologists have with C2 Ranch that highlights all that's best about Oregon's Access and Habitat Program.
The program provides C2 Ranch with a $12,000 yearly grant that helps improve cattle grazing and wildlife habitat on the ranch, which is a key, winter range for blacktails and also home to Roosevelt elk.
In exchange, the ranch opens access for a bevy of hunters such as Tyler who apply through a lottery for what amounts to a free, guided hunt of a lifetime.
Tyler won one of 25 hunts set for kids last year at the ranch, which included help from ranch hands and a guide to find just the right buck to fill his youth tag.
"We felt completely welcomed," says Mike Herzog, Tyler's dad who joined the hunt last fall. "It was the full-meal deal. Everything was first-class. And the price was right."
Another 28 youth rifle hunters and six adult archery hunters will be welcomed at the ranch this fall.
The one-day youth hunts will be guided and will coincide with the 630T Youth Deer Hunt set for Dec. 15 through Jan. 2.
The adult hunts will be two-day, unguided affairs during the second half of the general archery deer season and include an overnight stay at the ranch.
Winners will be chosen from a pool of hunters who apply by through Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife by the Thursday, Sept. 27, deadline.
It's the sixth year of this agreement between C2 and ODFW, and the current agreement runs through next year, says Vince Oredson, an ODFW habitat biologist involved in the agreement.
Last year, 207 adults statewide applied for four archery hunts there while just 28 youths applied for their 25 slots, Oredson says.
Of those, many were first-timers offered a excellent opportunity to become immersed in hunting, Oredson says. They also fared well, collectively bagging 12 bucks and one doe during last year's hunts, he says.
"But it's not about how many animals they get," Oredson says. "It's about a good experience.
"It's neat for them to have a guide," he says. "They learn how it's done, how to hunt deer and how to do it right."
They also do right by the big-game animals and cattle at C2 Ranch.
The habitat-improvement part of the agreement treats 230 acres of ranchland annually, Oredson says. Some of the work involves removing invasive blackberries and mowing old buckbrush to provide new sprouts favored by grazing deer and elk, he says.
In turn, they are favored by hunters like Tyler.
The Herzogs are a hunting family, with Tyler getting his first buck at age 10.
"I took 13 shots to get it," says Tyler, now a freshman at Eagle Point High School. "That's a lot of shots."
Though he's had many shots at hunting on his own, the C2 experience came as a boon.
A friend at church mentioned the C2 opportunity to the Herzogs, so he applied. He drew the first day of the last year's youth hunt, with the guide and ranch hands pointing him toward a secret location.
He was hoping for something larger than a three-point but didn't mind taking the buck he chose. He even got the use of a four-wheeler to get the carcass out.
"I was very lucky last year to get that opportunity," Herzog says. "I'd recommend it to other people who get that tag."