In the tranquil town of La Pine, Oregon, a firestorm of controversy has erupted in the wake of a recent incident involving hunters taking down several elk in uncomfortably close proximity to homes, well-frequented recreational areas, and Spring River Road. The concerned residents of south Deschutes County have spoken out, turning a scheduled community meeting into a fiery debate on the issue.
According to distraught residents, gunshots rang out in the early hours, some even before the sun had risen. The ensuing commotion included a fleet of nine vehicles and a state patrol car, where hunters were seen with a cow elk in their possession.
The Oregon State Police confirmed their response to a case of illegal elk hunting in the Sunriver area on that eventful Saturday. A group of elk had ventured onto Forest Service lands near Spring River Road, an area designated for hunting. Several hunters gathered in the vicinity, with one allegedly targeting a female elk in an area where shooting was strictly prohibited.
Trevor Ryall, one of the concerned locals, expressed his astonishment upon discovering that hunting was permitted on a narrow strip of land between Spring River Road and the Spring River/Deschutes River. Although he does not oppose responsible hunting and enjoys game meat, he raised concerns about the increased proximity of homes, a restaurant, and various recreational activities to the hunting grounds.
Several years ago, Deschutes County had implemented “no-shooting” zones in close proximity to residential areas. However, Ryall argued that a review and update of these hunting boundaries is necessary to ensure the safety of residents and account for the region’s expanding population.
Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone acknowledged the county’s limited authority to regulate federal land. He suggested that residents seeking to establish “no-shooting” zones should direct their requests to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Another local resident echoed these concerns, alleging that “hunters on bikes” had strategically herded a sizable elk herd near Sunriver Airport onto federal land, where they could be legally pursued. To emphasize her point, she presented a series of photographs depicting hunting activity near her home and the well-frequented paved walking paths in Sunriver.
This contentious issue took center stage during a La Pine community meeting originally slated to discuss a community survey on environmental and natural resources. The meeting drew a full house of impassioned residents, hunters, and Commissioner DeBone.
Tempers flared as one resident expressed their fear for the safety of their family and neighbors, asserting that they should not be put at risk for the benefit of a select few who had planned their hunting excursion without due consideration.
A hunter defended their position, emphasizing that it is not their responsibility to inform others about hunting seasons. Commissioner DeBone recognized the necessity of a collaborative effort between the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Forest Service, and the concerned residents of Deschutes County to address the issue comprehensively. This approach aims to reassess hunting ethics, safety measures, and responsible land use to ensure the peaceful coexistence of hunting and residential areas.