Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Weather, navigation and hunting in Oregon

An interesting email exchange with Gary from Oregon, shared with permission:


I am very much enjoying your new book, “The Secret World of Weather”.  I have not completed it because I keep re-reading the first sections.  I am 72 and retired, living in western Oregon, 10 miles from Portland.  Most mornings my wife and I have coffee while sitting outside, 20 feet from our bird feeders.  Now I’m alert to air movements, from seeds or hair from our cats drifting by.  And I pay far more attention to clouds and their movements, thanks to your book.

For much of my life I have hunted our local Black-tailed deer, which are elusive and depend on their ability to blend with the surroundings.  I’ve mostly been “unsuccessful”—failed to bag one.  Partly that’s because I always used a lever-action, model 94 Winchester 30-30, with a peep sight.  I refuse to use a rifle scope because it doesn’t seem sporting—and in the heavy cover it’s not necessary.

Even tho I’ve only shot five deer, they were always deep in the woods, at close range, with one shot.  That’s my approach to hunting:  using my knowledge of deer habits, what they eat, alarm calls from birds and squirrels, wind direction, etc. to more or less meet the deer on their own terms.  It’s the skills our ancestors developed; and I thoroughly enjoy using and practicing them, “reading” the woods.  As I tell my family and friends, “altho I rarely bag a deer, I never have a bad day in the woods.”  My life-long efforts in learning about native plants, bird-watching, and bushcraft integrates pleasurably with hunting.

I rarely encounter anyone in the woods.  It seems the emphasis is on technology, not woods lore.  So the hunters wear camo (I never do, just dark clothing)—but walk (or drive) the logging roads!  They carry high-caliber rifles with rifle scopes.  The extreme example was once while crossing a logging road I encountered three noisy ATVs.  The lead driver switched off his engine, removed his helmet and hearing protectors, and in all seriousness, asked, “seen anything?”  I stared in disbelief and finally muttered, “uh, no”, and moved back into the woods.  But he was wearing his camo uniform, and clearly overweight and out of shape.

That was actually after I began to hunt with a longbow, in our “archery season”, in September instead of October.  More daylight hours, not nearly as wet and cold—and very often I do bag chanterelle mushrooms, but no deer so far; haven’t even loosed an arrow.  The “archery” season isn’t archery at all in my opinion because the vast majority of hunters use compound bows with carbon arrows.  A machine that features a “trigger release” and a range-finder does not equate to archery.  Fortunately at an archery range I encountered a group of “primitive archers”.  They craft their own bows and arrows so I befriended them and greatly enriched my life. 

The principles and skills of natural navigation have considerable overlap with the principles and skills of “natural hunting”.  Both endeavors are all about paying close attention to nature’s clues, and using time and effort to gain facility. 

Would you consider writing a book—or a booklet—about using these principles to develop a nature-based approach to hunting?  The only book I’ve seen that reflects this approach is Louis Terkla’s book,”Hunting Black-tailed Deer”.  Dr. Terkla is a retired dental professor and his scientific outlook is evident.  He cautions the reader in particular about the highly-developed olfactory sense of Black-tailed deer, and the need to carefully dispose of bodily wastes and wash hands.

Finally, I subscribe to a magazine, “Primitive Archer”.  May I have your permission to submit a book review of “The Secret World of Weather” to the magazine?  I would heartily recommend it to the readers, many of whom are bow hunters and interested in natural hunting.


Gary Simantel
West Linn, Oregon

Dear Gary, 
Thank you for your very interesting email and for reading my book. 

I understand exactly where you are coming from. I sometimes see my work as having a strong overlap with the 99% of hunting that precedes any attempt at a kill. I have just started work on a new book on trees, more on that in the future though, so it may be a while before I consider new book topics, but your email may well prompt interesting thoughts come that time. 

I’d be delighted for you to review the book for Primitive Archer, thank you. 

I’d actually like to share some of your email on my blog if that is of interest? But totally understand if you’d prefer to keep the correspondence private. 

Thanks again and best wishes,


Thank you for your prompt reply. Yes, you may include some or all of my email on your blog.  Perhaps it will prompt more discussion of natural hunting.

A book on trees?  That is of particular interest to me.  We live on a nearly one-acre lot in the West Linn suburbs.  Two-thirds of the lot consists of a narrow creek canyon.  It was choked with invasive ivy and Himalaya blackberry vines, and had been used as a casual dump for decades.  I put a stop to the dumping and began a decade-long effort to remove the invasive vines and trash and to plant natives, starting with our native conifers—Douglas fir, red cedar, western hemlock, and grand fir.  And our own pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia).  That has been gratifying, with a wildlife habitat slowly developing and a continual planting of native shrubs and ground covers.

And deer:  we have had visits by several individuals.  Oregon law prohibits hunting within city limits so I wouldn’t consider hunting them.  But, I have my own “study area” to observe their habits, and some of my plantings have been explicitly for the deer.  I am constantly alert to fecal pellets, browsing evidence, and tracks.  

My grandkids caught my interest and when they are in the canyon I sometimes hear, “Hey Bumpaw!  Deer tracks!”  Once, Desmond actually spotted a fawn hidden in the ferns, curled up, stilll as a statue.  I had missed it—young eyes are sharp—but after quiet viewing from a distance I had us all withdraw and avoid the area for a time.

I am sort of a “tree freak”.  Throughout my life I have offered to plant trees for family and friends; most often fruit trees, sometimes natives.  For the canyon I have dug up Douglas firs alongside roads to rescue them from future cutting.  I value them in particular because if they’ve survived under those conditions then I know they’re hardy.
So I am quite looking forward to your book on trees.  

And may I say, your description of the “check effect” in your previous book prompted even further close examination of trees.  Around here the effect is inconsistent with most trees, except our own native white oak (Quercus garryana).  With those oaks, the effect is dramatic and I smiled with delight the first time I observed it.  I shook my head in wonder and thought, “Wow, all these years that effect was clearly evident but I was completely unaware of it—until Mr. Tristan Gooley pointed it out.”  Thank you for opening up yet another window into nature.
Keep writing,

P.S.  I am well aware of the role that yew has played in English history; particularly in regard to the devastating power of the yew longbow at the Battle of Agincourt.  High-elevation yew is a valued bow wood by the local bowyers and I even made  my own attempt at a yew bow in a class; however, it is hard to come by and there are other local woods that work well.  I love the deep green needles so I have planted maybe a dozen around our property.  I am hoping that in time the birds that consume the pretty orange arils might just propagate the species.

Thanks again Gary. I have replied separately.

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