Part of being a responsible hunter is to ALWAYS know the laws and regulations. Click here to see the 2017 Hunting Regulations for Oregon.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Game has put together a quiz I encourage ALL of you to take. As Southern Oregon and Northern California are confirmed wolf territory, KNOWING the difference between a coyote and a wolf on sight can be very critical.....ESPECIALLY for hunters. You MUST know the differences between a wolf and a coyote in appearance.
I did get 100 percent on this test. I mean I would sure hope I would being the Chairman of the Jackson County Wolf Committee. Let's see how you do. Some of these are going to be easy. Real easy. But there are a couple pictures in here that will require a real good look.
Click here to take the test.
The rains and snows have come just in the nick time of time for the Big Game seasons to come at the end of the month and for October. HOWEVER! Private timberland owners will not fully relax restrictions on their holdings until fire season has been declared over. And as of now, that has NOT happened yet. It is YOUR responsibility to know where the private timberlands are, and what the restrictions for them are. There are many areas here in Southwestern Oregon that people think are BLM or Forest Service and they are not. They are private timberlands. So have very good maps and data on you devices that identifies what the ownership of the land you want to hunt is. For a full list of private timberland in Oregon, and the restriction status of it.....click here.
BIG GAME HUNTING FORECASTS
We are rapidly approaching the opening of the Oregon Deer rifle seasons. One week from this Saturday is Opening Day on both sides of the Cascades. Deer numbers still look good all over the state. In some areas numbers are very high. Elk however continue to decline overall. In spite of all the hot rhetoric over wolves, the biggest issues leading to decling elk herds are still lack of summer range....i.e. logging creating forage opportunites. Here in Southwestern Oregon we have some areas that have very good numbers of elk. They also have a lot of private property and the elk are holding on that. If you can arrange permission to hunt private property in the Shady Cove, Sams Valley, Wimer, and Evans Creek areas in Jackson County, you are going to be in business. ODF&W still gets consistent reports of damage that elk are causing from these areas. Deer are also causing issues in the Ashland, Jacksonville, and Ruch areas. However, getting access there is likely to be a much tougher deal as anti hunting sentiments are strong. Land owners who might otherwise be willing to allow hunting often do not because they are afraid of creating conflicts with neighbors. The next best thing is to hunt the fringes of where private land and BLM land meet, or in the case of Ashland, Forest Service land. Now, on with the outlooks.
The winter of 2016–2017 was one for the books. According to NOAA, in parts of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, it was the fourth most severe winter on record in terms of days of snow and daily temperatures. ODFW observed higher than normal mortality in deer and pronghorn herds in Baker, northern Harney and Malheur counties, and some parts of Union County, which led to emergency tag reductions in these fall 2017 hunts. Hunters in these units should expect to see fewer yearling animals (spikes and 2-points) this fall.
Despite the winter, in most areas of eastern Oregon, deer and elk survival was at or slightly below average. Plus, winter’s snow provided the moisture for a spring green-up and increased forage production when the weather finally warmed up, which should provide some long-term benefits to wildlife.
In Western Oregon, the winter was also generally colder and wetter than normal. Several areas set record monthly moisture amounts. Winter conditions also stuck around much later than in recent years. Deer and elk survival rates were also at or slightly below the five-year average in Western Oregon.
There are just a few changes from last year:
Edible portions of game mammals is now defined and includes the meat from the front quarters, hind quarters, the loins (backstrap) and tenderloins. For elk, the meat of the neck is also included. See page 95 of the Big Game Regulations.
Hunters with a disabilities permit are reminded to check page 93 of the Big Game Regulations to see which units allow them to take any sex deer or elk. The bag limits are the same as they were last year.
Wolves are present in Oregon
ODFW is monitoring about 20 areas of known wolf activity, mostly in northeast Oregon and several in southwest Oregon. Wolves may also occur in central Oregon and the Cascades. See the Wolf web page for the latest information.
Wolves remain on the federal ESA west of Hwys 395-78-95. In the rest of eastern Oregon, wolves remain protected under the state’s Wolf Management Plan and no take is allowed, except in defense of human life or by livestock producers in certain situations in the eastern third of Oregon.
Oregon has not seen any conflict or human safety problems between people and wolves, but there are some tips online on how to avoid problems. This flyer also has tips on recognizing wolf sign, differentiating between wolves vs coyotes and protecting dogs from wolves.
ODFW appreciates any information about wolf sightings or encounters from hunters. Use the online wolf reporting form to share this information with wildlife managers.
ODFW is closely watching both wolf and big game populations. ODFW has not seen negative impacts from wolves requiring big game hunting tags to be reduced.
Besides annual surveys of wolves and big game, OSU and ODFW are working together on a wolf-cougar research project looking at competitive interactions and prey selection between wolves and cougars in the Mt Emily unit.
UMPQUA DISTRICT - COOS COUNTY (west Tioga, west Powers, north Sixes, southwest Siuslaw)
Deer population abundance appears to continue to be stable in Coos County, overall. Deer herd dynamics such as buck ratio is measured after the General Rifle Buck Season concludes each year to indicate how many bucks survived the hunting season and will be available the following season. Surveys conducted after the 2016 season indicate the buck ratio is adequate to provide good opportunities for hunters to be successful in the 2017 season. Based on those surveys, it appears buck ratio in the Tioga Unit is down some but still high enough for a good season if weather is cooperative. As in the past, surveys indicate deer densities are highest in the Sixes and Powers Units.
Hunt for deer in brushy openings, meadows and clear cuts where brush is beginning to grow up. Areas where vehicle access is limited will be the most productive. Scouting before the season will increase your odds of success.
In the past few years there have been some large tracts of private timber company lands that changed ownership. Some of the new owners have different public access policies than past owners. Hunters need to make contact with private landowners and managers to ensure they may access private land where they intend to hunt. In some cases, land owners and managers will charge a fee for access. Luckily there is still a large amount of Bureau of Land Management lands, National Forest land and the Elliott State Forest for hunters to hunt. It is imperative that hunters know what land they are accessing and what the policy is regarding access. A good way to determine whether access is allowed to a piece of land is to look for signs at access points to timberlands. Often these signs will provide information as whether public access is allowed and whether permits are required. If permits are required, there may be information on how to obtain them.
Another issue hunters need to be prepared for is restrictions for access to private lands due to fire concerns. This is especially true of hunters who want to hunt the bow season in late August and September. While the spring was quite wet in Western Oregon, the summer has dried things out. This has resulted in a situation where grass grew well and it is now dry and ready to burn easily. Hunters may find access will be restricted until the fire conditions subside.
Elk populations are above the Management Objective in the Sixes Unit and close to objective in Powers and Tioga. Bull ratios have been relatively good in all units. Generally moisture retention is best on north slopes and as a result grass growth is best there. Those hunting in bow season should concentrate their efforts on these slopes. Fall rains, when they come, will have an effect on elk distribution in the controlled bull seasons in November.
Often the most important factor that determines where elk will be found is human activity. Elk can be expected to move to places where vehicle and other human activity are minimized. During times of significant human activity, like during controlled bull seasons, human disturbance can be more important in determining elk distribution than food availability. So road closures are often the best places to find elk on a regular basis. Within these areas, hunting may be best on north-facing slopes in the early seasons. A particularly productive habitat type to hunt in the Oregon Coast Range is where foresters have thinned timber stands. Thinning the tree canopy encourages grass and brush growth on the ground, improving feed quality.
In the past few years there have been some large tracts of private timber company lands that changed ownership. Some of the new owners have different public access policies than past owners. As is the case for deer hunters, elk hunters need to make contact with private landowners and managers to ensure they may access private land the hunter intends hunt. In some cases land owners and managers will charge a fee for access. Luckily there is still a large amount of Bureau of Land Management lands, National Forest land and the Elliott State Forest for hunters to hunt. It is imperative that hunters know what land they are accessing and what the policy is regarding access. A good way to determine whether access is allowed to a piece of land is to look for signs at access points to timberlands. Often these signs will provide information as whether public access is allowed and whether permits are required. If permits are required, there may be information on how to obtain them.
Another issue hunters need to be prepared for is restrictions for access to private lands due to fire concerns. This is especially true of hunters who want to hunt the bow season in late August and September. While the spring was quite wet in Western Oregon the summer has dried things out. This has resulted in a situation where grass grew well and it is now dry and ready to burn easily. Hunters may find access will be restricted until the fire conditions subside.
UMPQUA DISTRICT - DOUGLAS COUNTY (Dixon, S. Indigo, NW Evans Creek, Melrose, SW Siuslaw, E. Tioga and NE Powers Units)
Deer hunting should be good in the Cascades and Umpqua Valley. Elk hunting in the Cascade Units should be about the same as the past few years.
Despite a prolonged winter season, spring surveys indicate good over-winter survival for deer and elk in the Douglas portion of the Umpqua District. The fawns per adult deer ratios in the Dixon, Indigo and Melrose have been stable to increasing over the last few years. Elk numbers in the Tioga Unit are close to population management objective and doing well. Cascade deer and elk hunters will have better success hunting areas with good cover adjacent to openings. Some of the better wildlife openings are created by clearcuts, thinnings, or wildfire after several years. Hunters need to check weather forecasts frequently as that will play a key role with fire season restrictions and hunting access.
Over the past few years, Western Oregon rifle deer hunters have done fairly well in the Cascade Units (Indigo/Dixon) and recent surveys show that trend should continue as long as the weather cooperates. Cascade elk hunters have averaged about 5% success over the past few years and this year is expected to be the same.
The large amount of fire activity in the district recently will create great big game habitat in the years to come. However, in the short term, hunters may want to concentrate their efforts elsewhere and stay out of the very recently burned areas. Hunters unfamiliar with this area are advised to hunt smarter, not harder. Use Google Earth or Google Map (Satellite layer) to explore the area with a birds-eye view and get an idea of the terrain and vegetation. Get a hold of some good maps from the Forest Service/BLM/Local Fire Protection Association and use them in conjunction with Google Map to locate areas away from roads that will provide you a quality hunting experience. Another good source of information is to view historic fire perimeters online (https://www.geomac.gov/viewer/viewer.shtml).
These maps will give you an idea where large areas have been opened up by wildfire which enhances forage opportunities for deer and elk. Find the food, and you’ll find the game.
ROGUE DISTRICT (Applegate, Chetco, Evans Creek, Rogue, portions of Dixon, and Sixes)
Overall black-tailed deer populations remain good in our district, in general the Rogue, Dixon, Evans Creek and Applegate units within Jackson County have mostly a migratory deer population. Within these units hunt in high elevation (4000+ft) during the early half of the season and hunt lower elevation (4000ft) during the late half of the season after deer have migrated. Deer in Josephine and Curry County will be found at all elevations throughout the season.
Big game hunting statistics indicate that all units within Jackson, Josephine, and Curry County had a slight increase in black-tailed deer hunter success last year. The Rogue unit had a success of 20% in 2016 which is up from 19% in 2015. Dixon is up from 27% to 31%, Evans Creek increased from 32% to 34%, Applegate is now at 31% compared to 27%, and the Chetco dropped to 37% from 39%. Most units show an increase in success compared to 2015, however over the past four years deer hunter harvest has remained roughly the same in all five units, indicating that this year should be the same.
Elk numbers in recent years are lower on most of the public lands and pre-season scouting is very important. As most private timberlands are closed until fire season restrictions are lifted, look for many hunters to be sharing our public lands. The best place to look is on lands with minimal roads and north facing slopes during periods of warm/dry weather.
Cascade General Elk season success rates have been roughly the same over recent years with the Evans Creek success slightly up and the Rogue Unit slightly down. Chetco coastal seasons hunter success was down, with first season at 25% and second season at 10%. Applegate coastal seasons were down in 2016, the first season was only a 1% success and the second season had a 6% success.
HARNEY DISTRICT (Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mt, Juniper, portions of Beatys Butte, Wagontire, and Whitehorse)
Habitat conditions are generally good and abundant water sources this year should disperse game populations more widely. The risk of wildfire remains a concern. Most of the large scale mega fires in our area occurred in 2012. Wildlife and hunters have been able to adapt by using different areas and pockets of areas within those fire boundaries that have started to recover.
Deer and elk populations are stable to increasing in most portions of the Harney District. Multiple efforts to improve habitat conditions and remove predators have contributed to this. The Malheur River Unit experienced some unusually high winter kill due to the heavy snow pack and prolonged cold temperatures. In response to that, biologist reduced deer tags by 35%. That was the only wildlife management unit in the Harney district that had an emergency tag reduction. Hunting prospects are good for our other units; there are plenty of animals available for harvest for all seasons and weapon choices.
All Harney units are currently below population management objective (MO) for deer although the district is seeing an increasing trend in most units over the past 6-7 years. But all units are above buck ratio MO for deer. They are also above both bull ratio and population objectives for elk.
Statistics are becoming more reliable since the implementation of mandatory reporting surveys, and they show harvest remains stable.
Hunters need to have good maps of the area and are encouraged to visit the county website for maps http://www.co.harney.or.us/huntmaps.html. Make some scouting trips and contact the local biologist to discuss more specifics once you have a better idea of the lay of the land.
HEPPNER DISTRICT (Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin)
Deer populations are decreasing in all units. Fawn survival from last year due to the hot dry summer and long cold winter was very poor in all of the units and will result in fewer yearling bucks available for harvest this hunting season. The summer has been very hot and dry with decent forage conditions in the higher elevations and poor conditions as you drop in elevation. Unless conditions change, early season hunters will want to focus on areas of good forage and water.
Public lands hunters in the Fossil unit can hunt the old Wheeler Burn, which is still producing a fair number of deer and is historically a good spot. Public hunters can also hunt the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area in the Heppner unit.
The elk population for the Heppner is still slightly above MO for the unit and the Fossil Unit’s population is stable. Bull ratios have remained constant from last year for both units. The elk calf ratio for both units remains low this year. While there will be fewer spike bulls than previous years, there are still good numbers of bulls in the forest.
Even though forage conditions are better this year, the dry conditions in the forest have elk condensed in areas that have more water as many of the springs have not recharged from several years of drought. Hunters will increase their success by focusing on north slopes with good grazing available near open water. With predicted cooler weather, elk generally become more active. Hunters are reminded to check fire restrictions which usually include no campfires early in the season.
KLAMATH DISTRICT (Keno, Klamath Falls, Sprague, SW portion of Ft Rock, West portion of Silver Lake, West Interstate)
Deer populations in Klamath County are stable or slightly decreasing. An above average winter likely contributed to lower fawn survival overwinter, which will effect hunter success on yearling bucks this hunting season. Yearling bucks generally comprise over half the buck harvest. The district-wide spring fawn ratios ranged from 16 to 21 fawns per 100 adults. With the above average precipitation last winter, forage conditions this summer are good.
Hunters should concentrate efforts in areas with healthy understory vegetation or thinned areas that offer good forage availability adjacent to cover, especially if weather remains hot and dry. In the absence of significant moisture before or during the hunt, expect deer to be more nocturnal in their movements and focus on areas within a few miles of water. Summer wildfire activity has been low in Klamath County, though conditions remain dry. Fire related restrictions to vehicle use on roads and camp fires will likely remain in place through much of the early fall hunting seasons.
For all units, buck ratios are above management objectives and a good component of older age bucks exists. The fall buck ratio in the Interstate Unit was highest among Klamath County units, with a measured ratio of 26 bucks/100 does. The Keno and Klamath Falls units are also above buck ratio management objective, however populations in these and all surrounding units remain below objective.
The Cascade Mountains (that area within Klamath County west of Hwy 97) offer the best opportunities for elk hunting in the Klamath District. The Keno Unit and those areas within the Sprague and Fort Rock Units west of Hwy 97 are included in the general season Cascade elk area. Bull ratios are above management objective and some older age bulls are available. Best prospects are in the Keno and Fort Rock Units. Elk numbers are lower in the eastern part of the county, and seasons east of Hwy 97 are limited entry. Overall population trends are stable to slightly increasing in some areas but below population management objectives like much of the region. Archery hunters will have a bull only bag limit in all units with the exception of the Fort Rock unit east of Hwy 97 where an either-sex bag limit is in effect.
LAKE DISTRICT (Warner, Interstate, Silver Lake, southern portions of Beatys Butte, Fort Rock and Wagontire)
DEER and ELK
With good winter precipitation and a wet spring, water availability is much improved over last year. In forested units, unless there are fall rains, deer will use areas with an abundant shrub component in the understory as this will be the only vegetation with any forage value. In desert units, focus on mountain shrub habitats within a few miles of water.
Deer populations have been consistent over the past few years. Hunting prospects should be fair to good as all units are above management objectives for buck ratios. Deer fawn ratios in the spring were in the high teens or low 20s which is below average and will affect hunter success on younger age bucks. Last season, hunter success was generally average. Fort Rock continues to have low hunter success for the number of deer that summer in the unit, but hunter success and satisfaction was good in all other units.
Fire activity has been moderate this year with a variety of small fires (less than 1000 acres) and only one large fire near Wagontire Mountain. The Barry Point Fire of 2012 has a lot of young shrubs and is providing some good deer habitat.
Some suggested areas to hunt for hunters less familiar with the district:
MALHEUR DISTRICT (Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah Units)
The northern half of Malheur County experienced record snow over the winter of 2016-17. Snow began accumulating in early December and remained snow covered through the end of February. The harsh winter conditions had a significant negative impact on deer and pronghorn populations. The overall loss of these herds may not be fully understood until another population survey is conducted after next winter. While the southern portion of Malheur County experienced harsh winter conditions as well, the valley floors melted off between snow events providing wintering wildlife access to forage thus resulting in minimal loss of big game to winter conditions.
In the Beulah unit, fawn ratio (7/100 adults) and over winter adult mortality greater than 25% resulted in a 40% reduction in tags for the 2017 season. Additionally the management objective for the buck ratio has increased from 12 to 15 bucks per 100 does as part of the management objective review which took place in 2015. The combination of winter mortality and meeting buck ratio tag numbers means tags for this unit will remain at the reduced number for the 2018 season as well. As a result of the low fawn ratio, there will be also be very few yearling age class buck in the harvest this year.
Much of the best deer hunting is on public land near the edge of the Malheur National Forest. Other areas within the National Forest that have had recent fires or logging activity can also be productive
In Owyhee Unit, the northern portion of the unit was negatively impacted by severe winter conditions as well. Fawns ratio was 16/100 adults and above average winter mortality on adult deer resulted in a 25% cut in tags for 2017 (2018 tag numbers will remain at the reduced level as well). Wildfire and weed invasion continues to have an impact on the ability of this unit to produce deer. Even though it is a very challenging unit to hunt, hunter success remains above 50% with a majority of the bucks harvested being 3- and 4-points.
East Whitehorse Unit is another difficult unit to hunt if you are not familiar with the unit. Deer numbers are low and they can be widely scattered. The major fires of 2012 continue to have a negative effect. Winter conditions in the southern end of the county were significantly milder that in the Treasure Valley and did not appear to have a negative effect on deer populations.
In the Trout Creek Mountains, the Holloway Fire burned most of this area in 2012, except for the Oregon Canyon and Sherman Field areas. Since the fire, the higher elevations have had decent vegetation recovery. The deer population remains at similar numbers as pre-fire conditions and buck rations are well above 40 bucks per 100 does.
E Beulah is an elk de-emphasis zone. Tag numbers are high with numerous long seasons to keep the elk population under control. Success rates are poor during early season without access to private lands. Later hunt dates can have higher success if winter conditions move elk to more accessible areas.
Whitehorse and Owyhee units are part of the High Desert hunt area. Whitehorse unit has very few elk. An increasing number of elk have been observed in the northwestern portion of the Owyhee unit. These elk are often observed in large groups and very nomadic which makes them difficult to locate consistently.
BEAR & COUGAR
Bear and cougar numbers are sky high across Southern Oregon. Most hunters will purchase bear and cougar tags either as part of a Sportamsn's Pack or individually over the counter. I encourage all of you to purchase both tags and do your absolute best to fill both. You cannot hunt wolves in Oregon. BUT! You CAN hunt bears, cougars, and coyotes. And, by taking out the predators you can hunt, you are doing a BIG favor to our deer and elk herds. Remember, all you need to kill coyotes in Oregon is a valid hunting license. There is no season or bag limit. You can kill as many as you possibly can. PLEASE do this! Hunting coyotes will make you a better hunter overall. Because to hunt them successfully, you must outwit one of the smartest animals we have. Coyotes are very cunning. Especially if they KNOW they are being hunted. ALL predators become very tough to outsmart if they know you are hunting them.
Cougars can be the toughest of all. They rely on a silent, stealthy approach. They are very difficult to hunt without dogs. But it can be done!. For best success go in teams of at least two. Use an electronic call that makes the sounds of fawns bleating and or turkeys gobbling. Mornings, and evenings will give you the best chances for success. However, cougars can be active on a bright sunny day at 1 in the afternoon too. Pick fringe areas of timber and brush where you are seeing signs of deer and turkeys being active. Turn the caller on and then keep a sharp, sharp eye on the surrounding area. Cougars will come in like ghosts. Be ready at the slightest sign of movement. You may only get one chance with a cougar coming in to a call so you must be ready. And one more thing.....make very certain you are not shooting a female with kittens. That is going to be a violation of the law. Be sure you are legal before shooting.
Bears have one big advantage to them over coyotes and cougars. They are excellent eating! I would recommend that you take them to a butcher who will do wild game processing to allow them to prepare the meat for you. Bears are known to carry parasites in their meat just as wild hogs, pigs, and boars do. To be sure those have been eliminated and that meat will be safe to eat.....best to let a butcher do it. The other thing to remember about bears...if you get one, gut it and skin it as fast as you can. Bears do an amazing job at trapping heat within their body. Skinning and then quatering is a must if you want to have an edible bear. The meat of a bear will spoil faster than the meat of a deer or elk. So cold as fast as possible is essential. I have been known to quarter bears and then place the wrapped quaters in ice to make sure to avoid spoilage.
Bear tag sales do have a deadline in Oregon. It is going to be a week from this Friday concurrent with the deadlines for over the counter deet tag sales. In Eastern Oregon where deer tags are on the draw basis, next Friday is still your deadline to purchase a bear tag over the counter.
The actual hunting of bears in Oregon is actually a fairly easy propostion. Bears are found in most places where you find deer and elk. Bears like munching on the same grasses and forbes as the deer and elk. They will also be eating other things found in clearings or logged areas. They do key in on berry patches, so wherever you find berries of any kind, you have found a spot that a bear will be coming to at some point. Mornings and evenings for bears are the best times to hunt. But, I have pulled the trigger on several bears in the mid afternoon on cloudy days too.