Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
For immediate release
Date: September 3, 2003
Contact: Anne Pressentin Young
Information and Education Division
(503) 947-6020 Fax (503) 947-6009
3406 Cherry Avenue NE
Salem, OR 97303-4924
2003 Fall Hunting Forecast
Note: The 2003 Fall Hunting Forecast includes information on deer, elk, bear, cougar, waterfowl and upland game bird hunting. It is available on disk, via e-mail, standard mail or on the Web at http://www.dfw.state.or.us.
Hunters can expect a below-average year.
Buck hunting in the Saddle Mountain Unit should be good due to very good buck escapement last fall. Deer should be most visible in clear cuts, but occur in all habitats. Some areas to look at include upper Youngs River and Big Creek in Clatsop County and Crooked Creek and Deer Creek in Columbia County.
The Wilson Unit should offer good buck hunting due to excellent buck escapement last fall. Clear-cut habitat is limited with most occurring on private corporate lands. Areas to look at with recent logging include the upper North Fork Nehalem River, Lost Lake and Camp Olson.
Above average buck escapement last fall in the Trask Unit should account for good hunting prospects this fall especially in the eastern portion of the Trask Unit where there are good numbers of deer, including some mature bucks. Some of the best hunting is on private timberlands where recent timber harvest has occurred. Clear-cut habitat on federal forest lands is very limited, but recent logging on private lands has created considerable open habitat in the western portion of the unit. Some areas to consider include the upper Nestucca River, upper Tillamook River and lower Trask River tributaries. Deer season will be closed in the Wilson and Trask units during the Oct. 18-22 Wilson-Trask elk hunt.
In the Scappoose Unit, black-tailed deer hunting should be average. Hunters should glass young clear cuts three to six years old during the early morning hours and still hunt adjacent stands of mature timber during the afternoon for the best chance of success.
Santiam and Willamette Units - Deer hunting is forecast as below average. Buck escapement was good last season because of dry weather throughout the general season, which provided poor hunting conditions. Although buck escapement was good, significant mortality from hair-loss syndrome has occurred in many areas within the Willamette Valley and lower elevations of the Santiam Unit over the last three years. Deer hunting will be very difficult if the hot, dry conditions typically found early in the season persist. Better hunter success traditionally has occurred in the latter part of the season when rain and leaf fall have improved hunting conditions. The best early season bets are near irrigated croplands, north-facing slopes and cool areas near water. Fire closures will affect access to most private timberlands until significant rains occur. Hunters willing to spend time making contacts and securing permission to hunt private properties in the Willamette Valley should experience good hunting opportunities.
Stott Mountain Unit - ODFW expects hunting conditions to be poor to fair depending on location. The hot, dry growing season was preceded by another poor year for fawns primarily due to hair-loss syndrome, which may be taking a toll on the deer population. Hunting conditions vary around the unit. This archery season possibly will be hot and dry, with access limited because of fire danger. It is unlikely hunter success will be better than last year.
The eastern half and some areas of the southwest part of the unit have the best hunting opportunities because the deer population tends to be larger and more recent logging provides better visibility for hunters. Damage to tree seedlings does occur in some areas most notably in the south central and eastern edge of the Stott Mountain Unit. There are many roads and the unit is mostly private timberlands, so hunters need good maps and should have permission to hunt. The best map available is from the Department of Forestry and is titled, “Western Oregon.”
Alsea Unit - Deer harvest has fallen considerably the last four hunting seasons. If hot, dry weather continues into the deer season, expect hunting conditions to be poor to fair at best. The eastern half and northern third of the unit provide the best opportunities, but deer can be found throughout. Areas of timber damage generally are located in the eastern half of the unit and usually north of state Highway 34. Deer near the coast are in lower numbers and are more difficult to hunt. The best map available is from the Department of Forestry and is titled, “Western Oregon.”
Much of the Lane County portion of the Siuslaw Unit is composed of a mosaic of public and private lands. This mosaic has resulted in a diversity of habitat conditions that has been productive for deer. As in some other parts of western Oregon, deer populations in the Siuslaw Unit appear to be declining. Buck ratios, however, are still good. Buck escapement was good last season because of dry weather throughout the general season, which provided poor hunting conditions. Deer hair-loss syndrome has resulted in increased deer mortality in much of the lower elevation area. Hunting success is expected to be only fair this fall.
Deer population levels in the Indigo and McKenzie units appear to have declined slightly in the last few years because of both habitat changes and disease problems. In general, lower elevation areas are more productive and achieve higher deer densities. In the last three years, however, many deer in the Willamette Valley and lower elevation areas of the Indigo and McKenzie units have been affected by disease problems. Some localized areas have seen significant population declines. Buck ratios generally are good because buck escapement was good last season due to dry weather throughout the general season which provided poor hunting conditions. Large bucks can be found in agricultural fringe areas because of the good forage availability and more restricted access on private lands. High elevation areas also produce good bucks because the more extensive cover and limited road access in some areas allow many bucks to reach an older age. Diverse hunting opportunities are offered through archery seasons, muzzleloader seasons, youth hunts, general buck seasons and controlled antlerless hunts. Weyerhaeuser Company owns a large portion of the industrial forestlands in these units. Several Weyerhaeuser tracts have significant acreage in young tree plantations and provide fair hunting opportunities. Access information for Weyerhaeuser lands is available through a recorded message at (541) 741-5403. Overall, hunters can expect to find fair deer hunting throughout most of these two units.
Hunters should expect an above average year.
Good bull escapement from last fall’s harvest in the Saddle Mountain Unit will likely mean better than average bull hunting this fall. Areas with high elk numbers and open habitat include upper Youngs River, Big Creek and Rock Creek.
The Wilson Unit had very good bull escapement from the fall of 2002 and good calf recruitment this spring. Bull hunting should be very good with elk distributed throughout the unit. Two popular hunting areas are the upper North Fork Nehalem River, Lost Lake and Camp Olson.
Very good post-season bull ratios in the Trask Unit, coupled with good calf recruitment should provide better-than-average bull hunting prospects this fall. Elk are distributed throughout the unit. Some popular areas with open habitats include upper Tillamook River, upper Nestucca River and lower Trask River. Elk hunting should be good in the eastern portion of the Trask Unit with a good carry-over of bulls from last season. Much of the area is private timberland; access policies vary from year to year and from company to company. Hunters should contact the landowner if they have questions concerning access to specific areas.
Good post-season bull elk ratios and a stable elk population should provide hunters with better-than-average hunting in the Scappoose Unit. Bull elk hunters can expect to find an increase in the number of small branch bulls available. Elk will be scattered throughout the unit and hunters should spend time scouting prior to the season for best success. Some popular areas to hunt are the Cedar Creek Canyon, Pebble Creek drainage and Buxton-Bacona area.
Roosevelt elk numbers are stable or increasing slowly in the Santiam Unit. Elk are scattered throughout the unit making it difficult for hunters to target one specific area. Hunters are advised to scout a large area of the national forest to locate recent elk activity. The density of elk is generally lower in the northern part of the unit than in the southern part. The bull ratio is good throughout the unit and there are mature bulls in the population. Overall, hunting should be fair. There are good numbers of elk on private lands outside the national forest and hunting should be good for those with access.
Stott Mountain Unit - In certain areas, such as the middle third of the unit, elk numbers reach a high density. There are scattered herds throughout the unit outside this high-density area. Most bulls are spikes and young, branched bulls. Archery season may be affected by dry, hot weather if private lands are closed due to fire conditions. There are numerous controlled antlerless elk hunts for population control and damage. These hunts provide an excellent opportunity to harvest an elk if you drew a tag. Most of the Stott Mountain Unit is private timberland with many roads. There is a new travel management area in the Stott Mountain Unit and north Alsea Unit. Please read the 2003 regulations for details. When in the field, do not drive behind gated, bermed or posted roads when in the field. There are ample walk-in hunting opportunities.
Alsea Unit - The highest density of elk occurs in the southwest quarter of the unit between Highway 34 and Highway 126, from Waldport to Florence. Most of this land is U.S. Forest Service land with scattered private farmland in the valleys. The bull ratio has been improving and is above 10 bulls per 100 cows. A majority of bulls observed are branched. Hunters who are seeking large bulls should do considerable scouting before the hunting season. The terrain is rugged and much of the land is unobservable from roads because of tall trees and thick understory. Hunting is difficult. There are numerous scattered herds of elk outside of the southwest quarter, especially in the north central area of the unit. These scattered herds provide excellent hunting opportunities for those familiar with the unit, although some small local areas have poor bull ratios. There are growing elk populations north of Highway 20, as well as along the eastern edge of the unit. The antlerless elk controlled hunts in the Alsea Unit provide a great opportunity to harvest a cow elk.
The Siuslaw Unit has a growing population of elk, but is still below management objectives. Bull ratios also are below management objectives; consequently, yearling bulls comprise a high proportion of the harvest. Prospects for hunting in the north Siuslaw are only fair because of the steep, rugged terrain and the scattered herds of elk. Knowing this area well before the hunting season would greatly improve the chances of a successful hunt.
The Indigo and McKenzie units have healthy elk herds with population numbers near their management objectives. Of these two units, the McKenzie Unit has more wilderness and road closures that result in slightly higher bull ratios and more large bulls. Diverse hunting opportunities are offered. Hunters have choices from agricultural fringe areas to high country wilderness. A change in elk behavior and distribution in these two units has become evident in recent years as hunting opportunities have been expanded to include more cow hunts, youth hunts, muzzleloader hunts and archery hunts. Elk are now more dispersed and occur in smaller groups. They are very wary and are not often caught in open clear cuts. Calls that were effective a few years ago now do more to spook the elk than attract them. Many hunters are impressed with the amount of sign that they see, yet find it a challenge to actually find the elk. Hunting prospects for this year are expected to be good although hunters can expect to hunt hard to get one.
Hunters should expect an above average year.
Remember to purchase bear tags before the Oct. 3, 2003, deadline. Successful bear hunters must remember to send a premolar tooth from all black bear and reproductive tract from female bear to ODFW.
Bear populations in the Saddle Mountain, Wilson and Trask units should be at relatively high levels. Hunters should check out clear cuts and natural openings for berry patches that bear may use in the mornings and evenings. Bear densities tend to be higher in the coastal portions of these units than the interior portions. Predator calling has become more popular and can be a very effective method to hunt bear.
By western Oregon standards, the black bear population in the Scappoose Unit and eastern portion of the Trask Unit are relatively low. Most bears harvested in the area are shot incidentally while deer hunting. To increase chances for success, use a predator call or hunt in areas where bears forage for berries or fruit. Hunting will be best early in the season before human activity increases during deer and elk seasons.
The black bear population in the northern portion of the Santiam Unit is quite high, especially along the Sandy River from Sandy to Zig-Zag. Using a predator call or hunting areas where bears forage for berries or fruit may improve success. Hunters might look for orchards suffering damage, then ask the landowner for permission to hunt. Hunting will be best early in the season before human activity increases during deer and elk seasons. In the southern portion of the Santiam Unit, bear are more widely scattered in forest habitat and hunting is difficult. Populations are healthy, and bear can be taken by knowledgeable, patient hunters.
In the central Coastal Mountains, black bear are abundant but difficult to hunt, especially closer to the coast. Berry producing plants appear to be very vigorous, and we expect a good crop to provide plenty of bear food in a widespread area. Hunters should look for bears near berry patches and along streams and wet areas, especially during warm weather.
Bears are doing well in both the Alsea and Stott Mountain units. The number of bears increases the closer one gets to the coast. It is, however, difficult to hunt bears close to the coast because of thick vegetation. Bears occasionally can be seen along roads that are overgrown or rarely used. They also are observed along stream bottoms and areas that provide lots of berries. Using predator calls might improve bear hunting success. Look for bears in old burns and other areas with salal, blackberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, etc., in the earlier part of the season. Check out the Oregon Department of Forestry Web site to look at mapped areas of bear damage for potential hunting locations.
Bear populations are very healthy in the McKenzie, Indigo and Siuslaw units. At lower elevations look for bears near orchards, blackberry patches and around nut and fruit trees. At higher elevations, hunt for bear where huckleberries, manzanita berries, choke cherry or other berries are abundant.
Hunters should expect an average year.
Remember to purchase cougar tags before the Oct. 3, 2003, deadline.
Cougar densities appear to be relatively low in the Saddle Mountain, Wilson, Trask and Scappoose units compared to the Cascades. The best way to hunt these elusive cats, regardless of where you hunt, is with a predator call.
The cougar populations appear to be growing slowly in the Alsea and Stott Mountain units. Areas with abundant deer are the best places to begin. South of state Highway 34 appears to be the area with the most cougar, but they do live throughout both units.
In the southern Santiam and Willamette units, cougar are widely scattered in forest habitat and hunting is difficult. Populations are healthy and can be taken by knowledgeable, patient hunters.
Cougar are abundant throughout the Santiam, McKenzie, Indigo and Siuslaw units. Indicators such as sightings, damage complaints and cougar taken on damage problems, all indicate a population that has dramatically increased in number and distribution in the last several years. Hunting cougar is a challenge, but harvest of these elusive game animals is on the increase.
Northwest Upland Game Bird
Hunters should expect a better-than-average year.
The northwest Oregon upland bird outlook is good. In the northern Coast Range and mid-coast range, the dry 2003 nesting season should produce reasonably good numbers this year for mountain quail and forest grouse. Ruffed grouse have not been observed to be as numerous as in 2002, but mountain quail appear to have had a good year. Upland game birds are difficult to hunt because of the thick vegetation. Most people only see them along gravel roads. A good bird dog can significantly improve hunting. Mountain quail often are observed in young timber plantations and clear cuts, especially south-facing slopes before the fall rains. Ruffed grouse live along streams and damp places with plenty of berries. Hunters may find them in older forest areas near streams. An old, closed road in older timber near a stream could be an ideal place to hunt ruffed grouse. Blue grouse occasionally can be found in higher elevation coastal mountains. They are difficult to locate, but a good berry crop, which is a favorite food of grouse in the early fall, is expected this year. Populations of grouse can vary from stream system to stream system and appears spotty so it will take scouting to find the better areas.
Mourning dove numbers are fair in the Willamette Valley but any cool weather or rain may cause an early departure south. Hunting over stubble fields, water and gravel sources early in the season occasionally can be effective. Pheasant and California quail populations continue to be very limited since modern agricultural practices no longer support the numbers that once existed here. Nearly all of the Willamette Valley is private land, which requires obtaining access prior to hunting. Western Oregon fee pheasant hunts take place in September and October on the Sauvie Island, E.E. Wilson and Fern Ridge wildlife areas. Check the regulations for special rules that apply to the fee hunt program.
In the northern Cascades, blue and ruffed grouse can be found at higher elevations. Blue grouse numbers seem to be stable this year in the Cascades. Look for blue grouse on ridges, especially in areas with grassy meadows surrounded by large mature trees. Low gradient, meandering riparian areas in mixed deciduous forests are good ruffed grouse habitat. Mountain quail tend to inhabit young, grassy clear cuts. A dog can help find and flush grouse and mountain quail. Grouse and mountain quail hunting should be about normal with fair production for both species this year. Access may be regulated early in the season in some areas because of fire danger.
Hunters should expect an average to better than average year.
Large numbers of waterfowl coming south from Alaska and Canada should combine with expanding resident waterfowl to present good hunting opportunities this year. Season lengths and bag limits are again very liberal, except for restrictions on pintails, and canvasbacks. (See regulations.) Resident mallards will provide fair early-season hunting along the Willamette River, and late-season hunting is expected to be good for migrant ducks and geese. Duck hunters should scout for good spots on backwater sloughs, or secure permission now to hunt private properties. Healthy resident Canada goose populations and very liberal bag limits should provide good opportunities for September waterfowl hunters willing to do some pre-season scouting to learn the birds’ movement patterns.
Early duck hunting should be fair on coastal bays. Wigeon are mid to late migrants and will be available on coastal bays and lakes later in the season. Local populations of resident Canada geese continue to increase on mid-coastal bays and in the Willamette Valley. The best hunting generally occurs during storms before heavy rains flood fields and disperse birds, making them harder to hunt. Another excellent time to hunt the coast is during cold spells when some inland waters are ice-covered.
A mix of ducks (mainly wigeon, mallards and divers) should be available in larger north coast estuaries, such as the lower Columbia River and Tillamook, Nestucca and Nehalem bays. However, in recent years, the numbers of ducks on these estuaries has tended to be greater earlier in the season, with numbers diminishing significantly by December. The September goose season is an excellent opportunity for good goose hunting for hunters willing to invest time into making landowner contacts to get hunting access on private fields where the geese feed.
Hunters should expect a below-average to average year
Douglas County (Dixon, S. Indigo, NW Evans Creek, Melrose, SW Siuslaw, E. Tioga and NE Powers Units) - Deer populations are similar to last year with low levels at higher elevations and medium to high population levels on the Umpqua Valley floor. Most low elevation lands are privately owned so hunters are reminded to obtain permission before hunting on those lands. Also, hunters are reminded that Columbian White-tailed deer, recently removed from the Federal Endangered Species List and not yet open to hunting, inhabit some of the lower elevations in Douglas County. Hunters should be certain of a black-tailed deer target. Buck and fawn ratio counts after last hunting season were average. In addition, mild winter conditions the last couple of years have contributed to excellent survival providing a good deer harvest opportunity this season. During the early part of the rifle and archery seasons, hunters should find deer on the northerly slopes and near water and green up areas.
Coos County (Tioga, Sixes, and Powers Units) – Black-tail deer populations continue to be at low levels in coastal Coos County units. If dry conditions persist, hunters will find much of the private land closed to access until rain develops later in the fall. The dry conditions will not have much influence on deer distribution near the coast; however, dry conditions farther inland will influence deer distribution. During the archery and early part of the rifle season, hunters should look for deer on northerly slopes and other areas providing water and green feed.
Curry County (S. Sixes and Chetco Units) - Overall deer populations are still low, but buck ratios have improved in both units as the result of four years of good fawn production. In recent years, the most productive habitat and best visibility have been found on lower elevation private timber corporation lands. However, with the advent of the Biscuit fire last summer, there may be some opportunities in the 500,000 acres affected by the burn. The area is primarily U.S. Forest Service land located in and around the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. Re-growth in the Biscuit Fire has provided some excellent forage and visibility has improved considerably in most of the affected area. The main obstacle for hunters probably will be access. The terrain is rugged and there is minimal road access to most of the burn area. Hunters should check with the U.S. Forest Service and private timber companies for information on access and permit requirements.
Jackson County (Rogue, Evans Creek, E. Applegate and S. Dixon Units) - Deer populations show a slight decrease from last year, and remain below management objectives. Buck ratios are generally increased from last year as a result of the dry conditions experienced during last year’s hunting season. Good numbers of three- and four-point bucks should be available this year. Hunters are reminded there are still deer remaining with radio collars. Any harvested deer with radio collars should be reported to ODFW at (541) 826-8774.
Josephine County (E. Chetco and W. Applegate Units) - Deer populations are highest at the lower elevations. Buck ratios were slightly lower last winter in both units, but hunter success should be fair in these areas. The Biscuit Fire burned more than 700 square miles in the Chetco Unit, and should provide good feed and visibility as the vegetation recovers over the next few years.
Hunters can expect a slightly better than average year.
Douglas County (Dixon, S. Indigo, NW Evans Creek, Melrose, SW Siuslaw, E. Tioga and NE Powers Units) - Bull and calf ratios were up this spring with ratios above our management objectives. The outlook for hunters this elk season looks to be above average. This prediction is a result of ratio increases, good escapement from last hunting season and very mild winter increasing survival of elk herds. Elk numbers are greatest in the E.Tioga, S. Siuslaw, mid to high elevations of the Dixon and S. Indigo and the perimeter of the Melrose units. Some of the local private timberlands are restricting access because of the high fire danger so hunters should contact them for information on any restrictions before hunting.
Coos County (Tioga, Sixes, and Powers Units) – Elk hunting in these units is all limited entry. The Tioga is one of the top-producing units in the state for total bull harvest, with other units providing diverse hunting opportunities for fewer people. Bull numbers and calf production in the Tioga dropped slightly, but bull ratios continue to be at or above management objectives in this three-point or better unit. Hunter interest for limited tags in the Sixes Unit is high and those with tags should have a high success rate despite much privately owned land. Calf production and bull survival in the Sixes Unit is stable and hunter success is good. The number of older bulls in the Powers Unit is similar to last year with 44 percent of observed bulls being classified as five-point or better. Calf ratios in the Powers Unit dropped from last year’s record high, but still are at a level needed to maintain a stable population. As the age structure of bulls has increased, so has the interest by hunters for the limited, one-bull tags for the second season. Spike survival through the hunting seasons is good and continues to contribute to the older bull population.
Curry County (S. Sixes and Chetco Units) - These units are both limited-entry hunts with a bag limit of any bull. Populations are stable in both units and success should be similar to last year. The majority of elk are located on private lands; there may be, however, some additional opportunity in the area around the Biscuit Fire area. Hunters should check with the U.S. Forest Service and private timber companies for information on access and permit requirements.
Jackson County (Rogue, Evans Creek, S. Dixon and E. Applegate Units) - Hunters can expect better than normal success in the Rogue and South Dixon units this year. Calf production has improved in both units, and extremely dry conditions during the 2002 season led to good carry over of mature bulls. The Upper Rogue Green Dot Travel Management program again will be in effect on the Prospect and Butte Falls Ranger Districts. Elk in the Evans Creek Unit are primarily found near private properties. Bull ratios and calf production are both quite high, but private properties often limit access.
Josephine County (E. Chetco and W. Applegate Units) - Deer populations are highest at the lower elevations. Buck ratios were slightly lower last winter in both units, but hunter success should be fair in these areas. The Biscuit Fire burned more than 700 square miles in the Chetco Unit, and should provide good feed and visibility as the vegetation recovers over the next few years.
Southwest Bear and Cougar
Hunters can expect an average year.
Remember to purchase bear and cougar tags before the Oct. 3, 2003, deadline.
Successful bear hunters are reminded to turn in a bear tooth for the ongoing bear population study in Southwest Oregon.
Douglas County - The very dry weather conditions will concentrate bears near streams where foraging will be better. Hunters should concentrate their efforts in the berry patches in early morning and late afternoon. Bear numbers are good with the highest numbers at moderate to low elevations in the coast range, and with smaller populations in the Cascades. Cougars are abundant throughout Douglas County with indicators pointing to increasing numbers and distribution. Hunting cougar is a challenge, but harvest success is greatest adjacent to private low elevation lands using a predator call.
Coos County – Opportunities for seeing a bear to harvest will be excellent this fall in all hunting units. Bears came through the winter in good condition. Very dry conditions should bring bears down to the lower elevations where food availability is fair to good. Hunters should concentrate hunting efforts during early morning and evening. The cougar population in Coos County is high with numerous sightings and damage complaints. Most cougars are taken incidentally during other hunting seasons, but many are taken with the aid of a predator call.
Curry County - Bear populations are high in the Chetco and Sixes units. Early in the season, look for bears feeding in areas of high blackberry or huckleberry production. As acorns ripen later in the season, hunters should look for bear activity in oak stands. The massive Biscuit Fire has burned many of the foraging areas at higher elevations, so bear feeding activity will likely be heavier in unburned areas around the fire.
Jackson/Josephine Counties - Bear populations are generally high. Early season hunters can often find bears near huckleberries at higher elevations, or feeding on blackberries on north slopes and near creeks. Later in the season, best success will be near acorns or fruit trees at lower elevations. Cougars are common throughout the area, but seldom seen. Most are taken incidentally by hunters while searching for other game, but they can be successfully hunted by using predator calls.
Southwest Upland Game Birds
Hunters can expect an above-average year.
Hunters are asked to help in data collection by providing a wing, tail fan with rump feathers, and the crop from harvested blue and ruffed grouse. Collection bags (one for each bird) and simple instructions are available at all ODFW offices. Bags with samples should be dropped off at any ODFW office. This information is used for determination of diet, hatching dates, sex and age composition and general health of local populations. Mountain quail nesting season was excellent so hunting success should be high. Success is best in the mid-elevations of the Cascades and Coast Range near brushy clear cuts on secondary forest roads. Turkey production was excellent again this year so hunter harvest should improve especially with the tag and season length increases for fall 2002. Most turkeys can be found on or adjacent to low-mid elevation private lands associated with oak savannah habitat. California (Valley) quail counts were up this year so hunting success should be good. Most California quail are found on agricultural and low elevation forest land. Pheasant outlook is poor since the Umpqua Valley lowlands have very few pheasants that still exist on private lands and are available for harvest. Blue and ruffed grouse counts for the last three years indicate average to above average production. Hunting availability and success for forest grouse should be good this season. Blue grouse success is best in mid to high elevations of the Cascades in partly open conifer stands. Ruffed grouse can be found near creeks mostly at mid elevations of both the Cascades and Coast Range.
Coos County - Hunters should find mountain and valley quail hunting good to excellent in Coos County. A good carry over from the mild winter and good nesting conditions should result in greater numbers of birds available to hunters. Good numbers of grouse adults and chicks were observed on spring routes. Ruffed grouse numbers appear to be up slightly from recent years while blue grouse appear to be stable.
There was a good carry over of adult upland birds in Curry County due to the mild winter. Mountain quail and grouse had a very good nesting season. California quail are present on agricultural lands and low elevation forest land. California quail also had an excellent nesting season.
The dry weather for most of the early summer in the Rogue Valley allowed excellent survival conditions for game bird chicks. Nearly 13 chicks per brood of mountain quail were observed on mountain quail surveys this summer, and grouse counts were improved over the last few years. Pen-reared pheasants will be released on the Denman Wildlife Area near White City for a youth hunt in September and a permit entry hunt in October. Reservations are needed to assure an opportunity in the youth hunt, so hunters should consult the Upland Game Bird Regulations for details of both hunts.
Hunters can expect an above-average year.
Hunting for resident geese in Douglas County should be very good because of an excellent production year. The early September goose hunt (Sept. 7-13) should be excellent for hunters with permitted access to private property. Local duck production is traditionally good, but small, so success should improve as the fall migrating ducks arrive. Nearly all waterfowl hunting in the Umpqua Valley is on private property and hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting.
Local Western Canada goose production in Coos County was very good and should provide good numbers of birds for hunters during the early September and general goose seasons. Hunters are reminded that during the general goose season, the west side of Highway 101 is open to goose hunting from the Coos/Douglas county line near Lakeside south to the city limits of Bandon. Also, Bandon Marsh Wildlife Refuge is closed to goose hunting during the early September season but will be open during the general goose season. Early season duck hunting primarily will be for locally produced birds. Best success will be in river estuaries and coastal wetland areas. Later success for ducks will be dependent on weather conditions locally and to the north.
Canada goose populations continue to expand in the Rogue Valley. Duck hunting success depends on water conditions and winter storms to the north. Some public hunting opportunities can be found on the Rogue River, Denman Wildlife Area and area reservoirs, but most birds are associated with private properties. Hunters are reminded to obtain permission to hunt private lands, and be considerate of private residences along the riverbanks.
HIGH DESERT REGION – Central/SE Oregon
Current conditions are such that a major fire could occur prior to major hunting seasons. Hunters need to consider the effects of fire as well as drought as they make their hunting plans for 2003.
Hunting will be difficult as long as warm and dry weather continue. Hunters should contact local land management agencies to determine current fire restrictions, and information regarding the status of access and camping.
- Depending on the weather and the fire situation, some roads or areas may be closed to entry. Contacting the landowner or responsible public agency in advance may save a wasted trip.
- Deer and elk tend to avoid new, big burns. However, look for animals in adjacent unburned cover, particularly if there is water and green forage.
- If there are early fall rains, fire areas may experience a burst of regrowth. This new green forage is highly desirable to deer and elk, and the animals will move out into the burns in pursuit of this high quality food. The 2002 fire areas have not recovered to the point that big game forage is available without fall rains. Most animals, therefore, will be located in remaining cover areas adjacent to the burns. Substantial numbers of dead trees remain in the 2002 fire areas and these trees have a tendency to fall during periods of high wind. Hunters should avoid the burns during high winds.
High Desert Deer
Hunters can expect an average year
The mule deer populations in the Maupin Unit are starting to show the effects of poor fawn survival as buck ratios have declined. Buck ratios are at management objectives in West Biggs with a good population of older age class bucks as a result of good buck ratios over the last few years. Black-tailed deer in the White River Unit are slightly above management objective levels of 25 bucks per 100 does. Deer will be near water and evenly distributed throughout the unit. The Hood Unit offers good, heavy cover hunting with lots of older age class bucks to be found. Hunters should concentrate their time around recent to five-year-old logging activity.
Maury, Ochoco, and Grizzly Units - Herd numbers are comparable to last year, with some improvement in fawn recruitment in the Ochoco Unit. This should result in increased yearling bucks. Unfortunately, mature buck numbers are at, or slightly below, last year’s levels. The Rager Cooperative Travel Access Program will be in effect on the Paulina Ranger District with no changes in the program from last year. Motorized vehicle restriction associated with the program starts three days prior to the buck season opener and runs through elk seasons. Hunters should expect difficult hunting and reduced success if the current warm and dry weather pattern continues. Hunters should check with BLM and Ochoco National Forest offices for fire restrictions in effect.
Upper Deschutes, Paulina, Metolius, North Wagontire, and North Fort Rock Units - Good numbers of mature bucks and fair numbers of yearling bucks should be available in all units. Hunter success is expected to be good in the Paulina, North Fort Rock and North Wagontire units. Please refer to the 2003 Oregon Big Game Regulations for a listing of the road closure areas in the Paulina and Fort Rock units. Bowhunters should note that the bag limit in the Fort Rock unit this year is one buck with visible antler. Success will be fair to good in the Metolius and fair in the Upper Deschutes, but will depend on moisture and cooler temperatures. An adenovirus hemorrhagic disease outbreak in the Metolius and North Upper Deschutes units in 2002 has reduced deer numbers somewhat in both units. This disease is not known to be transmissible to humans.
Silver Lake and East Fort Rock Units - Although winter was mild throughout the area over-winter fawn survival was only fair. The 2002 post-season buck ratio was above management objectives. Older bucks, plus fewer yearling bucks, should make for average hunting opportunities. In July 2002, the Tool Box, Silver and Winter fires burned about one-sixth of the Silver Lake Unit, with the majority of burn intensity low. Most of these burn areas have not recovered to the point where perennial forage is available, but early fall rains will allow herbaceous plants to green up and deer to use the burn areas. Hunters should focus their efforts in areas of mixed burned and unburned stands.
South Wagontire, Juniper, Warner and West Beatys Butte Units - Winter was mild throughout the area. Spring fawn ratios, however, were poor, which will result in few yearling bucks available. The 2002 post-season buck ratios were above management objectives with the exception of the North Warner unit, which was below the management objective. Older bucks will be available to hunt this fall. However, dry conditions will affect buck distribution. Without substantial fall rains, hunters should focus on areas with water and good forage.
Keno, Klamath Falls, Interstate, Sprague and South Fort Rock Units – Over-winter fawn survival in the south-central units was fair. Lower fawn survival will result in fewer yearling bucks available this fall. Winter buck ratios, however, were at or above management objective. Overall population numbers remain below desired levels. Dry conditions likely will impact buck distribution and activity. Hunter success will depend on moisture and cooler weather.
Over-winter fawn survival declined in the Silvies, Malheur River, Juniper and Beatys Butte units despite a mild winter. As a result, fewer yearling bucks will be available. Numbers of mature bucks should be similar to last year, with the exception of the Silvies Unit where rifle hunter numbers were reduced by 20 percent to compensate for the decrease in buck numbers. Hunter success in these units is expected to range from 35 percent to 50 percent. Drought conditions currently exist, causing deer to be distributed in areas with adequate water and forage.
Deer numbers remain well below the management objective in the Steens Mountain Unit and Trout Creek Mountain Hunt Area. However, hunter success is expected to be good due to high post-season buck ratios and very limited hunter numbers. Dry conditions exist in the Steens and Trout Creek Mountains, but the high elevations and relatively abundant water moderate the effects on deer distribution.
Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah Units - Hunter success in these units is expected to be fair. For the second straight year, fawn ratios were not particularly high, but over-winter survival was good. Therefore, recruitment into the adult population should be fairly good this year. Summer has been extremely hot and dry so hunters may experience difficult hunting conditions. Expect to see deer concentrated around water unless we get fall rains before the rifle season. Expect a season comparable to 2002. Buck ratios are fairly high in most units. Due to the dry conditions, hunters are reminded to be extremely careful with fire and check with the local land management agency for travel restrictions before they go hunting.
High Desert Elk
Hunters can expect a better than average year.
Elk numbers in the White River and Hood units are above the management objective. Bull numbers are good, but heavy cover makes harvesting one a challenge. Most hunters choose to hunt the second of the two general seasons. Bull elk hunting in the Maupin and West Biggs also is general season, but the animals are almost exclusively found on private lands. Unless a hunter knows a landowner in that area, it will be very difficult to find a place to hunt.
Ochoco, Maury and Grizzly Units - Elk populations appear stable in the Grizzly and down somewhat in the Maury and Ochoco units. Continued drought has led to increasing use of lower elevation private lands and is believed to have caused some elk in the eastern portions of the Maury Unit to move into portions of the Silvies Unit. Calf ratios were higher than expected, and should result in increased opportunities for yearling bulls. Bull hunters should expect overall bull numbers to be similar to last year’s levels. Young hunters participating in the Ochoco Youth Antlerless Hunt are encouraged to scout areas. Water availability will effect elk distribution, and all hunters should scout prospective hunting areas for water and elk use. The Rager Cooperative Travel Access Program will be in effect for all November elk seasons. There are no changes in the Access Program from last year.
Upper Deschutes, Paulina, Metolius, North Wagontire and Fort Rock Units - Elk numbers continue to grow slowly in the Cascade units. In the Paulina, East Fort Rock and the North Wagontire units elk populations appear to be down somewhat, and are widely scattered. The Upper Deschutes, Metolius and West Fort Rock units are managed under the general season ‘Cascade’ hunt. Weather will play an important role in improving hunter success and hunt quality if early winter weather arrives. Most elk in the ‘High Desert’ Wagontire Unit are found in the north half of the unit.
The Keno, West Sprague and West Fort Rock units are within the General Cascade Elk Season. Elk numbers are low and scattered throughout the area. Hunting should be fair, depending on weather conditions. Bull ratios are good with older bulls available. Access is good on Winema National Forest, BLM and private timberlands.
The East Fort Rock, East Sprague, Silver Lake, Klamath, Interstate and Warner units have a general first season with a limited-entry second season. None of these units is managed for elk. Numbers are low and are scattered throughout the area. Hunters should not expect to find large concentrations of animals. Access is excellent throughout most of the area, with the Klamath Unit being the only one with extensive private lands. It also has the lowest elk numbers. Although elk densities are low throughout these units, elk are most numerous in the East Fort Rock and Silver Lake units. Weather will play an important role in hunter success and hunt quality, as early snow improves hunting conditions. While the Tool Box, Silver and Winter fires burned about one-sixth of the Silver Lake Unit, the majority of the burn intensity was low. If there are fall rains, these areas may provide new green forage, which is highly desirable to elk.
Elk populations in the Silvies and North Malheur River units are similar to last year with fair numbers of branch-antlered bulls present in the herds. Bull elk hunter numbers, however, were reduced in the North Malheur sub-unit by to offset lower calf recruitment over the last three years. Hunter success is expected to be comparable to last year but could fluctuate depending on weather conditions.
Elk numbers, bull ratios and hunter success is expected to be similar to last year in the High Desert Hunt Area. Due to the large remote nature of the area and low elk densities, ODFW recommends pre-hunt scouting trips for those unfamiliar with the country. Elk populations are best in the north half of the Steens and Wagontire units, and in the Stinkingwater Mountains south of Highway 20.
High Desert Bear and Cougar
Hunters can expect an average year.
Remember to purchase bear and cougar tags before the Oct. 3, 2003, deadline. Successful bear hunters must remember to send a premolar tooth from all black bear and reproductive tract from female bear to ODFW.
The Hood and White River units hold good numbers of bear and cougar with regular season hunters encountering both species often. Hunters are encouraged to carry bear and cougar tags while hunting deer and elk.
Ochoco, Grizzly and Maury Units - Bear are scattered and present at low numbers throughout the forested portions of the Grizzly and Ochoco units. Harvest success will likely be low, with better hunting on the northern portions of Lookout Mountain and Paulina Ranger Districts, Ochoco National Forest. The district continues to see slow, but steady growth in cougar numbers and harvest. Animals are present in all three units, from low elevation sagebrush rangelands to higher elevation mixed conifer forestlands. The animals’ distribution is closely tied to deer and elk, and hunting on big game winter ranges late in the year has been effective. Suggested areas to consider include: Maury Mountains, Salt Creek, and Bear Creek (Maury); Lookout Mountain, upper Bridge Creek, and South Fork John Day River (Ochoco); and Mill Creek and Green Mountain (Grizzly).
Cougar hunters will find healthy cougar populations in the eastern halves of the Metolius and Upper Deschutes units. Black bear hunters will find the best bear densities in the western halves of the Fort Rock, Metolius and Upper Deschutes units.
Cougar numbers have continued to grow in all Lake and Klamath County units. Increased sightings and damage situations are being reported. Hunters are becoming more successful in using predator calls on these big cats or through opportunistic sightings during deer and elk seasons. Therefore, deer and elk hunters may want to carry a cougar tag while hunting during those seasons. Bear numbers appear to be increasing especially in the Cascades (Keno, West Sprague and West Fort Rock). A few more bears are being taken incidentally while deer and elk hunting.
Bear populations exist in relatively low numbers in the Silvies and North Malheur River units. The northern portion of the North Malheur River sub-unit offers the best opportunity for bear hunters. Cougar numbers are increasing in southeastern Oregon. Highest densities occur in the Trout Creek Mountains, Silvies, Malheur River and Steens units. Most of the harvest occurs during deer and elk seasons or during the winter by following tracks in fresh snow. Opportunities to harvest cougars are best in areas with concentrations of deer, elk or bighorn sheep.
High Desert Upland Game Birds
Hunters can expect an average opportunity.
Wasco and Sherman Counties: Upland bird production, with the exception of California quail, was poor again this year. Brood counts for pheasant were the fourth lowest on record. Chukar counts were the lowest on record. On the bright side, counts for California quail were near record highs. Most of the quail will be associated with private property. Hunters must have permission to hunt on private property.
Crook and Jefferson Counties: Nesting success was good, with improved brood success noted for doves, chukar, and valley quail. Valley quail should provide above-average opportunities this year. Hunting will be better at lower elevations on private and BLM lands where wet areas provide cover and riparian habitat. Chukars are scattered and will be found predominantly among the canyons along the upper Crooked, Deschutes, and John Day river systems. Access to public land is limited, and hunters need to be mindful of private property and have permission from landowners. Dove numbers are above average, but success will depend on weather conditions staying favorable. Both blue and ruffed grouse should provide fair opportunities at higher elevations on northern portions of the Ochoco National Forest.
Deschutes County: Upland game bird hunters should have an average season for species in the area. California (valley) quail populations are in good shape and will supply good hunting opportunities. Most California quail are found on or near private lands where hunters must get permission to hunt. Mourning dove populations should provide good hunting opportunities as long as the weather remains mild. Ruffed and blue grouse are present in low densities along the east slopes of the Cascades. Upland game birds, rabbits and coyotes all appear to have had a good production year.
In Lake and Klamath counties, early spring rains prior to the hatch resulted in good brood production and survival for most upland game birds. Excellent numbers of valley quail are available in foothill areas, mostly on private lands. Best areas for blue and ruffed grouse are in the Cascades on Winema National Forest. Blue grouse can be found along ridge tops in more open forest habitats while ruffed grouse are generally found along riparian areas. Chukar hunting should be good in eastern Lake County. In Klamath County, chukars will again be released in the Klamath Hills. Wild pheasant numbers remain at extremely low levels. Pheasants Unlimited will be releasing pheasants at Klamath Wildlife Area and selected private lands open to the public. Sage grouse production was good. Hunting is by limited entry only.
Harney County: Over-winter survival of chukar, California quail and sage grouse was very good this year. Brood production also was good this summer. Hunters can expect a good year, with mixed populations of chukar and quail available on public lands. If dry weather continues, birds will be concentrated around water on the opener. Pheasant nesting success was fair, but habitat and bird numbers are limited in Harney County.
Malheur County: Upland bird brood surveys indicate fairly good hatch and survival for quail and chukar. Hunting for these species should be slightly better than 2002. Pheasant populations continue to remain low with the majority of the birds occupying private lands and ability to access quality habitat will influence hunting success. Hunters must have permission to hunt on private lands. Mourning dove season is expected to be good until cool weather causes local birds to migrate south. Best hunting for doves is around desert water holes, agricultural lands and weedy areas. Sage grouse experienced a fairly good brood year and hunting should be good. Sage grouse hunting is by limited entry only.
High Desert Waterfowl
Hunters can expect an average to below normal year with drought affecting some areas.
Wasco, Sherman and Hood Counties - Goose hunting opportunity in wheat fields should be average with most access via private land. Some access is via Upland Cooperative Access Program lands in Sherman County. See 2003-04 Oregon Game Bird Regulations for details. Duck hunting is mostly jump shooting on private lands and should offer good opportunity where available.
Jefferson and Crook Counties - Mallard nesting success was poor due to drought and reduced water availability. Canadian goose production was slightly better, but still below normal levels. Hunting opportunities on resident birds are expected to be poor. Most of the better habitat and hunting opportunities that are available will be on private land where securing access is difficult.
Deschutes County - Goose hunting prior to freeze up should be very good; resident Canada geese had an excellent production year. Duck hunting should be average.
Early season usually is best for local and early migrant birds, and hunters can expect to find abundant gadwalls and mallards in the Klamath Basin, Summer Lake Basin and Lake County major wetland areas. Drought conditions may affect bird distributions if substantial fall rains do not occur. Most of the large lakes and wetlands in the Warner Valley are dry or have very low water, so waterfowl hunting will be poor. Hunters should focus on areas with water and good forage. Hunting prospects will depend on Pacific Northwest weather systems moving birds in Klamath and Lake counties before freeze up. Most goose hunting occurs on private lands and hunters are reminded to ask permission from landowners before hunting private lands. These private lands can provide excellent opportunities for those willing to seek access and spend some time. Snow goose hunting at Summer Lake Wildlife Area should be good. The Summer Lake Wildlife Area is closed during the September goose season. Klamath Wildlife Area wetlands in Unit A and Unit C are being renovated. Construction activities may affect waterfowl hunting opportunities in these units during the early season.
Harney County - Populations of ducks and geese are good but hunting opportunity, especially for ducks, will be limited due to the drought. Access to the Malheur Refuge waterfowl hunting area is difficult as the lake is shrinking in size. Boats cannot access the hunt area and hunters must walk one mile or more to reach the edge of Malheur Lake. Bare mud flats border the lake as it recedes. Goose hunting should be good over decoys for those hunters who have access to private alfalfa and grain fields.
Snake River Valley - Good local production of waterfowl should provide fair hunting early in the season. Hunters need to be aware that low snow pack in the last two years has resulted in extremely low water levels for many local lakes and reservoirs. Late season hunting will depend on weather conditions in the north that push the birds south into the Snake River area. Generally this happens late in the season. Waterfowl seasons in southeast Oregon will be allowed to run late into the winter again this year. This should improve hunting opportunity in the Snake River Valley.
Hunters should expect an average to below average year.
Walla Walla Unit: Scattered hunting opportunity with mule deer populations showing buck ratios somewhat below the management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does. Spring fawn ratios were slightly below average, which will affect the number of young bucks in the population. Deer should be widely distributed throughout all elevations in the forest. Many hunters choose to hunt white-tailed deer in this unit with good success expected. White-tailed deer will be located in heavier cover in the low and mid-elevation foothills.
West Mt. Emily Unit: Deer numbers are stable with mule-deer buck ratios somewhat below management objective levels. Fawn ratios during the spring were typical for what has been seen in recent years and will supply an average number of young bucks available for harvest. White-tailed deer also are quite numerous throughout the mid-elevation areas in this hunt area. Hunters should always ask first when hunting on private lands.
Ukiah Unit: Buck ratios are slightly below the management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does. There was a fair spring fawn ratio. Forest conditions are dry and deer will be concentrated in moist areas. The Tower Fire area dropped in deer production last year and is expected to produce fewer deer this year as has been the case since the fire. Hunters should still find good numbers of deer throughout the forested portion of the unit.
Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Imnaha, Minam, Snake River Units: Mule deer populations remain below management objectives in all units. Post-season buck ratios are at or above management objectives in all but the Snake River Unit and fawn survival was improved over last year in all units except Snake River and Imnaha. Hunters can expect to see more yearling bucks due to higher fawn recruitment.
Heppner, Fossil, Columbia Basin and East Biggs Units: Spring deer counts indicate fawn recruitment continues to decline in all units. Deer populations in all four areas are below the listed management objective populations. Post-season buck ratios, however, are near recommended levels but hunters will find fewer yearling bucks available due to the low fawn recruitment last spring. Tag numbers have been reduced for all buck and doe hunts in the units listed above and hunter success is expected to be lower than in past years.
In response to dry conditions, deer move to those areas that provide adequate food and water. If dry weather conditions continue, hunters should plan their hunts accordingly. Hunters using the Heppner Regulated Hunting Area will probably be faced with fire use restrictions.
Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily Units - Deer numbers in the Starkey Unit are above management objectives and are about average in the East Mt. Emily Unit. Deer numbers in the Catherine Creek Unit, however, were only about 40 percent of ODFW’s management objective. Fair numbers of yearling bucks combined with post-season buck ratios of nine for the Starkey Unit and 17 for Catherine Creek Unit should provide good opportunities for buck tag holders. The East Mt. Emily unit had 18 bucks per 100 does. The management objective is 15 per 100 does for these units. The long, dry summer should result in deer using cooler, wetter, forested areas where forage quality is best. If September rains occur, deer will be found using any re-growth that results.
Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt. and Sumpter Units: Deer populations have leveled out; however, fawn survival improved from last year. Above normal rainfall this spring has improved range conditions at mid to higher elevations.
Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, NW Beulah Units: Fawn recruitment and the buck-to-doe ratio increased in the Murderers Creek Unit and hunters should expect to see a greater number of yearling bucks this fall. Northside Unit deer experienced an increase in recruitment, but the number of mature bucks per 100 does is lower than last year and slightly below management objectives. Dry summer weather has contributed to distribution of deer throughout all elevations in the Murderers Creek and Northside units. The Desolation Unit fawn recruitment is down but hunters will find a good number of mature bucks. Hunters should expect harvest success to be very similar to the past five years in the Desolation Unit. Forage conditions are excellent in the higher elevations of the Desolation Unit. Deer numbers in Northwest Beulah Unit are stable to slightly increasing. Deer are found throughout the forested part of the unit, but occur at lower densities than do the sagebrush deer.
Hunters should expect a below-average to average year.
Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily Units - Low calf numbers last year continue to affect elk densities. The elk population has improved in the Starkey Unit and is at the management objective level. The elk population in the Catherine Creek Unit is about 67 percent of the management objective level. After several years of spike-only regulations, the post-season bull ratio for the Starkey Unit was nine per 100 cows. Catherine Creek Unit post-season bull ratio was four bulls per 100 cows observed. Survival of calves was poor for the fourth year at 22 in the Starkey Unit and 17 per 100 cows for the Catherine Creek Unit. This will result in similar or fewer yearling bulls (spikes) for hunters this fall. In the east portion of the Mt. Emily Unit, elk numbers remain low. With the hot, dry summer, elk may be concentrating on areas of quality forage. Depending on fall weather conditions, hunters should have a fair opportunity to harvest an elk in Union County.
Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, NW Beulah - Calf recruitment was down slightly in