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2014 Oregon Big Game Hunting Forecast


General Overview | East Region | West Region | Full Report (pdf)


Joseph Rutledge

Joseph Rutledge with the 8x9 Roosevelt elk he took in Western Oregon

The start date for hunting season bodes well for deer and elk hunters this year. Most season dates are based on the deer rifle opener, which is always the Saturday nearest Oct. 1. Season dates follow a cycle in which they progress one day earlier each year and then “jump” a week later, starting the cycle over again. This year’s start date is the latest in the cycle (Oct. 4, compared to Sept. 28 last year).

“This means reduced chance of fire impacting your season but more importantly the leaves will be off the trees and the bucks will be feeling rutty by the end of the season,” says Brian Wolfer, ODFW district biologist in Springfield. “If you have been on the fence about trying general Western Oregon rifle deer, this is the year to do it as it’s the latest possible season.”

While overall deer and elk populations are lower than biologists would like to see in western Oregon, buck and bull ratios are still above management objectives or benchmarks in most units. “There are bucks and bulls to harvest but it takes more homework and scouting than in the past when populations were higher,” said Wolfer.

For most of eastern Oregon, summer has been extremely hot and dry. Early season hunters will need to focus on areas with good forage and water and should expect animals to be more concentrated by water sources. However, early summer rains produced forage later than usual so “the body condition of animals should be excellent,” says Brian Ratliff, ODFW district biologist in Baker City.

Deer and elk hunting tips

  • Learn about habitat and focus your hunting in areas with high quality forage.  Look for feed and water for the animals you will hunt. Areas adjacent to burns or private timber clear cuts that have an abundance of shrubs are good spots; if the shrub component is not there you will not find many deer. GeoMac is a good tool to find past fires; ODFW’s OregonHuntingMap.com and Google Earth are also good scouting tools.

  • Look for an area with lots of public land or property open to hunting—the bigger the better so there are more places to roam.  The Oregon Hunting Map (link above) includes information about private lands open to hunters through the Access and Habitat Program.

  • Scout and then scout some more. Scout during the summer when deer are easier to spot due to the color of their summer coat; bucks will also spend more time in the open to avoid injuring their velvet antlers. In western Oregon, keep in mind that many mid to low elevation black-tailed deer have a very small home range. If you find a good buck in the summer, it will likely be within a mile or two of that location during the hunting season. (The exception is the southern Oregon Cascades where some black-tailed deer are migratory.)

  • Mike Hickey

    Mike Hickey with his blacktail buck
    -Photo by Mike Hickey-

    Get out of your car and away from roads. If an area is gated or the road is bermed and you are allowed to walk or bike in, these can be some of the best locations to hunt. “A lot of hunters tell me that they have no problem getting into game because they get off the roads and hunt where the animals are found,” says Tod Lum, ODFW district wildlife biologist in Roseburg. This is especially important for elk.

  • Back-up locations are important, especially for archery hunters. Fire danger often results in private timber landowners closing access.  If this happens hunters will want to have a back-up plan for hunting on National Forest lands. Find more information on fire restrictions below.

  • Archers who can should focus on the late season.  Archery deer success is significantly higher in the late season and rivals rifle hunter success in some units.

Corrections to page 79-80 of 2014 Big Game Regulations – Elk Bow hunting:

Controlled hunts 248R, 249R, 258R1, 258R2 and 259R should be on the list in blue text at the top of page 79 of hunts for which the tag is also valid for the general elk bow season. Also, the entire Trask Unit is open to elk bow hunting, not just NF lands within the Trask Unit. These corrections have been made to this online PDF of pages 79-80.

Bear and Cougar Hunting

The most important tip for bear and cougar hunting is simple—buy a tag. Most bears and cougars are taken when fall hunters are out looking for deer and elk so get a tag and be ready in case you see one. The deadline to purchase your first cougar and bear tags is Oct. 3. (There is no deadline for purchasing additional tags, but hunters need to have purchased the first tag by the deadline.)

Last year, as in 2011, the cougar hunting season closed early in the Coast/North Cascades because the quota of 120 cougars was reached before the end of the year. (Once a quota is reached, all cougar hunting ends until the new season opens on Jan. 1 of the following year.) Oregon’s cougar quotas are being reviewed and may be changed for 2015.

For bear hunters, districts in northeast Oregon are reporting some of the best berry production they have ever seen and production was also good on the coast due to mild conditions. “Huckleberry production is phenomenal this year, the best I’ve seen in the district,” says Brian Ratliff, ODFW district wildlife biologist in Baker City.

Hunters should concentrate their efforts in the berry patches in early morning and late afternoon. Western Oregon biologists recommend hunting in isolated berry stands where vehicle traffic will not disturb bears. “Places like the ends of closed forest roads where berries are growing provide some of the best places to hunt,” says Stuart Love, district wildlife biologist for Coos County. “Walking through these areas in the early morning or late evening or setting up tree stands near these areas are great ways to hunt bears.” The dry weather conditions in eastern Oregon will concentrate bears near streams where foraging will be better.

If you do take a cougar or bear, don’t forget about the check-in requirements within 10 days of harvest. See the Oregon Big Game Regulations to learn exactly what is required and don’t forget to call an ODFW office ahead of time so someone is available to help you.

Black Bear
Black Bear
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Fire restrictions & closures

Summer 2014 has seen dry conditions and extensive fire activity already. It’s very important that hunters check fire restrictions before going hunting. Visit the Oregon Department of Forestry’s website to understand fire precaution levels and regulated use closures. Regulations may require you to keep certain equipment in your vehicle like an ax, shovel and water.

Public lands: Visit www.Firerestrictions.us for restrictions/closures information for lands managed by state, tribal and federal land management agencies. Restrictions can change quickly so it’s best to check with the local, state, federal or tribal agency managing the area before you visit.

Private timberland: The Oregon Forest Industries Council keeps a list of private land closures at ODF’s Website (click “Corporate Closures” for list). This list also has phone numbers where you can contact landowners for the latest information on access. Remember conditions and restrictions can change rapidly.

Also note that legislation passed last year (HB 3199) prohibits the use of tracer ammunition, exploding targets and sky lanterns on Oregon Department of Forestry lands during declared fire seasons. Finally, remember that as of Aug. 19, the Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area in Grant County is closed to all public access because of the South Fork Complex Fire. Look for an update on access closer to the opening of archery season on Aug. 30.

Weyerhaeuser’s new access policy and permit fees

Weyerhaeuser will be making changes to its access policy this year, with new rules taking effect Aug. 1. Hunters and other recreational users will be required to purchase a permit to access some Weyerhaeuser properties. This new policy does not affect the Wendling Travel Management Area.

ODFW has posted a list of controlled hunts affected (pdf) by the new policy. See the Weyerhaeuser Oregon Recreation Access page for more information.

Mandatory Reporting – $25 penalty for not reporting deer and elk tags

Don’t forget: If you purchase a 2014 big game or turkey tag, you need to report your results by the deadline, which is Jan. 31, 2015 for most tags. (Hunts that extend into 2015 must be reported by April 15, 2015.) Report online at www.reportmyhunt.com or by calling 1-866-947-6339.

Hunters are required to report on each deer, elk, cougar, bear, pronghorn and turkey tag purchased—even if they were not successful or did not hunt. (Sports Pac license holders do not need to report on tags that were never issued.)

Hunters who fail to report 2014 deer or elk tags on time will be penalized $25 when they purchase a 2016 hunting license. This penalty is assessed once, regardless of the number of unreported tags. Many hunters who failed to report their 2012 tags will be paying the fine this year (2014) when they go to get a hunting license for the fall season.

ODFW uses the harvest and effort information provided by hunters when setting tag numbers and seasons and it is important that we get it by the deadline. ODFW thanks all hunters who report on time.

Cougar
Cougar -a Royalty Free Image-

New regulations for 2014

There are no major regulatory changes for this year, but hunters need to be aware that:

  • The bag limit for Alsea and Trask Units archery hunters and holders of an “Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit” no longer includes an antlerless elk. See page 88 of the regulations for more information.

  • The Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area has been expanded by 8,000 acres south of Butte Falls.

  • A new Meacham Cooperative Travel Management Area (41 square miles in the Ukiah Unit) has been added.
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