Welcome to the 2012
Fall Hunting Forecast
Click on “Reports by Region” to the left or the map above to see the regional hunting forecasts.
Fire restrictions and closures
Hunters need to check fire restrictions and closures before going afield, especially early in the season. Some helpful links to do that:
Turn in Poachers
Did you know that during a six-year study in southcentral Oregon, poachers killed more radio-collared mule deer than legal hunters?
Turn in Poachers using the state hotline 1-800-452-7888 or email TIP@state.or.us
Find out how hunters did last year for big game species including deer, elk, bear and cougar by reviewing ODFW’s big game hunting statistics
Penalties for not reporting could begin with this year’s tags
Report 2012 big game and turkey tags no later than Jan. 31, 2013—online or by calling 1-866-947-6339. Complete a report for each and every deer, elk, cougar, bear, pronghorn antelope, and turkey tag purchased—even if you didn’t fill your tag or go hunting. (For 2012 hunts that end between Jan. 1-March 31, 2013, the deadline to report is April 15, 2013.)
Reporting has been mandatory for the past several years. But compliance rates are still too low to reliably use the data hunters provide, which ODFW needs to set seasons and controlled hunt tag numbers.
Penalties for not reporting could begin with the purchase of 2014 hunting licenses (available for sale Dec. 1, 2013). Hunters that fail to report their 2012 deer and elk tags could face a penalty fee of up to $25 when they go to purchase a 2014 hunting license. This fee will be set by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission at their Oct. 5, 2012 meeting in Salem.
Nate Burman of Albany, Ore. was 14 years old when he took this deer during a youth hunt in the McKenzie Unit.
– Photo by Steve Burman –
Hunters can thank the mild winter for good over-winter survival in many elk herds, though the dry fall sent calves into winter in less than ideal body condition in parts of the state.
Elk populations continue to be mostly stable in Oregon, though some districts are still experiencing low calf survival. See the reports from each district for more details.
The bowhunting cover girl for the 2012 Big Game Regulations, Amanda Alexander, took another elk in 2011! So did her husband, Ira—four elk in two years for the couple. Read their full story here see all the photos from their hunting trips at ODFW’s Facebook page:
The Alexanders shared these elk hunting tips with ODFW:
- Get in shape before hunting season—so you’re ready for long hikes and heavy packs if an animal is taken. “In 2010 we did all the packing out ourselves—it took six hours to debone and bag up both elk and then eight straight hours and three trips per person to get the meat out of the woods back to camp.”
- Practice often with equipment so you are confident in your equipment and your shot.
- Study your hunting spot before going afield. Use oregonhuntingmap.com, Google Earth, good BLM maps (which can be ordered) and download the topo maps to GPS. Also review statistics from the annual state Fish and Game manual to help decide which zone to apply for or where to hunt.
- 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.
- Look for feed and water for the animals you will hunt.
- Look for road access or trail access. Some road access is fine but not too much. “You can’t just drive around on a quad and look for elk. Maybe you can for deer but in my experience, the elk hear that from far away.”
- Hunting elk is completely different than hunting deer. “It’s more like hunting a big turkey during the rut. Spot and stalk.”
- Look for wallows, old rubs, scat and other signs of elk.
- Put on the miles. Keep moving, slowly of course. Keep looking with binos or spot scope. And when you spot something miles away, don't be afraid to go after it.
- Learn how to be silent and keep the wind in your face. Not letting elk see or smell you is half the battle.
- Get in range and make your shot count. If all the practice and homework is done your chances increase dramatically. Right place at the right time always helps too!
- Leave the area the same as your entered it (no tire tracks or fire pits) to keep the hunting environment as natural as possible. “When we were cutting up our elk from our 2010 hunt there were elk just a few hundred yards away feeding and a nice bull screaming. We just were there doing our business not making too much noise or attention. The herd was able to do their thing. It was amazing to watch.”
A radio-collared black-tailed deer in Western Oregon. It’s legal to harvest an animal with a collar, but please return the collar to ODFW.
– Photo by ODFW –
Black-tailed deer hunting continues to be challenging, especially on public land, but hunters have some factors working in their favor this year: Most districts report good buck survival from last year, a decrease in Deer Hair Loss Syndrome and good spring vegetation growth due to rains.
ODFW is working on better estimating black-tailed deer in western Oregon. These deer are secretive and live in dense forests, making them difficult to count. Successful western Oregon deer hunters are asked to return deer teeth which are used in population modeling efforts. See this flyer for directions on how to remove a tooth and return it with your name, address, date of kill, species killed, sex of animal, and wildlife management unit or hunt where harvested to: ODFW Wildlife Population Lab, 7118 NE Vandenberg Ave, Adair Village, OR 97330. Pre-paid, pre-addressed envelopes for teeth are available at ODFW offices and many license sales agents. Hunters that submit a tooth will receive a postcard from ODFW with information about their animal after about nine months.
Hunters could also encountered radio-collared deer. It is fine to harvest a collared deer but please return the collar to ODFW.
Reports are mixed for mule deer in eastern Oregon. Many districts saw good fawn survival due to the mild winter, but overall fawn numbers going into the winter were low. Some districts are in a drought while others got plenty of rain. See the regional reports for more information.
ODFW continues work on the Mule Deer Initiative, an effort to reverse the trend of declining mule deer numbers focused at first on five units (Heppner, Maury, Murderers Creek, Steens Mountain and Warner). Projects include predator control, habitat improvement and increased law enforcement. An update on the effort will be available later in the fall.
-Photo by ODFW-
Oregonhuntingmap.com makes it easy to find bird hunting locations throughout Oregon. New this year, upland game bird species ranges are overlaid on the map.
Regulation changes: The possession limit forest grouse and quail (in most places) is being increased from two to three times the daily limit –so nine for each species of forest grouse (ruffed and blue) and 30 for quail (singly or in aggregate for the mtn and Calif quail). See page 14 of the Game Bird Regulations.
Heavy rains in spring meant some upland birds lost their first hatch or had reduced chick survival. But birds that re-nested generally encountered good habitat conditions, as the rains helped grass and forb growth, improving cover and food conditions for those birds with later hatches.
Last year’s chukar harvest of more than 75K birds was the best Oregon has seen since 2006 and close to the 20-year average. Weather within chukar range was wetter than average in the western and northern regions but very dry in the late spring and summer in southeast region. Wildfires in SE Oregon will have affected some chukar hunting areas but millions of acres of public land are still open for hunting.
HUNGARIAN GRAY PARTRIDGE
These are not the most numerous or popular of Oregon’s upland game birds and their range is limited. But gray partridge numbers have been relatively strong the past few years and that trend is expected to continue in 2012.
- ODFW Photo -
Pheasant surveys in population strongholds of Columbia Basin and northern Malheur County suggest improved populations over last year. So pheasant hunting in these areas should be better than recent averages. ODFW stocks pheasants at Denman, Fern Ridge, Sauvie Island and EE Wilson Wildlife Area; see page 14 of the Game Bird Regulations for dates on Western Oregon fee pheasant hunting.
About 80 percent of wildlife districts report seeing more quail this year. Production likely took a hit due to wet spring weather so the chick to adult ratio is lower, but good over-winter survival means total bird numbers in much of eastern Oregon are up.
These are Oregon’s most popular upland bird to hunt and can be found in much of the state. Hunting will be mixed this year, with some districts reporting good production and higher than average numbers and others the opposite. Statewide, both ruffed and blue grouse numbers are expected to be below average due to three consecutive years of average or below average production.
Populations improved slightly over last year and hunters can expect a larger fall population. The Whitehorse Unit was hard-hit by wildfires this year so ODFW is not offering a sage-grouse permit in that unit this year. More information
Cole Braun with her Gadwall drake.
-Photo by Amy Braun-
Duck numbers were at a record high this year in North America since surveys began in 1955, 43 percent above the long-term average according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys. And this is after last year’s incredible duck hunting on the westside: Sauvie Island had its best season since 1978-79, with nearly 22,000 birds taken. Fern Ridge had the highest harvest (5,500 ducks) since record keeping began in the late 1980s and 1,900 more than in 2011.
Regulation changes for waterfowl/migratory bird hunting:
- Eurasian collared-doves are now classified as unprotected wildlife and can be taken freely (no bag limit or season).
- NW Oregon General Zone goose hunting is split into three time periods to align dates with the NW Oregon Permit Goose Zone. Last period closes March 10.
- In the NW Permit Goose Zone, shooting hours extend to 4 p.m. (previously closed 3 p.m.) and check stations will be open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (previously 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).
- Tillamook County goose seasons are no longer separate from the rest of the Northwest Permit Zone.
- The South Coast Zone bag limit for dark geese during the third hunt period increases by two and white geese can now be taken during all hunt periods in this zone.
- Eurasian collared-doves are now classified as unprotected wildlife and can be taken freely (no bag limit or season).
Advice to cougar hunters remains the same: Purchase a cougar tag and take it with you when you are hunting other big game. Most cougar are taken when hunters are pursuing other species. Tracking after snow or predator calls can also work.
Though it happened very late in the season (Dec. 29, three days before the end of the 2011 season), ODFW closed a cougar hunting season for only the third year ever last year. The Coast/North Cascades season was closed after the zone’s quota of 120 cougars was reached.
The Blue Mountains zone (Zone E) saw the most cougars taken by sport hunters last year, with 93 taken. Next up was the Coast/North Cascades with 60.
See cougar harvest trends here and zone quotas here. If you take a cougar, don’t forget to check in your cougar (hide and skull) at an ODFW office within 10 days of harvest and to bring them in unfrozen. It’s also a good idea to prop the cougar’s mouth open with a stick after harvest for easier tissue sampling, teeth collection and tagging. See regulations for details.
Oregon Fish and Wildlife
A fall bear tag is another good thing to carry as many are taken when hunters are pursuing other species.
Especially early in the season, bear are most likely to be found in close to ripe berry crops. Look for large patches of salmonberry, thimbleberry, huckleberry, salal and, later on, Himalaya berry, and you will probably find bears. Fresh scat is your best indicator that one or more are working an area.
Successful hunters, remember you must check in bear (skull, at a minimum) at an ODFW office within 10 days of harvest and bring them in unfrozen. It’s also a good idea to prop their mouths open with a stick after harvest for easier tissue sampling, teeth collection and tagging. See regulations for details.