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The 2013 Fall Hunting Forecast

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Northeast Region

 

 

 

DEER AND ELK HUNTING

Wolves are present in northeast Oregon

Snake River Wolf Pack Howling
-Video by ODFW-

Wolves are protected statewide and it is unlawful to shoot one, except in defense of human life. As of summer 2013, ODFW is monitoring seven known wolf packs in northeast Oregon.

Here are links to maps showing the Area of Known Wolf Activity for each pack:

ODFW appreciates any information on wolf sightings; use the online wolf reporting form.

REMEMBER TO CAREFULLY IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET IN WOLF COUNTRY!

Tips on identifying wolves vs coyotes and protecting dogs from wolves

Wolf pups can look like coyotes so carefully identify your target before shooting. Wolves are larger than coyotes, have shorter, rounder ears, and a blocky face and muzzle as opposed to coyotes' pointed face and muzzle. Wolf tracks are about 5 inches long, twice the size of coyote tracks (2.5 inches long).

Wolves are by nature territorial and guard their territory from other canids, including domestic dogs. To protect your dogs, consider placing a bell on them, keep them close and within view, and leash them and leave the area if wolves or fresh sign are seen.

Baker District (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt. wildlife management units)

Rachel's Buck

Rachel Harrod was 10 when she took this white-tailed deer in northeast Oregon. She was hunting through the mentored youth hunter program.
– Photo by Ron Harrod –

Deer

Over-winter survival was good in all units with over-all fawn numbers up from last year. Buck ratios are still at or above management objectives. The body condition of animals should be excellent with the early summer rains producing forage later than usual. 

Elk

Elk herds in Baker County came out of the winter in good shape. Bull ratios are at or near management objective for all units. Calf ratios are stable throughout the units, with the highest in the Lookout Unit. For the best chance at tagging an elk, get as far away from roads as possible, perhaps by hunting in one of the cooperative Travel Management Areas. 

Grant District

Deer

Deer populations in Grant County continue to be below management objectives. Grant County experienced a dry summer and warm fall last year which lead to slightly lower than normal fawn ratios going into this winter. Some late rains did help produce decent fall green up in the valley. This winter was average temperature wise and slightly drier than usual.  Adult and fawn survival over winter was good; however the lower number of fawns going into winter produced an average fawn crop. This spring has been warm and dry and the district appears to be in a drought situation again this summer. Buck ratios are hovering right around management objective.
Remember the Murderers Creek-Flagtail Travel Management Area begins three days prior to archery season now (rather than three days prior to rifle season).

Elk
Bull Elk
- Royalty Free Image-

Elk

Most elk populations are at or above management objectives in the Grant district units. Calf ratios were lower at the end of the winter than they were last year, except in the Desolation unit, which experienced higher calf recruitment this year. Because of the higher calf recruitment in the Desolation unit, elk hunting may be better than the past year. For the rest of the district, expect an average year for hunting.  Due to the dry conditions, elk will be focusing on areas of good forage at least early in the fall. 

Remember the Murderers Creek-Flagtail Travel Management Area begins three days prior to archery season now (rather than three days prior to rifle season).

Heppner District (Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin wildlife management units)

Deer in Heppner are stable to slightly increasing and buck ratios are good. Adult deer survived the mild winter well but fawn survival was down from last year. Hunters should expect decent hunting throughout the unit.

The Fossil unit deer numbers are also stable to slightly increasing. Public lands hunters can work the old Wheeler Burn, which is still producing a fair number of deer and is historically a good spot.
The Columbia Basin and East Biggs deer herds are stable. If you can find access to private land in the Columbia Basin or John Day River Canyon, you should expect decent hunting.
The summer has been very hot and dry and unless conditions change, early season hunters will want to focus on areas of good forage and water.

Elk

Hunting should be similar to last year. With another good calf ratio last spring, the population continues to expand. Bull ratios are slightly above objectives and ODFW is starting to see some older-age class bulls. Bull ratios in Fossil are above management objective, but calf ratios are still down.

Union District (Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily, portions of Sled Springs, and Wenaha wildlife management units)

Deer

Deer in Union County survived the winter reasonably well this year. It’s likely to be a good year for hunter success. Deer appear to be in excellent physical condition due to high quality forage produced by a very wet spring. Buck ratios are up slightly in Starkey, about the same in Catherine Creek and down slightly in East Mt. Emily. Fawn survival through the winter was 77% or higher in the units mentioned above. The Catherine Creek unit continues to be well under our target population objective; East Mt. Emily and Starkey are at or above population target levels. Buck ratios (bucks per 100 does) are 17 in the Starkey, 16 in Catherine Creek and 12 in East Mt. Emily Hunt units.

Elk
Bull Elk
- Royalty Free Image-

Elk

Elk hunting should be above-average in the Starkey unit with an increase in calf survival over last year. Catherine Creek unit hunter success should be up due to a slightly elevated population. Prospects for the East Mt. Emily unit are expected to be better than average due to an increase in calf survival and bull ratios.

Elk in the Starkey and Catherine Creek units came through the winter in relatively good condition. Starkey is just below population management objective and Catherine Creek is well above the objective. Bull ratios (bulls per 100 cows) are 9, 12, and 13 respectively for the Starkey, Catherine Creek and east side of the Mt. Emily units. These bull ratios are either the same or up from the previous year. Calf ratios (calves per 100 cows) are 26, 29 and 28 respectively for the Starkey, Catherine Creek and east side of the Mt. Emily units. These calf ratios are all up from the previous year.

Umatilla District (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin)

Deer

Hunting should be average. The winter and spring were dry, but rains in June helped to mitigate some of the looming drought effects. Ukiah and Walla Walla are good places to get a buck as numbers are good. West Mt Emily has traditionally had bigger bucks, but some recent population declines have reduced buck numbers. While deer continue to persist in good numbers in the Blue Mountains, the deer factory that was the Tower Fire (Ukiah unit) has come to an end; populations have shrunk naturally along with forage.

Elk

Mt Emily and Walla Walla continue to offer very high quality branch bull hunting for those hunters lucky enough to have a tag. Heppner is another bright spot; calf ratios are up. However, it will be a tough year for spike hunters in the Walla Walla and Mt. Emily Units due to what biologists believe is continued high predation. The Ukiah unit has improved in the past two years where ODFW has been thinning cougar populations. Calf ratios have been higher in the last two years than in recent years and will provide more spike bulls for harvest. The unit is not at desired recruitment levels yet, but is moving in the right direction for more spike bull harvest.

Wallowa District (Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, Minam, Imnaha)

Deer

Despite a relatively mild winter, deer numbers are still low in all units with this past year’s fawn survival lower than desired. Predation on adults and fawns continues to hold deer populations well below management objective levels. Hunters can expect to see fewer yearling bucks this year, but adult buck ratios have remained stable in all units. There should still be opportunity for older age class bucks for hunters willing to spend the time and effort.  

Elk

Elk numbers continue to increase slowly in most units. The past year’s district calf survival was low, averaging 19  calves per 100 cows. Predation on elk calves continues to hold calf recruitment at low levels. Hunters can expect to see fewer yearling (spike) bulls this fall.  Most units have good numbers of branched bulls and hunting success should be good. The Wenaha Unit population is still below management objective level, and spike hunters can expect low success.

Northeast Big Game Hunting Locations

Find hunting locations and even scout from home using ODFW’s Oregon Hunting Access Map.

ODFW Wildlife Management Units

Travel Management Area maps  

Baker District (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt. wildlife management units)

Baker District includes the Wallowa Whitman National Forest and Vale District BLM land. Hunters can also access many private lands thanks to the A&H program. Remember travel management area regulations are in effect for Dark Canyon, Patrick Creek, Melhorn, Lake Fork-Dutchman, Okanogan-Fish, Summit Point and Eagle Creek.

Grant District (Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, southeast Heppner, northwest Beulah wildlife management units)

Remember the Flagtail-Murderers Creek TMA begins three days prior to archery season. Hunters will find many good public land hunting opportunities in Grant County, including the Malheur National Forest and P.W. Schneider Wildlife Area. The Fox Valley Access and Habitat area in the Northside Unit is open to walk in access from Aug. 1-Jan. 31. Due to the dry conditions, hunter should look for north slopes, springs, or other areas with good forage. Roadless areas in the North Fork John Day Wilderness, Desolation and Northside travel management areas are good places to hunt big game. Remember the Camp Creek and Murderers Creek/Flagtail travel management areas are in effect, meaning no vehicle access in certain areas to protect wildlife and habitat and promote quality hunting. Please respect all road closures, gated or not.

Heppner District (Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin wildlife management units)

Hunters will find most public lands opportunities in the Heppner and Fossil units and can also access private land through the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area, and the Lost Valley Regulated Hunt Area thanks to ODFW’s A&H Program. The old Wheeler burn in the Fossil unit is still a good bet for Fossil unit deer hunters. 

Umatilla District (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin)

Hunters without access to private land can use the Umatilla National Forest and ODFW’s Bridge Creek and Columbia Basin (Irrigon and Willow Creek) wildlife areas.

Union District (Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily, portions of Sled Springs, and Wenaha wildlife management units)

The Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla National Forests and ODFW’s Ladd Marsh and Elkhorn Wildlife Areas near La Grande are open to the public for hunting; see the Regulations for some special rules for these areas. The Access and Habitat Program (funded by a $4 fee on your hunting license) has helped keep these lands open to the public. The Dry Beaver-Ladd TMA will be in effect, meaning no vehicle access in certain areas to protect wildlife and habitat and promote quality hunting. There are seven TMAs that exist in Union County.  You can access TMA maps on the ODFW website.

Wallowa District (Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, Imnaha)

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and Wenaha Wildlife Area provide public hunting opportunities. Remember several travel management restrictions are in effect in the district including the Noregaard, Whiskey Creek and Shamrock TMAs in Sled Springs, the Chesnimnus TMA in Chesnimnus and the Grouse Lick Creeks in Imnaha during bull season. In the Snake River unit, the Lord Flat Road north of Warnock Corral and the Summit Ridge Road north of PO Saddle will not be open to motor vehicles.
Phesant hunting

Pheasant hunting
- ODFW Photo -

northeast Region Upland Bird

Sign up for free youth upland bird hunts – online or at license sales agents
  • Baker City (Baldock Slough Wetlands Project) – Sept. 21, 22. Call 541-523-5832 for more information.
  • John Day: Sept. 14, 15. Meet at Prairie Wood Products in Prairie City. Call 541-575-1167 for more information.
  • Klamath Falls (Klamath Wildlife Area): Sept. 7, 8. Hunters will be assigned to one of three areas. Call 541-883-5732 for more information.
  • La Grande (Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area): Sept. 14, 15. No advanced registrations needed, just check in at HQ, 59116 Pierce Rd. Check in opens 7 a.m. and hunting hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Pendleton (Irrigon Wildlife Area in Irrigon): Sept. 21, 22; sign up for morning or afternoon hunt. Call 541-276-2344 for more information.

Baker County Chukar and other bird production looks fair this year. It appears that nest success was good throughout the season with fair chick survival.  Brood sizes are slightly higher than last year. Some A&H properties offer good upland hunting and access to public land.

Morrow, Gilliam, Wheeler Counties – Production is up from last year’s low numbers for all species but still below the long-term average. Total birds seen on ODFW routes were up for all species except Hungarian partridges.  Brood sizes for most species are down from last year. Hunters should be able to find birds to pursue but success should be slightly below average. In this district, hunters can use lands in the Upland Cooperative Access Program , the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area and Lost Valley Regulated Hunt Area. Also see ODFW’s Columbia Basin Bird Hunting Guide for maps and other good information on the 250K acres open to public hunting.

Grant County –Upland game bird production appears to be average this year. Overall the number of birds seen this spring was down from last year. Broods varied in age class but chick numbers were good when found. The Philip W. Schneider Wildlife Area is open to the public and offers good bird hunting.

Union County - The wet spring and flooding in the Grande Ronde Valley has resulted in many birds having to re-nest. The re-nesting effort was strong and the number of quail broods is above average. Pheasant production is about average. Hunters need to be aware that some of the birds from these late broods are likely to be very small when the seasons open. These late broods will also contain individuals that may not be fully ‘colored-up’ which will make identification difficult.

The best hunting will be in areas with permanent cover. Hunters should work ridge tops for blue grouse and stream corridors for ruffed grouse. Hunters are asked to provide wings and tails from harvested grouse at collection barrels located in the field.

Dove numbers are about average this year. Eurasian collared doves are now relatively common in this area and can be taken and included in the mourning dove bag limit. Please report all banded birds taken.

Umatilla County - The Columbia Basin is in the midst of a drought.  Rainfall has been below average for most of the previous fall, winter, spring, and now in the summer.  Pheasant, Quail, Chukkar, and Hungarian Partridge all are experiencing poor reproductive success.  Hunters should expect upland game birds to be in shorter supply than recent years. Pond edges and creek bottoms will hold the most birds.

Forest grouse should experience similar reproductive success to the lower elevation species.  However, the Blue Mountains have large numbers of grouse, especially ruffed, and should still provide some hunting opportunity.

Dove numbers are down in counts this year, but localized concentrations can be found near water or roosting areas. Dove numbers tend to decline around September 15 so hunting early in the season is preferable. 

Wallowa County - May-June rains and cooler temperatures have resulted in much reduced chick survival for most upland bird species. In general, wildlife biologists observed fewer birds on survey routes than observed in recent years. Chukar hunting will remain poor and numbers are still below long-term average. Blue grouse numbers are still low, but the number of chicks per brood improved over last year. Hunting timbered ridges adjacent to open grass slopes, and canyon draws with hawthorn are good places to find birds.


northeast Region Waterfowl

Western Canada Goose

Western Canada Goose
- Photo by Dave Budeau -

Baker County

Duck and goose hunting is expected to be similar to past years with a few resident birds early in the season. More migrant birds will arrive later in the season and hunting should improve, especially in the Baker and Keating Valleys. Almost all hunting is on private property, so be sure to ask permission before hunting. The Powder River from Baker City to Brownlee Reservoir offers the best waterfowl hunting.

Grant County

Grant County offers very limited waterfowl hunting opportunities due to lack of habitat; there are a few opportunities on private land along the John Day River.

Umatilla and Morrow Counties

Habitat conditions in the Columbia Basin still support large numbers of wintering Canada geese. Try hunting the Columbia Basin Wildlife Areas (Power City, Irrigon, Coyote Springs, Willow Creek). Food crops are being planted, ponds are being enhanced, all of which will make conditions better for waterfowl hunting on these lands.

Special youth waterfowl hunt at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge Nov. 9. Open to hunters ages 10-17. Applications due by Sept. 13 @3:30 p.m. Apply here.

Union County

Waterfowl hunting for Union County is expected to be fair. Freezing in the early nesting season caused some loss of production. Drought conditions have reduced the available open water on Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area and local wetlands.  Goose production was good but most of the local birds have shifted to grain fields or moved to areas with more water. Mallards, teal and gadwall are most abundant birds from local production. If the lack of summer precipitation continues, there may be some issues with water availability at the opener of the season.

Wallowa County

Waterfowl entry Resident Canada goose numbers are good and will provide adequate hunting opportunities early in the fall until migrant birds arrive later in the fall and winter.  Duck hunting is expected to be good for mallards later in the fall when migrant birds arrive.   Most duck and goose hunting occurs in agricultural fields, while jump shooting opportunities exist to a lesser extent.


Cougar
Courgar
- Royalty Free Image-

Bear and Cougar in the Northeast region

Baker District (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt. wildlife management units)

Bear and cougar hunting should be good. Fall bear hunters have best success in higher elevation areas of the Keating and Pine Creek Units on the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. Find cougars just about anywhere; remember to carry a tag. Hunt for bears in high elevation open areas with lots of berries.

Grant District (Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, southeast Heppner, northwest Beulah wildlife management units)

Bear and cougar hunting should be decent this fall. Often hunters will run into cougar or black bear while pursuing other species, so it is good to have the tags in your possession. Look for black bear in high elevations in the Murderers Creek and Beulah units and around huckleberry patches in mid-August.

Heppner District (Morrow, Gilliam and Wheeler counties / Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin wildlife management units)

Hunters are still seeing cougars in the Heppner district so there is opportunity. This District is not the best place to hunt bears as habitat does not favor them, but they can be encountered by deer and elk hunters so carry a tag.

Umatilla District (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern)

Columbia Basin

Getting a spring bear tag in Umatilla is not easy so fall is your chance to hunt here under a general season. Bears are high up early in the season and will pull down slowly. Look in hawthorn and elderberry concentrations to find them; early on they will be on edges of clearings and clearcuts near berry crops in high country. The best bear hunting is north of I-84 in Mt Emily and Walla Walla units. Cougar populations are healthy; carry a tag while hunting deer or elk as you may get the chance to take a cougar while you’re at it. The best cougar hunting will be north of I-84 as well.

Union District

Hunters have reported seeing a lot of bear in the spring and early fall hunting seasons. Pay special attention to old orchards and huckleberry patches as the bear frequent these locations in the late summer and early Fall. Also to areas where logs and stumps have been disturbed as these indicate a bear is foraging for insects. Cougar are prevalent throughout the district. Remote calls and remote motion devises can increase your chance of success.

Wallowa District

Bear and cougar entry Good numbers of black bear and cougar exist in all units. Hunters will find bears using riparian areas where berries exist until the end of October.  Most cougars are harvested incidental to other big game hunting, but can often be taken by use of a predator call.

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