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2014 Spring Bear Hunting Forecast

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Northwest Region | Southwest Region | High Desert Region | Northeast Region


April 8, 2014

Spring bear hunting kicked off April 1 in western Oregon and the W Blue Mtns, with remaining seasons opening April 15.

In some areas of Oregon, spring arrived early and vegetation was green and growing before April 1. Early season hunters should find better conditions this year due to this early spring green-up and lower amount of snow pack. This will make bears active earlier than usual and access to hunting areas easier.    

Wildlife biologists offer the following tips for new spring bear hunters:

  • Look for open areas where bears will be moving through or foraging, including clear-cuts, meadows and open slopes that have cleared of snow.
  • Earlier in the season, focus on south-facing slopes with rapid spring growth and open canyon slopes, where bears can be seen feeding on grass and digging roots.
  • Predator calls are recommended later in the season when elk begin calving. Use calls near open meadows in forested areas.
  • Find good vantage points and use optics to locate bears; early morning and late afternoon to evening are the best times to glass.
  • Know your target—remember it is unlawful to take cubs less than one year old or sows with cubs less than one year old.

See the district reports below for more information on local hunting conditions.

Despite this year’s improved conditions, hunters should always be prepared for snow and limited access, especially early in the season. Also, hunters using motorized vehicles should stay off wet and muddy roads to keep from damaging roads and fish and wildlife habitat. Visit oregonhuntingmap.com for more on hunting locations.

Regulations: Check-in required
Just a reminder on the rules: successful bear hunters must check-in their bear’s skull at an ODFW office within 10 days of the harvest so biologists can collect a tooth and other biological information. Bear skulls must be unfrozen when presented for check-in; it is very difficult to collect data from a frozen skull. ODFW also recommends that hunters prop the bear’s mouth open with a stick after it is harvested, again to make data collection a quick and easy process.

When hunters present their bear skull for check-in, they must provide date of harvest, wildlife management unit where harvested, and their complete hunter information found on the tag (including tag number).

Please call your local ODFW office in advance to make sure a field biologist is available.

Separate from the check-in requirement, all hunters who purchased a 2014 spring bear tag are required to report their hunt results online or by phone (1-866-947-6339) no later than Jan. 31, 2015. Reporting is required even for those that did not go hunting or were unsuccessful. ODFW uses this information to determine harvest and effort and set future hunting regulations. About 90 percent of 2013 controlled spring bear tags were reported on time.
Black Bear
Black Bear
Oregon Fish and Wildlife

Northwest Oregon Hunts

Scappoose-Saddle Mountain units (Hunt 710A, season April 1-May 31)

Damage information indicates that bears are distributed throughout Saddle Mt Unit, but in higher densities in the western half of the unit. Bear densities are slowly increasing in the Scappoose Unit, but remain low compared to other big game units in the Coast Range. To find bears, hunters need to concentrate their scouting and hunting efforts near early season food sources like skunk cabbage (typically found along riparian zones and wet bottomlands) and grass patches found on south and southeast facing slopes. Bear activity should improve towards the middle or the end of the season, depending on the weather patterns.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. In the Saddle Mtn Unit, road access is available to most lands in the Clatsop State Forest. Non-motorized access is available to many private industrial forestlands. The Scappoose Unit has very little public land available to hunt and bears will be found primarily on private forestlands. Hunters are reminded to read and follow all rules posted near entry gates to private industrial forestland. Bears are very wary of vehicle noise, and tend to move away from well-traveled roads, so quietly-moving hunters on foot or bike may have the advantage. Expect Hampton Affiliates land in Clatsop County to be closed to entry.

Wilson-Trask units (Hunt 712A, season April 1-May 31) – Nuzum changed

Plant green-up looks to be ahead of schedule this year and all elevations of the Coast Range appear to be snow-free. Plant life always springs back more quickly closer to the coast, so expect more bear activity further west during the early part of the season. Also, black bear concentrations tend to be highest in the western portion of the unit. With current weather conditions, hunters should concentrate in river and creek bottoms and south-facing grassy slopes with new plant growth.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. State and federal lands in these units include the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests, Siuslaw National Forest and scattered BLM parcels. Some industrial forest landowners allow spring bear hunting as well, usually on a walk-in or mountain bike-in basis. Private forest and agriculture lands dominate the eastern side of the Trask Unit; access is by permission only.

Black Bear
Black Bear
Oregon Fish and Wildlife

N. Cascades (Hunt 716A, season April 1 – May 31)

The snow depth in the north Cascades is below normal for this time of year, especially in the mid-elevations (below 5,000 ft). Unless cold, snowy weather dominates this spring, hunters should expect spring green-up to occur a little earlier than usual. During an average year, spring bear hunters in the north Cascades experience the highest success in the last three weeks of the season. If the mild weather holds, spring bear hunters may start finding success a week or two earlier than usual. If you want to get out early, start along riparian corridors at lower elevations, on south or southwest facing slopes where some of the early grasses and skunk cabbage are growing. Watch weather forecasts to help predict snowmelt; warmer weather will be key for vegetation growth and increased bear activity.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com.  Remember the Marion and Linn County portions outside of the Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forests are not included within the hunt boundary and are closed. The Clackamas and Collawash River drainages in the Mt. Hood National Forest have a high concentration of open south facing slopes and some good areas for glassing. Hillsides burned during the 2010 forest fire in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area should have an abundance of new plant growth once the snow pack melts. Hunters can also find good concentrations of bears in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area. In the McKenzie, hunting is best late in the season in some of the old, brushy clear cuts in the North Fork of the Middle Fork Willamette River and South Fork McKenzie drainages.

Alsea-Stott Mt. (Hunt 717A, season April 1 – May 31)

Because of the early green-up, black bear hunting this spring should be better than usual in April.  Typically May is the better month to hunt. Hunters should look for bears at lower elevations along streams or open areas with a south or southeast aspect early in April. These are typically areas with more vegetative growth and the grass that bears are looking for in spring.  

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. Access is fair on mainline forest roads but expect some roads to be impassible in April due to landslides and fallen trees. Siuslaw National Forest lands have many spur roads that have recently been bermed, which provide good walk-in hunting opportunity. There is a considerable amount timber of harvest this spring, so hunters should expect some access roads to be closed and truck traffic on open forest roads.
Black Bear
Black Bear
Oregon Fish and Wildlife

Southwest Oregon

SW Oregon (Season April 1 – May 31)

This hunt includes all the SW Oregon wildlife management units (20-30), except within one mile of the Rogue River between Grave and Lobster creeks as these areas are closed.

Bear numbers in the entire region remain high, with highest densities near the coast. Numbers have been increasing for several years. With the last several months having little rain or snow and warm temperatures, bear activity may come earlier this year. The relatively mild winter conditions have also resulted in earlier than normal food production. Good spots to check for bears are skid roads and side roads that are un-traveled with lots of grassy margins and bear sign.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. Hunters have access to plenty of public land including national forestland (Siuslaw, Rogue-Siskiyou, and Umpqua), BLM land and state-managed property like Elliott State Forest. Hunters should do their homework and call private timberland companies as some offer access. Local landowners include Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek, Menasha/Campbell Group, Roseburg Forest Products, and Lone Rock Timber Co. Hunters can access public land and some private timberland through the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area (JACTMA). JACTMA restricts use of certain roads through April 30; for a map contact an ODFW office. Remember lands within one mile of the Rogue River between Grave and Lobster creeks are closed.


Black Bear
Black Bear
Oregon Fish and Wildlife

Northeast Oregon

W. Blue Mountains (Hunt 749A, season April 1 – May 31)  

The mild winter and flush of green-up in late March will bring bears out early this year. The northern portion of the boundary near Tollgate has a full snow pack so that area will become available for access later, but the southern portion of the hunt area will have good access near the beginning of the season. Bears will be out in early to mid-April and hunter sightings of bears should increase at that time. Bear density is highest in the northern portion (north of I-84) and lower as one goes south and west in the hunt area. Early season bear activity is concentrated along the lower elevation fringes of national forestland. Bears follow the green-up elevation band; concentrate on timbered slopes with small openings with lush green moss, sedge, or grassy areas. If the spring is wet, bears will be out on open slopes foraging on wild onions and sedges. If the day is cool, bears will be out in the open for longer periods. However, if the day is warm, bear activity will be concentrated early in the morning and late in the day near sundown.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com

Starkey (Hunt 752A, season April 15 – May 31)

Bear numbers are strong in the Starkey Unit. The warm temperatures during March should provide good forage for bears in April and May. Snow may block some road access to mid-elevation hunting areas; however access should be good overall. Some of the higher elevations still have relatively deep snow loads. Hunters should focus efforts on south aspects for best results. Walking in on closed roads is a good way to access bear habitat within this hunt area.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. The Dry Beaver Ladd Canyon road closure area offers diverse habitat and provides limited motorized travel. Other areas that have good bear densities are Spring Creek, open slopes along Fly Creek and public lands surrounding Vey Meadows. It is also quite possible to encounter a cougar in these areas, so having a cougar tag could provide a bonus opportunity.  

Wallowa District Hunts (Season April 15- May 31) – Hansen changed

Access is expected to be limited by snow on mid- to high-elevation roads until early May in most units. While it is still early for bear activity, most snow has already gone off of south-facing slopes and is beginning to have open patches at mid-elevations. Some hunting opportunities will be available in these areas when the season starts, but hunters will also be safe in waiting until later in the season. Bear numbers should be high again this year with most found in the canyon areas early in the season. Bear activity generally improves by the first week of May.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. Remember the Noregaard, Whiskey Creek and Shamrock Travel Management Areas will be in effect in the Sled Springs Unit through May 31; maps are available at entrance points or at ODFW’s Enterprise office.

Black Bear
Black Bear
Oregon Fish and Wildlife

Pine Creek-Keating-Catherine Creek (Hunt 762A)

Baker County den investigations indicate that some bears are out at lower elevations. Boars are normally the first bears to leave their dens. The district experienced a mild winter with good snowfall at the mid to upper elevations. Hunters should expect slightly less snow than last year. In the Keating Unit, hunters will find snow-free areas in some of the mid to low portions of the national forest. Higher elevations near Pine Creek and McGraw Overlook still have deep snow and many of the high-elevation roads in all units are still impassible.  Hunters planning on traveling the 39 Road to access the McGraw area should be aware that the USFS has that road closed.  The 66 road may provide an alternate route if hunters have snowmobiles or ATV’s.  The Hess road may provide access from the Snake River side but should not be traveled when it is muddy. The road is steep and can become very slippery. For the latest information on the road 39 closure check the Forest Service web site. Contact local offices of USFS or ODFW for a report on conditions before heading out.

The Catherine Creek Unit will produce good bear numbers this year although early season access will be limited by snow. Much of the unit’s lower elevations are on privately-owned land. The higher elevations of the Catherine Creek Unit are mostly within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and contain excellent bear habitat. Snow may limit access to higher elevations in April. Walking in on roads that are inaccessible by vehicle can be a productive way to find early season bears.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com The Little Catherine Creek Travel Management area just east of Union provides walk- in access to Hancock Forest Management lands; maps are available at entrance points or at ODFW’s La Grande Office.

Lookout Mt. Unit (764)

Moderate snow at high elevations will limit access in the early season. Low-to mid-elevation areas of the Lookout Mtn Unit are snow free. Try south-facing slopes near the treeline above Brownlee Reservoir. Private lands limit access; make sure you obtain landowner permission before hunting private land.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com

South Blue Mtns (Hunt 746A, season April 15-May 31) – cherry changed

This hunt area experienced a relatively light winter and access should be pretty good this season. Snow pack is lighter than normal this year and spring green-up is beginning to be seen in the lowest elevations and south-facing slopes. Bear populations are stable or increasing but this hunt is still challenging due to the heavily forested terrain which makes it difficult to spot bears. Hunters can find bears widely distributed through all units but harvest in the spring has been highest in the Desolation unit. 

Hunters in the Heppner and Desolation units should focus on the area along the breaks of the North Fork John Day River.

Hunters often use this tag as an opportunity to scout new hunting areas for next fall’s deer and elk seasons, turkey hunt, or collect shed antlers. Remember it is legal to take naturally shed antlers, but not skulls with antlers attached. More information on shed hunting

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com


Black Bear
Black Bear
Oregon Fish and Wildlife

Central and Southeast Oregon

South Central (Hunt 731A, season April 15 – May 31)  

Bear populations are stable to slightly increasing but low compared to other areas of the state. The highest bear densities are in the Cascade Mountains with lower densities in the drier, Ponderosa pine forest portions of the hunt area. Bear activity is most common west of Hwy 97 in the vicinity of riparian vegetation. Areas for hunters to check include the Keno Unit, western portion of the Sprague Unit, and the Gearhart Mountain area in the Interstate Unit. Focus on the unburned fringes around 2002 fires (Grizzly Fire in the Interstate Unit and the Toolbox/Winter Fire in the Silver Lake Unit) and in riparian areas. Throughout the hunt area, bear populations are low and hunters should expect low success.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. Public access is good within the Fremont-Winema and Deschutes National Forests and on open private timberland. Access should improve by later in the season. Please respect private property. Also, avoid driving on soft or muddy roads. Travel management rules are in effect on Fremont-Winema and Deschutes National Forests. Maps showing open roads are available at Forest Service offices.

White River (Hunt 741, season April 1- May 31)  

Bear densities are good, especially in forested areas of the unit. Despite healthy bear numbers, success rates have been fairly low in the spring and hunters tend to have a tough time finding bears for this hunt. Higher elevation snowpack is slightly below normal this year. Hunters should be focused within clearcuts and meadows, early and late in the day. The edges of the major drainages, such as the White River, Badger and Tygh Creeks, should be good places to find bears in the eastern edge of the unit.  Forested areas south of Mosier provides plenty of open areas in the western portion of the unit. Good optics and patience glassing these areas should increase the opportunity to spot a bear.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. The majority of bear habitat is found on public lands so access is good. The western edge of the unit has a significant amount of county and private timberlands. Be sure to get permission if hunting on private lands.

Hood Unit (Hunt 742, season April 1-May 31)  

Bear numbers are good in the Hood Unit. Spring weather arrived early this year, allowing bears to come out of hibernation early and in good shape. Look for open south-facing slopes or decommissioned forest roads with new grasses and forb growth. Early in the season, marshy areas with skunk cabbage often provide some of the first good forage for bears just out of hibernation. Later in the season, when beehives are out in orchards for pollination, hunt forestland near the beehives or seek permission to hunt on private orchard ground that borders the timber.

Locations: See oregonhuntingmap.com. Both public lands (Mt. Hood National Forest and Hood River County land) and some private industrial forestland are open to hunting. Note: In 2013, Weyerhaeuser Co. purchased all Longview Timberlands in the Hood wildlife management unit, visit their Recreation website for access rules and permission.

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