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Tristan “TJ”, age 12, and proud dad Keith Canaday show off their birds taken at Fern Ridge Wildlife’s Area
A variety of hunting opportunities occur on the wildlife area during the fall and winter months. Season dates, legal hunting hours and related details are provided in the annual ODFW Game Bird Regulation booklet available at hunting license vendors.
A free daily hunting permit is required for hunting four units of the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area: E & W Coyote, Fisher Butte, and Royal Amazon Units. Non-toxic shot is required in all areas except for deer hunters with shotguns using slugs or buckshot. Discharge of rifles and handguns is prohibited at all times.
Western Oregon Fee Pheasant Hunt program during the month of October provides excellent opportunity for hunting stocked birds in East Coyote, West Coyote, Fisher Butte, and Royal Amazon units. Hunt area habitats include low grassland, cropland, riparian edges, and scrub/shrub zones. Hunting dogs will give you an edge but are not required for successful hunting. Remainder of area open daily during general pheasant season with low bird densities similar to overall Willamette Valley.
Low quail populations and thick escape cover make this elusive game bird even more difficult to hunt on the wildlife area. Quail harvest is very low on the area, with best of the limited opportunity found near thickets, brush piles, and woodland edges.
All units are open during the September dove season. Best opportunities can be found in the East and West Coyote and Fisher Butte Units. Birds can be found dusting and ground feeding, crossing the units in darting erratic fights, and roosting in solitary trees throughout the area. Slow walking around field edges and sitting near potential perch trees can be an effective way to hunt.
Most commonly hunted species on the area. During early season, the lake pothole areas, and flooded cropland edges provide best opportunity. Reservoir draw down begins in early October, slowly exposing mud flat and reducing boat access to reservoir. Best bets for mid to late season are flooded cropland, moist soil units, reservoir/marsh edges, and shallow water areas near Gibson Island. East and West Coyote unit Controlled Waterfowl Hunt begins November 1 on Mon-Wed-Sat schedule. (Check synopsis for application deadline). Beginning Nov. 1, Fisher Butte unit changes from every day hunting to a Sat-Sun-Wed schedule. Remainder of area (85%) remains open daily throughout authorized waterfowl season. Most areas accessible by hip boots or chest waders. Decoy hunting more effective than pass shooting.
Snipe prefer to forage in shallow marsh and wet grassland areas. Best areas for hunting would be western portions of Fisher Butte and Royal Amazon units.
Hunting for geese on the wildlife area is limited to the September season only. Good numbers of birds can be expected on opening day, scattered in small flocks around the reservoir and traveling in and out to surrounding ponds and fields. The birds become wary quickly and decoys and a call may give you an edge. Best area to hunt would be southeast section of lake near Gibson Island. Boating on the reservoir provides good access as well as hiking out to the lake edge and setting up in the rushes. Entire reservoir and wildlife area is closed to goose hunting during general season to protect dusky Canada geese.
Best option for rabbit hunting would be travel to E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area north of Corvallis. Cottontail rabbits are not native to Fern Ridge and the occasional sighting of a brush rabbit is unique.
Black tailed deer are well distributed throughout the area with best hunting opportunity in the Applegate unit and East and West Coyote units. Scouting along cropland edges will provide evidence of heavy deer use. Archery hunting is allowed as well as shotgun hunting during general deer seasons (no rifles). Check game bird regulations for seasonal closures in effect after November 1.
Special Equipment Required, Recommended, or Restricted
Motor vehicles prohibited beyond gates and parking areas. Decoy carts, bicycles, canoes, and boats welcome. Binoculars recommended for all outings to take advantage of excellent birding opportunities.
Free self-service hunt permits are required for hunting in the East Coyote, West Coyote, Fisher Butte, and Royal Amazon units. Permits are stocked at checkstations located at unit access points. Daily check-in and check-out are required. An additional "Pheasant Tag" is required for participation in the Western Oregon Fee Pheasant Hunt Program. Remaining units are open to hunting daily according to general hunting regulations with no special permit requirement. Use of rifles and handguns is prohibited at all times, and non-toxic shot is required for shotguns except for deer hunters using slug or buckshot.
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