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Southern Oregon is known for big black-tailed bucks, and numbers look good this fall, but size appears to be down. [Mail Tribune / file photo]

Buck fever's back

Rifle hunters will head en masse Saturday into the forests of Southern Oregon, where they will see solid black-tailed buck deer ratios and a lot of closed signs on private forestlands.

That’s a mixed message for hunters coming down with their requisite buck fever for the start of the statewide general rifle season for buck deer.

“We’ll probably have a good season,” says Steve Niemela, the Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We have good buck numbers. I’d expect people to have a good time out there hunting.”

With high fire danger still in the woods, many local industrial forestlands are closed to hunters, while others are closed to vehicles but allow walk-in access.

For a list of up-to-date industrial forestland closures, see www.ofic.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-Closure-Form.pdf.

Heading into Saturday, buck ratios are solid in the Rogue and Applegate management units, which are the two most prominent ones for hunters taking part in the general rifle season for buck here.

The Rogue Unit, which sports a unique and highly migratory herd of blacktails, has 27 bucks per 100 does, which is right in the normal range, according to ODFW field survey results.

While the ratio is high, overall deer numbers are also holding steady and are similar to those 20 years ago, Niemela says. These deer generally winter in areas ripe with oak savannas and ceanothus plots that provide much better feed for deer, he says.

Last year’s Rogue Unit hunters had a 16-percent success rate, down from the 20 percent the previous year but still within the normal range.

“Those things really jump around,” Niemela says. “Weather plays a real important role in that.”

The Applegate Unit sports a ratio of 36 bucks per 100 does, also within its normal range, survey data show. Last year’s hunters saw a 26-percent success rate there, which is better than the Rogue Unit but down from the 31-percent rate the previous year.

This year’s season runs to Oct. 12 before taking its annual hiatus for the one-week general season rifle hunt for Roosevelt elk. Deer season resumes Oct. 20 and runs through Nov. 2.

Tag sales end Friday night at point-of-sale license agents throughout Oregon.

A need for seed?

Landowners who would like to attract more wildlife to their property can take advantage of an annual, free, grass-seed giveaway that begins Monday.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has teamed with the Rogue Valley chapter of the Medford-based Oregon Hunters Association to provide 2 tons of a mix of grass seeds to create forage opportunities for everything from big-game animals to nongame birds.

The seed will be given away on first-come, first-served basis beginning at 8 a.m. Monday at the Denman Wildlife Area office, 1495 E. Gregory Road, White City. It will continue until the all 267 bags are gone, says Jade Keehn, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Each landowner can get a 15-pound bag to be planted this fall, which is enough seed to turn about 1 acre into a veritable wildlife magnet.

The mix includes subterranean clover, Timothy grass, plantain, Persian clover and orchard grass, says Keehn.

They are all non-native grasses chosen because they compete well with starthistle and other non-native weeds. However, the mix is not suitable for healthy habitats such as woodlands and grasslands dominated by native species, which already provide suitable wildlife forage.

The giveaways go quickly, and Keehn says she anticipates all the seed will be gone by the end of Monday.

The seed is best when planted in the fall so it will sprout with fall rains, Keehn says. It does not require irrigation, and it will continue to reseed itself annually, she says.

The seed costs $3.10 per pound, up 30 cents from last year.

OHA’s Rogue Valley chapter purchased 1 ton of the seed, with the remainder coming from an ODFW habitat fund.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwriterFreeman.

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