COOS COUNTY - (West Tioga, West Powers, North Sixes and Southwest Siuslaw units). Deer populations in Coos County appear to be improving similar to what has been seen over the past few years. Fawn production and survival appears to be fairly good possibly due to a decreased prevalence of deer hair-loss syndrome. Buck survival during last season appeared to be fairly high as well. Hunting prospects are good in all units, but there is more accessible public land in the Tioga Unit. The Sixes and Powers units have good deer populations, but access to them is on private land. Hunters should contact timber companies and ranch owners to ask for hunting access. Hunt for deer in brushy openings, meadows and clearcuts where brush is beginning to grow up. Areas where vehicle access is limited will be the most productive for deer.
DOUGLAS COUNTY - (Dixon, South Indigo, Northwest Evans Creek, Melrose, Southwest Siuslaw, East Tioga and Northeast Powers units). Deer populations remain similar to last year with large numbers on the Umpqua Valley floor and lower populations in the Cascades and Coast ranges. Fawn ratios have been good the past 10 years, showing good overall deer recruitment throughout the county. Buck ratios are similar to last year, so hunters should expect to find a good number of legal bucks if they work clearcuts and other places that have brushy habitats. In addition, mild winter conditions over the past few years have contributed to excellent survival providing a good deer-harvest opportunity this season.
Most property on the Umpqua Valley floor is privately owned, and hunters are reminded to obtain permission before hunting on private lands. For hunters looking to hunt on private timberlands, don't forget to check with local timber companies to obtain information on access restrictions related to fire conditions. During the early part of rifle and archery season, hunters should find deer on the northerly slopes, near water and green-up areas.
JACKSON, JOSEPHINE, CURRY COUNTIES - (Applegate, Chetco, Evans Creek, Rogue, portions of Dixon and Sixes units). For the third year, there is a slight decrease in trend data, although buck and fawn ratios continue to remain high. Hunting is expected to be average for all units. Early indications show that oak trees will have plenty of acorns for late-season hunting. Most deer will be in high elevations through September. Hunter success is generally weather-dependent with rain and snow bringing the best hunting. Unlike many blacktails, Jackson County's deer are migratory, and hunters are encouraged to hunt high elevations in the first part of the season, switching to mid to low elevations later in the season. Josephine and Curry counties' deer populations show very little migration, and deer can be found throughout all elevations. Don't forget to check fire restrictions before heading out, especially early in the season.
COOS COUNTY - (West Tioga, West Powers, North Sixes, Southwest Siuslaw units). Similar to last year, forage production in Coos County was good in most places due to rain in the spring. Elk are expected to be in good physical shape due to the fact that a large amount of feed is available. Elk populations are above the management objective in the Sixes Unit and close to objective in Powers. Over the past few years, the population appears to have slipped in the Tioga. Surveys done in February indicate the Tioga elk population is about 1,000 animals below management objective. So in an effort to improve these numbers, hunters with disability permits and bowhunters no longer can harvest antlerless animals. It is expected this change will allow the population to continue to increase and reach the management objective.
Clearly, the most important factor that determines where elk will be found is human activity. Elk can be expected to move to places where vehicle and other human activity is minimal. Road closures often are the best places to find elk on a regular basis. Within these areas, hunting will be best on north-facing slopes in the early season. Later in the season, elk often move to south-facing slopes where green-up starts earlier. A particularly productive habitat type to hunt in the Oregon Coast Range is areas where foresters have thinned timber stands. Thinning the tree canopy encourages grass and brush growth on the ground, improving feed quality.
DOUGLAS COUNTY - (Dixon, South Indigo, Northwest Evans Creek, Melrose, Southwest Siuslaw, East Tioga and Northeast Powers units). The outlook for hunters this elk season looks to be similar to last year. February aerial surveys found good bull and calf ratios close to management objectives. Good escapement from the 2011 hunting season and another mild winter increased elk herd survival. Elk numbers are greatest in the East Tioga, mid to high elevations of the Dixon and South Indigo and the perimeter of the Melrose units. Early in the season, some of the local, private timberlands are restricting access due to high fire danger, so hunters should obtain more information on any restrictions before hunting.
JACKSON, JOSEPHINE, CURRY COUNTIES - (Applegate, Chetco, Evans Creek, Rogue, portions of Tioga, Dixon and Sixes units). Bull and calf ratios remain good for all units. With the potentially hot fall during Cascade elk season, it is important for hunters to prescout areas for elk. Known water sources or wallows can be good locations to start scouting activities. Archery hunters need to focus on north-facing hills in higher elevation or areas of cooler draws where they can retreat during the heat of the day. Elk populations are minimal in the East Chetco and the Applegate, though some can be found in select drainages in Applegate. Units along the coast have higher elk numbers on private property. Elk in the Evans Creek Unit are primarily found near private properties. There also are lots of elk down low in and among private land, but gaining access to these properties requires homework early in the season.
COOS COUNTY — As was the case last year, blue grouse, ruffed grouse and wild turkey production appear to be poor due to the long, winterlike spring. In these conditions, grouse and turkey broods often die from hypothermia because staying dry and warm is difficult. Mountain quail and California quail likely will do better because their broods hatch later in the spring than grouse. However, rain in June probably had a negative effect on these birds as well. Those interested in hunting grouse will find them on closed forest roads or near creek bottoms. Quail will be found around clearcuts and exposed ridges. While wild turkeys can be found in forested areas in the county, the best hunting generally is in the vicinity of agricultural areas.
DOUGLAS COUNTY — Overall, hunters can expect a slightly below-average year for upland game birds due to reduced numbers and lower recruitment levels. It is slightly lower because of the extended wet periods this spring and summer combined with lower production the previous two years. This year, like last year, turkey production was below the 15-year average in poult production. The expected hunter harvest should be near average because of a large carryover of adult turkeys the past few years. Most turkeys can be found on or adjacent to low- to mid-elevation private lands associated with oak-savannah habitat. Mountain quail-nesting season was good with average numbers produced, so hunting success should still be good. Success is best in the mid elevations of the Cascades and Coast Range near brushy clearcuts on secondary forest roads. California (Valley) quail counts were low this year because of the long and wet spring, so hunting success should be lower than average. Most California quail are found on agricultural and low-elevation forestland. Pheasant outlook continues to be poor because the Umpqua Valley lowlands have very few pheasants that still exist on private lands. Blue and ruffed grouse brood counts for this year indicate slightly lower than average production. Hunting availability and success for forest grouse should be fair to good this season. Blue grouse success is best in mid to high elevations of the Cascades in partly open conifer stands. Ruffed grouse can be found near creeks mostly at mid elevations of both the Cascades and Coast Range. Hunters may use rimfire rifles or pistols to harvest forest grouse.
Hunters are reminded to help ODFW by providing one wing and tail fan with rump feathers from blue and ruffed grouse and mountain quail. Paper collection bags and simple instructions are available at ODFW offices. All bags with samples (one bird per bag) should be dropped off at any ODFW office with harvest date and general area of harvest. This information helps ODFW determines hatching dates, sex and age composition, an indicator of annual production and general health of local populations.
JACKSON, JOSEPHINE, CURRY COUNTIES — Most first hatches for forest grouse and quail failed with the rains although many were able to nest again, so early in the season hunters may find small birds. Forest grouse can be found in timbered creek draws, and mountain quail will be found in brushy clearcuts near water. A good bird dog will aid greatly in bird retrieval. Fall turkey hunting should be fair, but developing a relationship with landowners is key to getting at them on private property. Bureau of Land Management lands with oak/grassland habitat below 3,000 feet elevation are prime habitat for turkeys, although there are a growing number of turkeys in elevation over 3,000 feet. Remember, turkey hunters may use dogs during the fall season. Pheasant hunting in these counties are limited primarily on private lands. The only real public pheasant-hunting opportunity is during the fee season now through Oct. 5 at Denman Wildlife Area.
COOS COUNTY - Ducks will begin moving into the county early in the fall and initially concentrate in coastal bays and other large water bodies. Duck abundance should be high this year due to the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' estimate of reproduction in the Pacific flyway is high. A large portion of Coos Bay is open to hunting, even though some of it is within the city limits of Coos Bay. Some areas within the city limits of Coos Bay and all areas within city limits of North Bend are closed to hunting. Also, there is an area near the North Bend airport that is closed to hunting. For information on the area open for hunting, contact the ODFW Charleston Field Office at 541-888-5515. As winter comes on and the rainy season starts, waterfowl will disperse inland to flooded river valleys like the Coquille.
Geese will concentrate on private pastures around river valleys. Canada goose populations have been growing over the past few years. Good goose hunting can be found throughout most of the county. The key to a successful hunt is scouting before the hunt for areas where geese are going to feed or rest.
DOUGLAS COUNTY - Hunting for resident geese in Douglas County should be good this year as Northwest goose production was good. The early September goose hunt should be excellent for hunters along river gravel bars frequented by geese or for those with permitted access to private property. Hunting for resident geese in Douglas County should be fair to good this year as goose production was slightly below average. Local duck production was fair to good this year. Duck-hunting conditions should improve as the fall migrating ducks arrive, especially since production up north was above good this year. Nearly all waterfowl hunting in the Umpqua Valley is on private property, and hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting. Plat-I Reservoir in Sutherlin, the Umpqua River and its tributaries offer the best waterfowl hunting in the Umpqua Valley.
JACKSON, JOSEPHINE, CURRY COUNTIES — Take advantage of the September Canada goose season this year. A good number of residential flocks of geese are in valley floors, agricultural land and at Denman Wildlife Area. Gaining access to private property is key to getting at many of these geese. The best waterfowl hunting at Denman Wildlife Area tends to occur around the end of November; area managers continue to plant crops and flood fields to attract waterfowl to Denman. Stormy weather plays a big factor in migratory birds coming into our valley and hunter success.
BEAR and COUGAR
COOS COUNTY - Bear and cougar populations are similar to last year. The highest bear densities appear to be near the Umpqua River close to the coast. Bear-hunting opportunities will be best near blackberry patches in the early season. These patches can be found in creek bottoms in clearcuts or along deactivated forest roads that are "brushing in." Like last year, when winterlike conditions extended late into the spring, berry production was delayed. For the first few weeks of the season, bears should be feeding on black caps and trailing blackberries, so hunters should hunt based on where these berries are found. Getting into late August and early September, Himalayan blackberries will ripen and become bears' primary food source. Blackberries appear to be coming on strong, and a strong crop is expected. Tree-stand or ground-blind hunting near Himalayan blackberries can be very productive when bears are feeding on this food source. Once blackberries are no longer available, bears will turn to huckleberries. This causes bears to be somewhat dispersed. Hunting bears with predator calls may be a good method to use at that time.
DOUGLAS COUNTY - The normal late-summer and early-fall, dry weather conditions will concentrate bears near streams where foraging will be better. Hunters are advised to concentrate their efforts in the berry patches in early morning and late afternoon. Bear numbers are highest at middle to low elevations in the Coast range with lower numbers in the Cascades. Cougars are abundant throughout Douglas County and are a challenge to hunt, but harvest success is greatest adjacent to private, low-elevation lands using a predator call.
JACKSON, JOSEPHINE, CURRY COUNTIES - Hunters can expect an above-average year. Bear numbers appear to be abundant. Early in the season in hot dry weather, bears will be found around cooler, wet drainages. The berry crops are plentiful this year, hunters should locate these areas to find bears. The best times to look for bears are in the early morning and late evenings.
Cougars are found throughout the district and can be hunted all year long. They can pose a challenge to hunt; hunters are finding the use of predator calls along major ridge lines as a way to increase their odds. Don't forget to purchase a tag, so you can take one if you see it; the vast majority of cougars taken today are by hunters pursuing other species.
HIGH DESERT REGION
MID-COLUMBIA - Buck ratios were at or above management objective in all units. Fawn recruitment was below maintenance in Silver Lake, Fort Rock, Interstate and Warner. The lower fawn recruitment means there will be fewer yearling bucks in the population, and therefore hunter success is expected to be slightly below-average. Fawn recruitment in Beatys Butte and Wagontire was above maintenance levels. At this time, the desert units are very dry, and water is limited. Lower elevations in the forested units also are very dry. Without some late summer rains, deer will be foraging on shrubs, and hunters should focus on those areas with shrubs in the understory. Some recommended locations for hunting are the 2002 Tool Box fire in Silver Lake where forage is recovering. Focus on the fringe of the fire for best results. Forage on the Grassy Fire area of the Fremont National Forest in North Warner and the Burnt Willow Fire in South Warner are also recovering nicely. Beatys Butte, Wagontire and South Juniper are all desert units with low deer populations. Hunters in these units should focus on the desert rims with sagebrush or bitterbrush for best success. Archery season in the Warner unit is limited-entry.
Harney - (Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mountain, Juniper, portions of Beatys Butte and Wagontire units). Deer populations are stable throughout the district due to a mild winter leading to good fawn survival over the winter. Buck ratios in all units are at or above management objective with good numbers of younger bucks.
Habitat conditions in the forested areas of the Silvies and Malheur are generally good, but the desert portions will be extremely dry unless we get some late summer or fall rains. The Egley Complex fire in 2006, which burned approximately 140,000 acres in the Silvies Unit, is generally recovering and providing good early-stage habitat for both deer and elk.
Deer populations in the Beatys Butte, Wagontire, Juniper, Steens and Trout Creek portions of the Whitehorse Unit are all desert units with low deer populations. These units continue to be well below management objectives, but with good fawn recruitment over the past few years, there should be an increasing number of bucks in the population. Hunters should focus on the desert rims with sagebrush or bitterbrush for best success. Water is very limited in these units this year due to very little precipitation this winter, spring and summer. The Trout Creek portion of the Whitehorse Unit and the southeast part of the Juniper both burned this summer, affecting some deer-hunting areas.
Malheur - (Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah units). Winter conditions were extremely mild in the Beulah Unit this year. Fawn recruitment was only fair to good but still an improvement from the previous year's harsh winter. This translates to fewer yearling bucks being available this fall and a decline in hunter success as much of the harvest in this unit comprises yearlings.
For the Owyhee Unit, the deer population is stable, and buck ratios are at or above management objective. For 2011, hunter success was 50 percent, and there was still a good proportion of mature bucks in the harvest. However, it is still a very challenging unit to hunt. Deer are widely scattered in the unit with no one area with consistently good deer numbers.
East Whitehorse Unit has had two major fires to date, which has had a negative effect on deer habitat and will concentrate deer and deer hunters this season. The Ten Mile Fire burned 14,036 acres north and east of McDermitt, and the Long Draw fire burned 557,648 acres from Basque Station east to Antelope Creek near Three Forks on the Owyhee River.
Trout Creek Mountains: An Aug. 6 lightning strike started the Holloway Fire which burned the south half of the hunt unit. Department staff has not had the opportunity to access the extent of the fire.
Fall Hunting Report: Sept. 21, 2012