Two youth-only pheasant hunts are on tap in September

Young guns with an eye on the calender and a hand on their shotgun can have two special pheasant hunts beginning next week for less than the cost of a tank of gas.

State-run wildlife areas in White City and Klamath Falls are again sporting youth upland game-bird hunts three weeks apart, allowing savvy kids with willing parents the opportunity to hunt both events.

The first one is Sept. 6-7 at the Klamath Wildlife Area, where fields will be stocked with pen-raised pheasants for kids in this free weekend hunt. Would-be hunters should make reservations by telephoning 541-883-5732. Eighty hunters will be allowed in the field at a time each day.

Beginning Tuesday, kids can start reserving space for the Denman Wildlife Area's hunt Sept. 27-28 outside of White City by calling 541-826-8774. The first 85 kids who call can reserve spots. Walk-ins will hunt as space becomes available.

"There's a lot of action," says Vince Oredson, Denman's manager who runs the hunt there. "It's always a lot of fun. The kids have a good time."

And so do the shell-salesmen.

At least year's Denman hunt, 168 hunters fired 808 shots, killing 173 pheasants and six doves, Oredson says.

The wildlife area's safety record continued its unblemished string of accident-free youth weekends, Oredson says.

This year's hunt contains all the same safety rules as last year, including a provision that adults may supervise just one hunter at a time in the field. Blaze-orange hats and vests again are a must, as is federally approved, nontoxic shot.

For more information and other rules, visit pages 22-23 of the 2008-2009 Oregon Game Bird Regulations.

The spring chinook salmon run limped up the Rogue River to the bitter end, eclipsing last year's run thanks in part to a season-long ban on the killing of wild spring chinook by anglers.

The last 170 spring chinook crossed Gold Ray Dam and hit the upper Rogue on Aug. 15, the final day in which chinook moving over the dam are deemed spring chinook. Those that migrate over the dam beginning Aug. 16 are considered fall chinook.

The year's run ended at 12,548 chinook, up from 11,171 spring chinook last year, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife statistics.

"We're slightly above the last couple years, but they're still pretty similar," says Dan VanDyke, the ODFW's Rogue District fish biologist.

VanDyke says he remains unsure how many of those wild spring chinook that are now in the upper Rogue are there because of the wild springer harvest ban, which focused anglers onto hatchery fish wherever possible.

"We did the best we could to provide escapement for wild springers and still provide an important fishery," VanDyke says.

The run brought less than half of the 10-year average of 27,032 chinook. The all-time low count over the dam was in 1992, when 5,801 fish passed the counting station. And in that year, three-fourths of the run died from disease triggered by drought conditions in the Lower Rogue Canyon.

Poor ocean-rearing conditions have been blamed for poor returns in recent years, but counts of mini-jacks this year indicate that chinook returns in the immediate future should improve.

Only 4,396 spring chinook have reached the fish trap as of Aug. 20 at Cole Rivers Hatchery, where the release of 1.64 million spring chinook smolts annually accounts for the majority of the Rogue's spring chinook run.

The 10-year average of fish returning the hatchery is 12,661.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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