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With bull ratios up and fall rains that have softened the forest floor, Saturdayís opening of the Cascade general bull elk season has hunters thinking this will be their year. Then again, they always think that. Mail Tribune / file photo

Foul weather should be boon for elk hunters

Southern Oregon hunters accustomed to a crunchy forest floor during the fall Roosevelt bull elk season will find a delightfully soggy forest for Saturday's season opener, the fall's second major general-season opener in the rain.

Heavy rains but high snow levels are forecast throughout the region this weekend, which will give rifle hunters a better chance to become one of the 5 percent of hunters expected to kill an elk this season.

"Conditions will be good for people walking around," says Mark Vargas, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District wildlife biologist. "If Mother Nature's not too nasty, it should all help the elk hunters. Hopefully they can get into a fair number of bulls. We'll see."

Tags will be sold through tonight for the one-week season that bisects black-tailed buck deer rifle hunting in the south Cascades.

The Cascades general elk season runs through Oct. 21 in the Rogue, Evans Creek and Dixon units. The Applegate Unit, which sports only a light cadre of bulls, falls under the coast bull-elk general seasons. The first season there runs Nov. 12-15, while the second season runs Nov. 19-25.

The $46 general-season tag allows hunters to take one bull elk with at least one visible antler. Last year's success rate in the Rogue Unit was 4 percent, down a hair from the 5 percent success rate in 2014.

This year's hunt starts off with the promise of 22 bulls per 100 cows in the Rogue Unit. That's more than double the 10 bulls per 100 cows management objective for the Rogue Unit.

This is the earliest elk opener possible under ODFW season frameworks, and normally that would have rifle hunters cursing the weatherman while heading to Elk Camp amid fire-season restrictions that would force hunters to tell stories while sitting around a lantern.

With heavy rain and wind forecast for this weekend, they will be hard-pressed to keep a campfire going.

"If it's really blustery and ugly, people may spend more time in their trailers than in the woods," Vargas says.

The opening weekend of deer season also was wet, which created good hunting conditions. Deer hunters have reported one of the better buck seasons in years.

Most elk hunters likely will slog it out and not wait for the storm to pass, Vargas says.

"Elk hunters seem to be a little more dedicated than deer hunters, mainly because the season is so short," Vargas says. "They'll just throw on their rain gear and go out there. At least I hope so."

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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