Warmer weather adds a wrinkle for fall hunters

For more than 180,000 Oregonians, Saturday's start of rifle season for deer can't come early enough. But for those seeking kind words from the weatherman, the local hunt will start a few days late.

The cool, wet weather sought by buck shooters won't hit Southern Oregon forests until Sunday evening, when a chance of drizzle is forecast for the mountains around Prospect. So general-season rifle hunters might want to extend their opening weekend into early next week to fill their tags, whose sales deadline is Friday night.

"The prevailing wisdom is the wetter the better, and bad weather is good hunting," says Duane Dungannon, state coordinator of the Oregon Hunters Association. "But there's no such thing as a normal deer season. You either get your deer or you don't. And don't tell me it was a great season if I didn't get my deer."

The start of the black-tailed buck deer season comes with a moderate fire danger, meaning the traditional evening campfires will glow opening weekend.

"Hunters are able to have campfires," says Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry in Central Point. "But the message is put them out when you leave camp and when you go to bed."

Hunters heading to Eastern Oregon for mule deer bucks will find Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff at roadside sampling stations to check animals for signs of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Biologists want to take a tissue sample from the central nervous system to test for CWD.

Since 2002, ODFW has tested nearly 12,000 free-ranging deer and elk for CWD, an untreatable and fatal neurological disease, which has yet to be detected here but has been found in wild deer, elk and moose populations throughout the West.

The closest test station to the Rogue Valley will be at the intersection of Highway 97 and Highway 31 in La Pine, which will be staffed on opening day only.

Similar sampling stations will be manned during the Rocky Mountain bull elk season.

Removing and sending a tooth to ODFW is relatively easy and in no way harms the taxidermy mount. Postage-paid envelopes and instructions are available at license sales agents and ODFW offices. Some hunters who drew controlled deer tags will receive an envelope in the mail.

Animals killed outside Oregon must be processed properly to curb CWD here, and those who violate the laws face fines of up to $6,250.

Hunters importing an animal from a CWD-infected state or province may bring cut and wrapped meat, quartered or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, headless hides and capes, cleaned skull plates, antlers with no tissue attached and finished taxidermy mounts.

CWD has been detected in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Virginia , West Virginia and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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