By Mark Freeman
The great weeklong camping trip known as the Cascades general rifle season for Roosevelt bull elk kicks off this weekend, and hunters have set up camps throughout the south Cascades full of hope they’ll be among the 4-percenters.
Last year, 4 percent of the more then 1,500 licensed hunters who took part bagged a bull, and that’s become rather common for a hunt where more bulls are behind fences now than in open forest.
“It’s pretty long odds for an individual hunter, but it provides an opportunity for everyone to go out every year,” says Steve Niemela, wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “People know what this hunt is about. This hunt is a lot about getting out with family and friends.”
The Cascades general elk season opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 19 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. 10-13, and the second season runs Nov. 19-23.
The $46 general-season tag allows hunters to take one bull elk with at least one visible antler.
The ongoing story of bull hunting in the Rogue Unit is the ever-shifting of elk herds from public to private lands as the animals seek out more elk-friendly habitat.
“We have fewer elk in the forest than we used to,” Niemela says.
This year’s bull ratios have dropped from 30 bulls per 100 cows heading into last season to 17 bulls per 100 cows this year.
“That’s down, but it’s a really high bull ratio,” Niemela says. “We’re still well above the management objective of 10 (bulls per 100 cows). That’s actually a lot of surplus bulls.
After some preseason rains, hunters are likely to find some Indian summer weather, with highs in the 70s and lows around 40 around Butte Falls, according to the National Weather Service. No mid- to high-elevation snow is in the forecast, with only a dusting on the top of Mount McLoughlin expected.
Green-dot road closures remain in effect through Oct. 19, which means motorists are allowed only on main forest roads sporting green dots.
Rogue retreads are back
The upper Rogue River’s so-so flies-only season for summer steelhead received a shot in the arm last week with the return of retread steelhead.
Retreads are excess summer steelhead that get recycled from Cole Rivers Hatchery into the upper Rogue each fall. The latest batch of 989 retreads hit the water Oct. 5.
The fish were split between the TouVelle State Recreational Site boat ramp and the Modoc Unit of the Denman Wildlife Area off Antioch Road upstream of TouVelle.
The fish have a hole punched in their gill plate to denote their retread status so they don’t get counted twice should they return to Cole Rivers. They are all fin-clipped hatchery fish and can be kept as part of the Rogue’s daily limit of two fin-clipped steelhead 16 inches or longer.
So far this year, Cole Rivers technicians have recycled 1,387 steelhead to go along with the 1,731 collected so far at Cole Rivers. After starting strong, this year’s steelhead returns to the hatchery are on par with returns two and three years ago, but less than last year, hatchery data show.
The flies-only season on the upper Rogue runs through October. On Nov. 1, anglers will be able to fish with bait or artificial lures upstream of the Shady Cove boat ramp, while artificial lures only and no bait will be the rules through December for those fishing from the Shady Cove ramp downstream to the Fishers Ferry ramp below the old Gold Ray Dam site.