Big Game Tag Numbers Set
Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission completed the final stage of the 2002 big game regulations process with their adoption of big game tag numbers on June 7.
The regulation process began in the spring of 2001, when staff biologists first presented the Commissioners with a conceptual look at their general 2002 season recommendations. In the fall of 2001, staff incorporated Commission guidance to select the season dates, locations and other specific information for the 2002 regulations. Today's commission action incorporated the most recent biological data to establish 2002 tag numbers, which were adopted as Oregon Administrative Rules. The process now begins to award controlled hunt tags to those who applied by May 15. Results will be available June 20.
Archery deer hunters got some good news with a change in bag limit in several units across central Oregon. Hunters in the Hood, Biggs, Fort Rock, Heppner, Maupin, Silver Lake units, and that part of the Columbia Basin unit open to archery hunting, as well as in the White River unit outside the National Forest, will be allowed to harvest any deer instead of the previous bag limit of one buck. This is the first year this bag limit applies to the Maupin unit. Commissioners voted also to recognize the Canyon Creek archery-only area with traditional archery limitation for the first week of the general season.
Western Oregon black-tailed deer provide the basis for liberal general deer hunting seasons. However, reduced harvest and hunter success rates in recent years seem to indicate that black-tailed deer populations may be dropping. Biologists believe that most black-tailed deer habitats are declining and that deer populations reflect the limits imposed by those habitats. A full report of analyses by the Black-tailed Deer Working Group will be presented to the Commission in July.
The decline has resulted in a 20 percent decline in western Oregon doe tags to 18,271 and a 27 percent decline in western Oregon youth tags to 718 for 2002.
All rifle hunting for buck deer in eastern Oregon is conducted under a controlled hunt system, with tags issued on the basis of evaluations of herd trends, buck ratios and other considerations, such as weather, hunter crowding and hunter success. First implemented in 1991, the controlled hunt system for mule deer has helped improve buck ratios in most herds by restricting the number of hunters. Following the 2001 hunting season, buck ratios in 62 percent of the eastern Oregon units surveyed were at or above biological Management Objectives (MO).
Commissioners adopted staff recommendations for 72,176 controlled buck rifle tags in 2002, only 1 percent fewer than last year and including High Cascade, Controlled Bow and Controlled Muzzleloader hunts, the total of 73,495 buck tags will be available in 2002. Biologists expect mule deer populations to continue to increase, as Oregon?s last winter was mild and wet, contributing to a forage base that should remain good through summer, 2002. Eastern Oregon anterless tag numbers were set at 3,899, a 12 percent decrease from 2001 as most damage situations have been brought under control.
Elk hunting opportunities are conducted under a variety of season structures, with general seasons occurring in the Cascades, most of the Coast Range, some limited areas during the Rocky Mountain first season and some of eastern Oregon during the Rocky Mountain second season. The rest of the opportunities are provided through controlled hunt tags. Controlled hunting has been implemented:
- where overharvest has occurred under general season regulations in the past,
- where antler point regulations are in place and a higher standard of hunter compliance is required, and
- where limited hunter numbers will contribute to a high quality hunt.
Rocky Mountain Elk
Since 1996 the department has managed bull elk in northeast Oregon through a series of strategies designed to improve herd health by limiting the harvest of mature bulls. This has been accomplished by emphasizing tags for spike bulls and cows. The strategy has worked, as reflected in increased bull ratios in most of Northeast Oregon, but declines in calf recruitment and low populations in some units continue to be a concern for staff biologists.
Commissioners adopted staff recommendations for 31,518 bull and either-sex tags in eastern Oregon, a 1 percent reduction from 2001. Antlerless elk hunters will have a chance at 12,302 tags, a 2 percent decrease from 2001.
In 1999 staff concern over long term declines in bull ratios in much of western Oregon led the commission to reduce the general season bull hunting seasons to four and seven days in length. The department undertook an appraisal of age structure of bulls by collecting and analyzing teeth of harvested bulls. Analysis of 3 years of data indicates bull ratios are improving. Staff will continue monitoring this change for 2 more years. Commissioners approved the sale of 8,191 bull and either sex elk tags, a 1 percent increase from 2001. In western Oregon, 3,165 antlerless elk tags were approved for the 2003 season, an increase of 11 percent over 2001.
No changes were proposed for 2002. The 2003 Spring Bear seasons and tag numbers will be done in October.
No changes were proposed in June. Staff is evaluating the quota system and will provide a full report and options in October.
Following several years of good fawn recruitment, the pronghorn population appears to be increasing in south-central Oregon. A mild winter and good fawn recruitment prompted the Commission to approve a 6.7 percent increase to 2,600 pronghorn antelope tags for this fall. For 2003, the pronghorn season will have one new youth hunt and one new muzzleloader hunt.
Hunters will see an increase of 1 tag in the number of controlled hunt tags for California bighorn sheep and decrease 1 tag in Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep tags for 2002. ODFW will sell 51 California bighorn tags and 9 Rocky Mountain tags in 35 hunts. Bighorn sheep populations are improving after disease setbacks and an active transplant program in recent years.
For 2003, two new Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunts with one tag each will be added, 11 new hunts for California bighorn sheep will be added.
The Commission also approved continuing a program to auction one bighorn sheep tag and raffle one tag. Since its inception, the raffle and auction program has raised over $1.4 million to fund management of Oregon?s bighorn populations.
As with last year, hunters are authorized to harvest 4 Rocky Mountain goats in 2002. No changes were proposed to the hunts for 2003.
This year, 5,078 applications were received for the 4 tags, making these tags the hardest to draw in the state. Other Adopted Proposals for 2001:
2003 General Seasons: The 2003 seasons generally resemble the 2002 seasons except many are shifting 1 week later because deer seasons shift to the closest Saturday to October 1, as per Mule Deer plan. The deadline for tag purchase of tags is the day before the hunt begins.