Scouting Around
Arizona — Quail Outlook

The Gambel's quail outlook this year is generally poor and scaled quail populations are fair for the October 13 opener. But the outlook is good for the Mearn's quail season starting November 17, advised Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists.

Arizona experienced a dry winter and mostly a dry spring with some precipitation coming late. For Gambel's quail, reproduction was down and mostly occurred late, especially in lower elevations. "The better Gambel's hunting will probably come a few weeks into the season," advised Small Game supervisor Ron Engel-Wilson.

In southeastern Arizona, scaled quail numbers are better, but are still rated as fair. "While our summer rains have been pretty good, the absence of winter and spring rains does not bode well for desert quail. My advice to quail hunters this year is to get a dog and hunt Mearn's quail starting November 17," said Jim Heffelfinger, Tucson regional game specialist.

Wyoming — Hunters Urged To Take Blood

Not only is there is call out to give blood these days, there's also a request to take it. Over 5,000 limited quota western Wyoming elk hunters are receiving kits to take a blood sample from their quarry. The sample will be tested to check the range and prevalence of brucellosis in elk. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease, which can induce abortions in elk, bison and cattle. Wyoming Game and Fish Department research specialist Hank Edwards said the blood sampling done by hunters is a very important part of the state's brucellosis monitoring program.

Edwards said instructions are included with each kit and hunters should follow the guidelines carefully to ensure the samples are usable. "Timely collection of the blood and then getting the sample in the mail to the laboratory as quickly as possible is very important," he said. "Hunters should also try to keep the sample from freezing." Only about half of the hunters receiving kits harvest an elk and send the samples back to the lab, and of those, only about half are usable. "The more viable samples we get, the more good information we have on the status of the disease," Edwards said.

The monitoring is part of the G&F's program to control brucellosis in elk in western Wyoming. Brucellosis biologist Scott Smith said about 2 percent of the samples outside of the feedground area of western Wyoming test positive for the disease. This percentage has been very constant over the last decade.

These results suggest the disease is not maintaining itself in non-feedground herds given the very low percentage of positive tests. It also suggests there is a small amount of interchange between feedground and non-feedground herds.

"It is important to keep monitoring to see that the percentage does not increase over time," Smith said.

Brucellosis control efforts in the Jackson/Pinedale area include vaccination on state feedgrounds, habitat improvements to discourage elk from wintering on feedgrounds, and minimizing contact between domestic livestock and elk.

Wyoming — Cover Your Game

Only one "hot dog" on a sports team can send the spectators home thinking the whole team was a bunch of "show offs." The same is true of hunters.

Almost everyone enjoys viewing live wildlife, but few people — especially non-hunters — like to see dead animals. That's why the Wyoming Game and Fish Department strongly urges all big game hunters to cover their animals on the way home.

"A deer or elk strapped to a vehicle with a cigar hanging out of its mouth may seem comical to a few, but it is simply crass to most everyone else — hunters and non-hunters alike," said Walt Gasson, G&F planning director who researched strategies to promote hunting. "If hunters care about the future of their tradition, they will take steps not to alienate the majority of society who are non-hunters, but so far are ambivalent to the sport. Covering your game during transport is one of the most important steps."

Gasson asks hunters to look beyond the outing they are on and to conduct themselves afield with their children and grandchildren in mind. "If we want our hunting tradition to endure, we've got to use our heads afield and not do anything to fuel the anti-hunting movement," Gasson said.

The G&F has published a brochure of recommendations on how to act if confronted by anti-hunters. For a copy, write: Information Section, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Cheyenne, WY 82006.

Oregon — Chukar and Partridge Hunting Area

Established last year, the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area will soon open once again for business with the start of bird hunting seasons this fall. Located about seven miles southwest of Pendleton, the 12,980-acre Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area began offering hunting for ring-necked pheasant, chukar, Hungarian partridge and valley quail in 1999. Beginning this year, an antlerless deer hunt and youth trophy buck hunt are also being offered.

A regulated hunt area is a block of land where private and public entities have agreed to allow public hunting access. In return, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manages use of the area during hunting seasons and Oregon State Police provide law enforcement. The arrangement releases landowners from considering requests to hunt from many hunters over the season and assures the property will be patrolled. Landowners who allow public recreation on their lands are released from liability concerns by state law.

The participating landowners in the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area are the Wolfe Hereford Ranch and the Forth Ranches, Inc.

Integral to the regulated hunt area's success is a $22,450 grant provided by the ODFW Access and Habitat Program. The grant pays for an OSP patrol, signage, shrub plantings and noxious weed control.

The Access and Habitat Program also provided a $52,702 grant last year to help form the regulated hunt area. Created by the Oregon Legislature in 1993, the A&H Program is funded by a $2 surcharge on hunting licenses. Funds raised by the program are distributed with grants to individual and corporate landowners, conservation organizations, and others, to cooperatively fund wildlife habitat improvement and hunter access projects throughout the state.

In addition, Access and Habitat Program funding is also helping to implement a Conservation Reserve Program wildlife habitat plan on 3,400 acres. The Conservation Reserve Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect highly erodible farmlands and encourage farmers to preserve and create wildlife habitat by sharing the expenses to develop wildlife-friendly environments.

To date, several wildlife habitat enhancements have been implemented in Coombs Canyon, including planting of native vegetation and installing guzzlers to provide game birds and other wildlife with water.

"We had good survival on the shrubs we planted last spring and we will be planting more next spring," said ODFW wildlife biologist Kevin Blakely. "The guzzlers we put in last year charged up over the winter and there are birds around them now."

Although Blakely reported that the ring-necked pheasant population is down a bit from last year, there are good numbers of chukar and Hungarian partridge and lots of hunters are expected to hunt the area this season.

For additional information about the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area, contact Kevin Blakely at (541) 276-2344. For more information on the Access and Habitat Program, contact program coordinator Matt Buhler at (503) 872-5260, extension 5349.

Oregon — 65,000 Acres Not Avaliable To Hunting This Year

Some hunters in northeast Oregon will face reduced access to lands due to the removal of nearly 65,000 acres from the Regulated Hunt Area program. Several areas that have been open to public hunting for the past 17 years will be closed to the public this fall.

The lands, under lease to a private agricultural company, are within the state-owned Boeing Tract, which lies along Interstate 84 near Boardman. The R.D. Offutt Company Northwest holds the lease to the property.

"A company representative said that until a conservation plan is completed for the Washington ground squirrel, they feel obligated to exclude all public use in the area," said Greg Rimbach, Regulated Hunt Area (RHA) program manager.

In January, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission added the Washington ground squirrel to Oregon's endangered species list. According to the state law, the primary property owner — in this case, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services — has 18 months following the listing in which to prepare a conservation plan. The squirrel's primary remaining habitat is on lands owned by the state but under lease to R. D. Offutt Company.

Five individual Regulated Hunt Areas affected by this action are:
• North of I-84 RHA, between Boardman and Arlington, 2,250 acres;
• Threemile Canyon RHA, 5,400 acres;
• Sixmile Canyon RHA, 2,800 acres;
• Inland Land RHA, composed mostly of irrigated circles, 35,840 acres; and
• South Boeing area, 18,500 acres.

Rimbach noted that the South Boeing area has been heavily used for deer hunting in the past. "I wish we'd known about this sooner," he said. "A lot of hunters bought Columbia Basin deer tags, planning to hunt in the South Boeing area. With this closure, they will have limited hunting opportunity."

The Boeing Regulated Hunt Area was established in 1983. Over the past 17 seasons it has provided more than 53,000 hunter-days of upland game bird hunting, waterfowl hunting and big game hunting.

"It was unfortunate that an agreement couldn't be reached for this season," commented Craig Ely, NE Region director. "We are appreciative of the opportunities provided to hunters over the past years on the Boeing Tract lands, and we're hopeful that an arrangement can be made to secure hunting opportunities for the future."

Montana — Read The Land For More Success

"A hunting season following major forest fires and prolonged drought is an excellent time for hunters to take extra care to 'read the land,'" says Glenn Erickson, FWP wildlife manager in Helena. "Being aware of the condition of the land may actually help hunters make choices that will increase their hunting success."

Montana's general big game hunting season is set to open October 22 and will close November 26. Hunters alert to the condition of vegetation and streams in an area will be able to evaluate how severely wildlife in the area may have been impacted by drought. FWP's range management specialist in Butte, Mike Frisina, says wildlife will stay within the home ranges, but may use the habitat differently to get the forage they need. For example, animals may be more likely to be found in gully bottoms, forested areas or within riparian areas.

Hunters will be less likely to find animals in areas that are extremely dry. However, areas where there is new green growth after fall rains or early season snowmelts may be especially attractive after summer's dry grass.

"It is possible hunters in some areas of the state will be a little disappointed with the size of the animals they take," Frisina says. "In a dry year like this one, I've seen deer at our check stations weighed in at 70-80 pounds that would ordinarily weigh about 130 pounds based on their overall size."

One positive outcome of this summer's weather is that bears across the state have had access to excellent berry and fruit crops, providing vital calories for a successful hibernation.

This is also good news for bear hunters who appear to be having success in the central area of the state, according to Gayle Joslin, FWP wildlife biologist in the Helena area office who tracks bear hunting successes in the area. So far this season, statistics Joslin keeps show bear hunters have been almost twice as successful this year as they were at this time last year.

Bear hunters who take a bear are required to report it within five days. FWP tracks the sex and age of the animals to keep tabs on the population.

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