Oregon Reduces
Deer and Elk Tag Numbers
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved an 11 percent decline in the number of tags available for this fall's limited deer and elk hunts and a 4 percent increase in the number of tags for bighorn sheep, pronghorn, black bear and mountain goat.

The Commission also preliminarily approved changes to the 2005 big game regulations that will allow a controlled hunt on Columbian white-tailed deer in southwest Oregon, eliminate 800 series "additional" deer hunts, authorize a pronghorn auction tag, and expand hunting opportunities for spring bear, cougar, California bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat. The Commission will formally act on the 2005 proposals at its October meeting.

Deer and elk tags were decreased for 2004 due to a reduced need for hunters to help alleviate agricultural damage and documented declines in some localized populations from disease, habitat changes and predation. The adopted tag numbers represent an 11 percent decrease in rifle buck deer tags and a 25 percent decrease in antlerless deer tags. Additionally, 5 percent fewer bull and either-sex elk tags and 16 percent fewer antlerless elk tags will be available to hunters this year.

In Oregon, two types of hunting seasons are authorized, general seasons and controlled seasons. During the controlled seasons, the number of tags is limited and hunters must have applied for them by May 15. There is no limit to the number of general season tags sold. The Commission is the policymaking body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. The seven-member panel meets monthly to establish policies and administrative regulations for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to implement.

The following summarizes the Commission's actions related to big game seasons:

Black Bear:
• With healthy bear populations, the Commission preliminarily approved increasing the number of tags by 5 percent to 6,480 tags in 17 spring bear hunts for the 2005 spring controlled season, including three youth-only hunts.
• The Southwest Oregon spring bear season will be lengthened two weeks to April 1 through May 31.
• One new hunt in South Central Oregon was approved for 2005.
• The Indigo unit will be added into an existing southwest Oregon hunt to be consistent with the general season.
• No changes were approved for the general fall bear season.

• The Commission preliminarily approved a proposal to expand the area where hunters may hunt with an additional cougar tag to include all of eastern Oregon for the 2005 general season.
• A 3 percent increase in hunt quotas to 579 animals was preliminarily approved for 2005 in an effort to maintain the statewide cougar population at about 3,100 animals, the level in 1994. Currently biologists estimate about 5,000 cougars are in Oregon.

Bighorn Sheep:
• The Commission approved increasing 2004 tag numbers by 10 percent, bringing the total to 77 tags with 66 tags for California bighorn and 11 for Rocky Mountain bighorn.
• Hunt boundaries for East Owyhee #1 and #2 hunts were expanded for the 2004 seasons. Letters will be sent to tag holders advising them of the increased hunt area. With the significant boundary expansion, which is proposed to be permanent in 2005, the Commission approved renaming these hunts Lower Owyhee #1 and Lower Owyhee #2 in the 2005 season.

Rocky Mountain Goat:
Rocky Mountain goat populations in the Wallowa and Elkhorn mountains have increased as a result of natural dispersal and reintroduction efforts. This allows the Commission to approve issuing one additional tag for 2004, bringing the total to five. Rocky Mountain goat tags are the most difficult tags to draw in the state, with more than 1,000 applicants for each tag available. In addition, two new hunts (Hat Point and Goat Mountain) were preliminarily approved for 2005.

Pronghorn Antelope:
Because pronghorn populations have continued to improve, especially in south central Oregon, the Commission approved a 4 percent increase to 2,816 tags for the 2004 seasons.
• Higher tag numbers were approved for 2004 in the East Beaty's Butte, West Beaty's Butte, Hart Mountain, Murderer's Creek, Juniper, Steens Mountain, Silvies # 1 and #2, North and South Wagontire, Whitehorse and the East Fort Rock-Silver Lake hunts.
• Season dates for two pronghorn bowhunts and two pronghorn muzzleloader hunts will be shifted earlier to avoid conflict with controlled sage grouse in the Beaty's Butte and Warner unit hunts.

Overall, the number of controlled deer tags for 2004 was reduced by 13 percent as a result of decreases in both antlerless and buck hunts due to lower recruitment ratios and disease-related mortality.

Black-Tailed Deer:
A 22 percent reduction in the number of controlled black-tailed deer tags for 2004 was approved based on the apparent decline of black-tailed deer numbers. In addition, the Commission changed the 2004 bag limit from "one buck deer" to "one buck deer having not less than a forked antler" for early and late archery seasons in western Oregon to improve the buck ratio. In 17 hunt units primarily in northwestern Oregon, the archery bag limit was changed from one buck to one deer.

The Commission gave its preliminary approval to several regulation changes for 2005:
• Adding five days to the Wilson and Trask unit rifle buck hunt to coincide with Coastal Buck season and simplify regulations; and
• Eliminating the opportunity to harvest a third deer in one year (800 series) beginning in 2005 seasons as part of an effort to enhance black-tailed deer populations. All 800 series preference points will be converted to 600 series points and affected hunters will be notified.

ODFW will initiate a planning process for black-tailed deer management in 2005. The plans that are eventually adopted will be included in a statewide "Deer Plan" for Oregon that includes mule deer and white-tailed deer.

Mule Deer:
Most populations are stable or declining due to drops in recruitment in most units. A second mule deer bowhunting season for 2005 was created for Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge by splitting the season into two hunts. Both seasons will be changed so tags will not be valid during the general bow season.

Columbian White-Tailed Deer:
White-tailed deer populations in both northwest and southwest Oregon are increasing and expanding, but the Columbian white-tailed deer population in northwest Oregon remains listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. As a result, the Commission approved a new white-tailed deer controlled rifle hunt in the Umpqua unit for the 2005 controlled rifle season with a bag limit of "one buck with at least a forked antler."

For the 2004 elk seasons, the Commission approved a 9 percent reduction in tags for Rocky Mountain elk hunts and a 10 percent reduction in tags for Roosevelt elk hunts. Decreases in Rocky Mountain elk tags are the result of poor cow-calf ratios in eastern Oregon management units. Decreases in Roosevelt elk tag numbers are the result of fewer damage complaints.

The Commission also preliminarily approved the following changes for the 2005 season:
• Adding two new private-lands-only, either-sex hunts (Grizzly Private # 1 and #2);
• Deleting 16 antlerless hunts because agricultural damage issues have been addressed and to stabilize bull ratios: Upper North Umpqua, Elliot Rifle, Old Blue, SE Evans Cr. #2, Foothills Rogue, Maury Unit, S. Starkey #2, N. Starkey, Astoria N #1, #2, and #3, Reed and Hawley Mountain, Steens, Silvies Unit #2, Wagontire Unit, and Callahan.
• Adding 13 new antlerless hunts in 2005 to address damage complaints on both agricultural lands and managed timberlands: Astoria #1, #2 and #3, S. Scappoose #3, Arlie-Lewisburg #2, West Kings Valley, Norton Cr., Callahan Youth #1 and Youth #2, Old Blue #1 and #2, Klickitat Mt. and Bully Cr., #2.
• Deleting three hunts in southwest Oregon and adding three new hunts as a result of the annual weapons rotation for the Sitkum, Lake Creek and Elliot hunt areas. Sitkum changes from bow to rifle, Lake Creek changes from muzzleloader to bow, and Elliot changes from rifle to muzzleloader.
• Moving the Wilson-Trask bull elk seasons from October to November to be part of the Mid-Coast Valley season and Coast Valley season to simplify regulations. The second season spike-only bag limit will remain in effect.
• Modifying the hunt boundaries in five antlerless hunts: Crooked River, Southwest Grizzly, Tiller, Melrose Plus, and Thompson Creek.
• Deleting three Astoria-area north hunts, expanding the boundary and replacing the hunts with three new Astoria-area north hunts.

Western Gray Squirrel:
No changes were made in the 2005 western gray squirrel seasons.

In addition, the Commission heard that ODFW will continue the ongoing archery review and will present recommended changes this October and will review disabled hunter permits in 2005.

The Commission also gave its early approval for all the auction and raffle tags available for the 2005 seasons for bighorn sheep, pronghorn and Rocky Mountain goat.
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