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2017 Oregon Big Game Hunting Outlook


General Overview | East Region | West Region | Full Report (pdf)


East Region

  Deer and Elk

BAKER DISTRICT (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt.)

Recent wildfires this summer have remained small and contained throughout the district. Fire conditions are extreme and hunters should check with the land manager (Wallowa-Whitman National Forest or BLM) to find out the latest conditions, as they can change rapidly.

Mule Deer Buck
Mule Deer Buck
-Photo by Nick Myatt-

DEER 

Over-winter survival was poor in all units with average fawn ratios of 9 per 100 adults counted in the spring. This was much lower than last year’s count of 33 fawns per 100 adults. Adult doe mortality was just above 35% determined from GPS collared deer. The yearling buck component will be reduced drastically this season as a result of the lower survival from this winter. Dry conditions at mid to lower elevations this year will make hunting difficult early in the season. Animals will be the most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon when temperatures cool off. Hunters should concentrate their efforts in areas of good forage near north slopes that provide good bedding cover.

ELK

Elk herds in Baker County came out of the winter in good shape. Bull ratios are at management objective for all units. Calf ratios were above the average in all units. Elk populations in the Keating and Pine Creek units and Lookout Mountain units continue to grow and offer good opportunity for hunters. For the best chance at tagging an elk, get as far away from roads as possible, perhaps by hunting in one of the cooperative Travel Management Areas. Dry conditions this year could make hunting difficult. Animals will be the most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon when temperatures cool off. Hunters should concentrate their efforts in areas of good forage near north slopes that provide good bedding cover.

CROOK DISTRICT (Maury, Ochoco, Grizzly)

DEER

Buck ratios remain above management objective (MO) for the Maury and Ochoco units and below MO in the Grizzly unit, with a district-wide average of 19 bucks per 100 does. Last year’s severe winter took a toll on fawn numbers, reducing over-winter fawn survival rates 30% across the district. As a result, there will be fewer yearling bucks available for harvest. Spring and summer conditions have been great, with the heavy snowpack leading to plenty of water available on the landscape. Hunter harvest of deer last fall was about average throughout the district. Throughout the district, deer populations continue to be lower than management objectives due to habitat loss and disturbance, poaching, predation, disease, and road kill.

Archery hunters are reminded that the Maury unit is now a controlled deer archery unit requiring archers to possess a controlled entry buck tag. Hunters can expect to see larger, older age class bucks as a result of these tag reductions. Reminder to pick up a motor vehicle use map for the Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests so you know what’s open vs. closed.

ELK

Elk populations and bull ratios are at or just below management objectives in all three units. Hunter harvest last fall was about average throughout the district. Calf ratios took a bit of a dip due to the severity of last winter, which is to be expected. The abundance of water on the landscape this spring and summer has been great for wildlife. Elk are in good body condition and highly mobile across their range. Depending on weather conditions, hunters should expect to find elk on north-facing and moist drainages and high elevations during archery season and more scattered during rifle seasons. Typically, elk hunting improves as you get further away from open roads. Reminder: Elk bow hunters must now have a controlled Maury Unit bull tag to hunt elk in the Maury Unit. 

The Maury and Ochoco units offer the best opportunities for bagging an animal on public land, while the Grizzly unit is mostly private land where access can be difficult. Ochoco unit rifle hunters are reminded the Rager and South Boundary TMA motorized vehicle restrictions will be in effect. Maps of those areas are available on ODFW’s website and from ODFW and Ochoco National Forest offices, as well as signboards as you enter the TMA’s. A majority of public land cow elk tags have been eliminated in the Ochoco unit due to declining elk populations on national forests. Private land hunts for the Ochoco unit are intended to increase elk use on the national forest and eliminate elk staying on private land throughout the seasons.

DESCHUTES DISTRICT (Upper Deschutes, Paulina, North Wagontire, Northwest Fort Rock, Metolius)

DEER

There should be decent numbers of both mature and yearling bucks available in most units relative to the population size. Tough winter conditions resulted in a drop in over-winter survival. Spring fawn ratios are down district wide with a ratio of 27 fawns per 100 does. Buck ratios are near, or above, management objective district wide with a ratio of 18 bucks per 100 does. Last year, both rifle and archery harvest was average. Heavy winter precipitation resulted in more dispersed available water that should help distribute wildlife throughout the district.

Elk
Bull elk
- Photo by Dean Dunson-

ELK

Relative to the number of elk, branch antlered bull opportunity will be decent in the Paulina and East Fort Rock units. Herds are at relatively low densities and cover a lot of country, so hunter success is typically low.

Elk numbers continue to grow slowly in the Cascade units. The Upper Deschutes, Metolius and West Fort Rock units are managed under the general season ‘Cascade' hunt. Elk densities are moderate, but hunter densities are high in the roaded portions of the Cascade units. For solitude, seek more remote wilderness and roadless areas in the Cascades.

Elk numbers in the North Wagontire (High Desert hunts) are quite variable due to large movements these animals make. The elk are most consistent in their daily patterns near alfalfa fields. Hunters are advised to select their target animal carefully when elk are in open country in large herds to avoid wounding or hitting multiple animals.

GRANT DISTRICT (Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation)

While the Grant District experienced a harsher winter than past years, deer and elk populations fared well. Throughout the summer, the area saw prolonged temperatures above 90 degrees so animals will be attracted to green forage on north slopes, springs and wet meadows.

DEER

Although deer populations remain below management objectives in all units, we have seen a slight increase over the past 5-6 years. Mild winters and relatively good fawn ratios have contributed to this increase. Good buck ratios were observed last fall with a good proportion of mature bucks. However, spring fawn ratios were a little lower than desired which is likely due to last year’s dry summer and harder over-winter conditions. The lower fawn ratio will cause a slight decrease in yearling bucks available for harvest this year. Last year, archery and rifle hunters had average success and we expect to have similar results this year.

Deer hunters should look for areas where fire has occurred in past 5-15 years as deer tend to favor vegetation that occurs following fires. The Shake Table Fire on Aldrich Mountain is starting to show signs of increasing deer and may be a good place to find a buck.

ELK

Hunting prospects are average for the district. Elk populations are steady or increasing in most of the district and above management objective in all units except W Beulah. We have had reasonable calf ratios and good bull ratios in most of the district. Archery season in Desolation is now either-sex for elk rather than bull only.
Elk hunters should focus on areas with no open roads as elk tend to move away from traveled roads during hunting seasons.

HARNEY DISTRICT (Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mt, Juniper, portions of Beatys Butte, Wagontire, and Whitehorse)

 Mule Deer Buck

Mule Deer Buck
-Photo by Charlotte Ganskopp-

DEER and ELK

Habitat conditions are generally good and abundant water sources this year should disperse game populations more widely. The risk of wildfire remains a concern. Most of the large scale mega fires in our area occurred in 2012. Wildlife and hunters have been able to adapt by using different areas and pockets of areas within those fire boundaries that have started to recover.

Deer and elk populations are stable to increasing in most portions of the Harney District. Multiple efforts to improve habitat conditions and remove predators have contributed to this. The Malheur River Unit experienced some unusually high winter kill due to the heavy snow pack and prolonged cold temperatures. In response to that, biologist reduced deer tags by 35%. That was the only wildlife management unit in the Harney district that had an emergency tag reduction. Hunting prospects are good for our other units; there are plenty of animals available for harvest for all seasons and weapon choices.

All Harney units are currently below population management objective (MO) for deer although the district is seeing an increasing trend in most units over the past 6-7 years. But all units are above buck ratio MO for deer. They are also above both bull ratio and population objectives for elk.

Statistics are becoming more reliable since the implementation of mandatory reporting surveys, and they show harvest remains stable.

Hunters need to have good maps of the area and are encouraged to visit the county website for maps http://www.co.harney.or.us/huntmaps.html. Make some scouting trips and contact the local biologist to discuss more specifics once you have a better idea of the lay of the land.

HEPPNER DISTRICT (Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin)

DEER

Deer populations are decreasing in all units. Fawn survival from last year due to the hot dry summer and long cold winter was very poor in all of the units and will result in fewer yearling bucks available for harvest this hunting season. The summer has been very hot and dry with decent forage conditions in the higher elevations and poor conditions as you drop in elevation. Unless conditions change, early season hunters will want to focus on areas of good forage and water.

Public lands hunters in the Fossil unit can hunt the old Wheeler Burn, which is still producing a fair number of deer and is historically a good spot. Public hunters can also hunt the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area in the Heppner unit.

ELK

The elk population for the Heppner is still slightly above MO for the unit and the Fossil Unit’s population is stable. Bull ratios have remained constant from last year for both units. The elk calf ratio for both units remains low this year. While there will be fewer spike bulls than previous years, there are still good numbers of bulls in the forest.

Even though forage conditions are better this year, the dry conditions in the forest have elk condensed in areas that have more water as many of the springs have not recharged from several years of drought. Hunters will increase their success by focusing on north slopes with good grazing available near open water. With predicted cooler weather, elk generally become more active. Hunters are reminded to check fire restrictions which usually include no campfires early in the season.

KLAMATH DISTRICT (Keno, Klamath Falls, Sprague, SW portion of Ft Rock, West portion of Silver Lake, West Interstate)

DEER

Deer populations in Klamath County are stable or slightly decreasing. An above average winter likely contributed to lower fawn survival overwinter, which will effect hunter success on yearling bucks this hunting season. Yearling bucks generally comprise over half the buck harvest. The district-wide spring fawn ratios ranged from 16 to 21 fawns per 100 adults. With the above average precipitation last winter, forage conditions this summer are good.

Hunters should concentrate efforts in areas with healthy understory vegetation or thinned areas that offer good forage availability adjacent to cover, especially if weather remains hot and dry. In the absence of significant moisture before or during the hunt, expect deer to be more nocturnal in their movements and focus on areas within a few miles of water. Summer wildfire activity has been low in Klamath County, though conditions remain dry. Fire related restrictions to vehicle use on roads and camp fires will likely remain in place through much of the early fall hunting seasons.

For all units, buck ratios are above management objectives and a good component of older age bucks exists. The fall buck ratio in the Interstate Unit was highest among Klamath County units, with a measured ratio of 26 bucks/100 does. The Keno and Klamath Falls units are also above buck ratio management objective, however populations in these and all surrounding units remain below objective.

Elk
Bull Elk
- Royalty Free Image-

ELK

The Cascade Mountains (that area within Klamath County west of Hwy 97) offer the best opportunities for elk hunting in the Klamath District. The Keno Unit and those areas within the Sprague and Fort Rock Units west of Hwy 97 are included in the general season Cascade elk area. Bull ratios are above management objective and some older age bulls are available. Best prospects are in the Keno and Fort Rock Units. Elk numbers are lower in the eastern part of the county, and seasons east of Hwy 97 are limited entry. Overall population trends are stable to slightly increasing in some areas but below population management objectives like much of the region. Archery hunters will have a bull only bag limit in all units with the exception of the Fort Rock unit east of Hwy 97 where an either-sex bag limit is in effect.

LAKE DISTRICT (Warner, Interstate, Silver Lake, southern portions of Beatys Butte, Fort Rock and Wagontire)

DEER and ELK

With good winter precipitation and a wet spring, water availability is much improved over last year. In forested units, unless there are fall rains, deer will use areas with an abundant shrub component in the understory as this will be the only vegetation with any forage value. In desert units, focus on mountain shrub habitats within a few miles of water.

Deer populations have been consistent over the past few years. Hunting prospects should be fair to good as all units are above management objectives for buck ratios. Deer fawn ratios in the spring were in the high teens or low 20s which is below average and will affect hunter success on younger age bucks. Last season, hunter success was generally average. Fort Rock continues to have low hunter success for the number of deer that summer in the unit, but hunter success and satisfaction was good in all other units.

Fire activity has been moderate this year with a variety of small fires (less than 1000 acres) and only one large fire near Wagontire Mountain. The Barry Point Fire of 2012 has a lot of young shrubs and is providing some good deer habitat.

Some suggested areas to hunt for hunters less familiar with the district:

  • Beatys Butte: Focus on the high elevations with mountain shrub communities
  • Warner: For both North and South the forested habitats have more deer, and therefore more bucks, than the desert habitats. If you want to hunt the desert units there is a lot of private land mixed in with the BLM properties which also makes hunting these areas a challenge.
  • Interstate: Hunt any of the wildfire areas which are predominately south of Hwy 140. North of 140, the edges between private timberlands and USFS properties are good spots to check; these areas generally have high quality feed on the private timber properties and good cover on the Forest properties.
  • Silver Lake: The Tool Box Wildfire Complex of 2004 is still providing quality shrub habitat and good deer numbers. If we don’t get fall rains outside the fire area, any of the timbered vegetation associated with shrubs in the understory will hold deer.
  • Fort Rock: Natural openings or old clear cuts with shrubs in the understory are going to be the most productive.

MALHEUR DISTRICT (Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah Units)

Mule Deer Bucks
Mule Deer Bucks in the Snow
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

DEER

The northern half of Malheur County experienced record snow over the winter of 2016-17. Snow began accumulating in early December and remained snow covered through the end of February. The harsh winter conditions had a significant negative impact on deer and pronghorn populations. The overall loss of these herds may not be fully understood until another population survey is conducted after next winter. While the southern portion of Malheur County experienced harsh winter conditions as well, the valley floors melted off between snow events providing wintering wildlife access to forage thus resulting in minimal loss of big game to winter conditions.

In the Beulah unit, fawn ratio (7/100 adults) and over winter adult mortality greater than 25% resulted in a 40% reduction in tags for the 2017 season. Additionally the management objective for the buck ratio has increased from 12 to 15 bucks per 100 does as part of the management objective review which took place in 2015. The combination of winter mortality and meeting buck ratio tag numbers means tags for this unit will remain at the reduced number for the 2018 season as well. As a result of the low fawn ratio, there will be also be very few yearling age class buck in the harvest this year.

Much of the best deer hunting is on public land near the edge of the Malheur National Forest. Other areas within the National Forest that have had recent fires or logging activity can also be productive

In Owyhee Unit, the northern portion of the unit was negatively impacted by severe winter conditions as well. Fawns ratio was 16/100 adults and above average winter mortality on adult deer resulted in a 25% cut in tags for 2017 (2018 tag numbers will remain at the reduced level as well). Wildfire and weed invasion continues to have an impact on the ability of this unit to produce deer. Even though it is a very challenging unit to hunt, hunter success remains above 50% with a majority of the bucks harvested being 3- and 4-points.

East Whitehorse Unit is another difficult unit to hunt if you are not familiar with the unit. Deer numbers are low and they can be widely scattered. The major fires of 2012 continue to have a negative effect. Winter conditions in the southern end of the county were significantly milder that in the Treasure Valley and did not appear to have a negative effect on deer populations.

In the Trout Creek Mountains, the Holloway Fire burned most of this area in 2012, except for the Oregon Canyon and Sherman Field areas. Since the fire, the higher elevations have had decent vegetation recovery. The deer population remains at similar numbers as pre-fire conditions and buck rations are well above 40 bucks per 100 does.

ELK

E Beulah is an elk de-emphasis zone. Tag numbers are high with numerous long seasons to keep the elk population under control. Success rates are poor during early season without access to private lands. Later hunt dates can have higher success if winter conditions move elk to more accessible areas.

Whitehorse and Owyhee units are part of the High Desert hunt area. Whitehorse unit has very few elk. An increasing number of elk have been observed in the northwestern portion of the Owyhee unit. These elk are often observed in large groups and very nomadic which makes them difficult to locate consistently.

MID-COLUMBIA DISTRICT (Hood, White River, Maupin, West Biggs)

DEER

The West Biggs and Maupin Unit have seen a decline in deer numbers the last couple years, with drought and hard winter both taking a toll. Most of the reduction has been due to decreased fawn recruitment, so expect to find less young bucks on the landscape. Buck ratios are the highest in the John Day Canyon, as fewer hunters are able to access much of the landscape. Having a good map to ensure you know where you are is essential.

Deer hunting in the White River unit was poor last year, and is expected to be again this year with buck ratios below management objective. Deer are typically scattered throughout the unit with higher elevation habitats and wilderness areas the best opportunity to harvest a mature buck. There are quite a few deer on the White River Wildlife Area but most of the larger bucks move up into the higher country to summer and then migrate back down when the weather pushes them off the mountains. There are always a few nice bucks that hunters find hidden away in some of the more remote areas. However, hunting pressure can be high on the wildlife area.

Hunters headed for the Hood Unit should pay close attention to land ownership and fire restrictions. Some of the best hunting in the unit is found on private timberlands, and hunters should always check with these landowners to find out the most recent regulations. Historic burns on USFS lands around Mt. Hood have been increasing and deer numbers within the unit as well. Rainy or high pressure weather systems typically increase deer activity and the opportunity to spot a buck.

ELK

Elk numbers in the White River and Hood units are near the management objective and will be found scattered in small groups throughout the units on public lands. Herd numbers have been stable with bull numbers observed were slightly higher than last season. However, heavy cover makes harvesting a bull challenging. Most mature bulls are found at higher elevations, especially during the first season. Hunters often choose to hunt the second of the two general seasons for increased season length and a greater chance of winter weather to improve hunting conditions and success. Bull elk hunting in the Maupin and West Biggs also is general season, but the animals are almost exclusively found on private lands. Gaining landowner permission in that area could result in a successful hunt. The White River Wildlife Area has fair numbers of elk and is open to public hunting though hunting pressure will be high; remember fire restrictions are likely in effect during archery season and a wildlife area parking permit is required.

UMATILLA DISTRICT: (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin)

DEER and ELK

Deer prospects in the Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, and Ukiah Units are good as the bucks/100 doe ratios are continually looking good. Even with our harsh winter with cold temperatures and record snowfall, fawn survival was nearly average. The same scenario played out for elk in these three units; bulls/100 cows are slightly up with spike hunting still a challenge in the Mt Emily and Ukiah Units with the Walla Walla Unit spike numbers looking fairly decent.

Low to mid-elevation forage is drying off quickly due to hot and dry conditions, so deer and elk may be found in higher numbers at or above mid-elevation areas. If early September rains arrive before hunting season, animal retention on national forest lands will increase over recent years, improving the hunting substantially. Additionally late summer and early fall rains will improve the chances for deer and elk to produce well, ensuring plenty of animals available for next year’s hunt.

UNION DISTRICT: (Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily, portions of Sled Springs, and Wenaha)

Elkhorn Wildlife Area
Rocky Mountain Elk
-Photo by David Bronson-

DEER and ELK

Elk and deer numbers are stable throughout the county, in spite of the tough winter. Adult elk came through the winter well, while calf survival was down. As a result, spike hunters can expect to see fewer yearling bulls this season. All units are at or above MO for elk. Deer numbers are stable, but are below management objective in all units. Hunters may encounter fewer yearling bucks this season due to a decrease in fawn survival over the winter. Controlled hunt deer tags were reduced by 30% as a result of the harsh winter.

Hunter success last year was on par with previous years with deer hunters averaging 30% and elk hunters 30%. Hunters can expect dry conditions in the early seasons that will keep animals closer to water sources such as springs and creek bottoms. Animals move little during warm conditions and hunters will need patience to be successful. The Starkey Unit Travel Management Area is a great place to start for big game hunters new to the area; maps are available online or at the La Grande office. General spike season is a great time to elk hunt in the Starkey unit without the crowds of first season. Look for elk in the steep terrain of the Starkey and Catherine Creek units.

WALLOWA DISTRICT (Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, Minam, Imnaha)

DEER and ELK

While deer populations are still low, buck season is expected to be fair in all units. Elk populations are doing well, and hunters can expect good prospects for bull hunting in all units. Deer populations are below MO in all units, while elk pops are above in all units except the Wenaha.

Deer and elk harvest has been stable the last few years. Archery season is expected to be warm and dry as usual, making hunting conditions a little difficult. Archers in the Sled Springs unit need to be aware of motor vehicle restrictions and no camping restrictions on Hancock Timber property during fire season.

The district has not detected any drop in deer or elk populations as a result of wolf activity.

  BEAR AND COUGAR

Black Bear
Black Bear
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

BAKER DISTRICT (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt.)

Bear and cougar hunting should be good this year. The fall season started off well with the office checking in several bears during the first week of the season. Huckleberry production was good this year. Hunt for bears in high elevation open areas with the most berries. Fall bear hunters have best success in higher elevation areas of the Keating and Pine Creek Units on the Wallowa Whitman National Forest.

Find cougars just about anywhere; remember to carry a tag.

CROOK DISTRICT (Maury, Ochoco, Grizzly)

Bear and cougar populations appear to be stable, with low population density and harvest reported for bear, and better opportunities for cougar. Good quality bear habitat is limited, with the better areas being in the northern portions of the Ochoco unit, and on the Lookout Mountain and Paulina Ranger Districts of the Ochoco National Forest.

Cougars are more widely dispersed throughout all three units and generally will be associated with deer, elk, or pronghorn. Using calls during the winter, when game populations are concentrated on winter range, has been effective for some hunters. Areas to consider scouting include: Maury Mountains, Salt Creek and S.F. Crooked River (Maury unit); Lookout Mountain, upper Bridge Creek and South Fork John Day River (Ochoco); and Mill Creek and Green Mountain (Grizzly).

DESCHUTES DISTRICT (Upper Deschutes, Paulina, north Wagontire, north Fort Rock, Metolious)

Bear populations are stable in the district but due to limited suitable habitat, bear numbers are lower here than in other portions of the state. Highest bear densities are west of Hwy 97 at the higher elevations. The district is getting reports of good berry crops and abundant food at these higher elevations.

Cougar populations are healthy due to relatively abundant prey and low mortality. Cougars can be found throughout the district, but will be easier to locate once there is snow on the ground and tracking conditions improve. In particular, cougar numbers appear to be increasing at a faster rate in the Paulina unit than in adjacent units.

GRANT DISTRICT (Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, southeast Heppner, northwest Beulah)

Bear populations appear to be stable and hunting should be similar to past years. Look for bears around huckleberry patches in mid-August and our old orchards in mid-September. The fruit crop appears to be good because of the mild conditions. An exception is areas burned in last year’s Canyon Creek Fire.

Cougar populations appear to be increasing slightly and hunters are encouraged to have a tag while out hunting other big game species, as that is where most harvest occurs. If using calls, remember cougars respond slower than coyotes and be prepared to spend more time.

HARNEY DISTRICT (Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mt, Juniper, portions of Beatys Butte and Wagontire)

Harvest rates for both bear and cougar have been stable over the past five years. Always carry a tag, even for bear, just in case you come across one. For cougar, focus on concentrations of prey species which usually attracts predators.

cougar
Cougar
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

HEPPNER DISTRICT (Morrow, Gilliam and Wheeler counties /Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin)

Hunters are still seeing plenty of cougars in the Heppner district so there is opportunity for hunters to harvest an animal. The District has low densities of bears throughout the entire forested portion of the District, but they can be encountered by deer and elk hunters so carry a tag.

KLAMATH DISTRICT (Keno, Klamath Falls, Sprague, SW portion of Ft Rock, West portion of Silver Lake, West Interstate)

The Cascade Mountains region of the Klamath District has traditionally provided the most opportunity for bear hunters in the area, though an increasing trend in harvest in the Interstate Unit has been observed in recent years. Hunters are reminded to purchase bear and cougar tags prior to opening day of buck season.

Though cougar populations appear stable, harvest in the units is generally low. Harvest of cougars is generally incidental to deer and elk hunting and is evenly distributed throughout the District. Focused cougar hunting efforts are most successful later in the year after low elevation snow events hen tracks can be observed.

LAKE DISTRICT (Warner, Interstate, Silver Lake, southern portions of Beatys Butte, Fort Rock and Wagontire)

Bear numbers are up throughout the forested units, but still lower than other, more timbered portions of the state. People focusing on bear generally have the best success finding an area with fresh sign, then calling. The berry crop is good this year and bears should be using berry producing shrubs through September.
Cougar populations have been slightly increasing for many years, though administrative removal efforts designed to boost mule deer production have reduced population growth rates in the District. Harvest has been stable over the past 3-5 years, largely because most cougar harvest is incidental to other outdoor pursuits. Remember to carry a tag.

MALHEUR DISTRICT (Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah Units)

Bear habitat is very limited in this district. Cougar populations are healthy and distributed throughout the district in any area with a big game prey base. Cougar hunting is best following low elevation snow events when cougar tracks can be observed.

MID-COLUMBIA DISTRICT (Hood, White River, Maupin, West Biggs)

Both bear and cougar populations are abundant in the White River and Hood Units. Cougars are often observed moving throughout the canyons of the Deschutes and John Day River systems, as well as on White River Wildlife area later in the fall as deer and elk migrate in from high elevation. Predator calling and locating a fresh kill are great strategies. Bear hunters should focus on clearcuts or natural openings in the forest, especially those with good berry or acorn crops.

UMATILLA DISTRICT (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin)

Getting a spring bear tag in Umatilla is not easy so fall is your chance to hunt here under a general season. Bears are high up early in the season and will pull down slowly. Look in hawthorn and elderberry concentrations to find them; early on they will be on edges of clearings and clearcuts near berry crops in high country. The best bear hunting is north of I-84 in Mt Emily and Walla Walla units.

Cougar populations are healthy; carry a tag while hunting deer or elk as you may get the chance to take a cougar while you’re at it. The best cougar hunting will be north of I-84 in the Mt. Emily and Walla Walla Units. The Ukiah Unit has a lower density of cougars than the two northern units, but has been increasing in density the last year or more. A good chance of encountering a cougar will exist there also.

UNION DISTRICT (Starkey, Ukiah, Catherine Creek)

Bear and cougar numbers are strong in all units. Cougar harvest has been down for the past few years but hunters still have a good chance of finding a cougar while calling or hunting for other big game. Look for cougar sign on ridge tops in areas of high elk use.
Bear harvest has been consistent over the past several years. Hawthorns are heavy with fruit heading into September. Look for bears in the creek bottoms and valleys, feeding on Hawthorn berries and other fruits. Road closure areas within the Catherine Creek and Starkey units will provide good walk-in access to bear habitat.

WALLOWA DISTRICT (Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, parts of Minam and Imnaha)

Cougar and bear numbers are good throughout the district. Fall bear hunters should concentrate efforts around fruit orchards, and in draw and stream bottoms as bears will be using these areas feeding on berries. The huckleberry crop is spotty and generally not good this year. This will cause bears to focus more in stream bottoms where they can find a variety of berries. Cougar hunting is best sitting on a fresh cougar kill carcass, or calling with lots of patience.

  East Region Big Game Hunting Locations

BAKER DISTRICT (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt.)

Baker District includes the Wallowa Whitman National Forest and Vale District BLM land. Hunters can also access many private lands thanks to the A&H program. Remember travel management area regulations are in effect for Dark Canyon, Patrick Creek, Melhorn, Lake Fork-Dutchman, Okanogan-Fish, Summit Point and Eagle Creek.

CROOK DISTRICT (Maury, Ochoco, Grizzly)

The Maury unit is approximately 65% public lands, with BLM managing most of the public lands available to hunters. The unit does include the Maury Mountains managed by the Ochoco National Forest. The Gerry Mountain, S. Fork Crooked River, Sand Hollow Well and Hampton Butte Wilderness Study Areas are on BLM lands and offer challenging and more roadless hunting opportunities.

The Ochoco unit is approximately 50% Ochoco National Forest, 10% BLM, with the remainder private. The South Boundary and Rager Travel Management Areas (TMAs) are in this unit on Ochoco National Forest lands. Motorized vehicles are restricted to designated roads. Maps for both TMAs are available at portal signs and at Ochoco National Forest and Prineville ODFW offices. Hunters observing illegal vehicle use or any other violations are encouraged to use the TIP hotline (1-800-452-7888). The Black Canyon Wilderness, and smaller Bridge Cr Wilderness offer roadless hunting opportunities.

The Grizlly unit is mostly private, with a small portion of the Ochoco National Forest northeast of Prineville, as well as the Crooked River National Grasslands. The Mill Creek Wilderness offers a roadless hunting opportunity.

Hunters should contact the Prineville BLM or the Ochoco National Forest for maps that show public lands in these units. Pick up a motor vehicle use map so you know what’s open vs. closed in the national forests.

DESCHUTES DISTRICT (Metolius, Upper Deschutes, Paulina, north Wagontire, and north Ft. Rock)

Hunters can use BLM lands as well as Deschutes, Ochoco, and Fremont-Winema National Forest lands in these units. The Fox Butte and Walker Rim TMAs will be in effect three days prior through the controlled buck deer seasons and the Timbers and Spring Butte TMAs are in effect year round.

GRANT DISTRICT (Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, southeast Heppner, northwest Beulah)

Hunters will find many good public land hunting opportunities in Grant County, including the Malheur National Forest and P.W. Schneider Wildlife Area (more info below). Hunters should look for north slopes, springs, or other areas with good forage. Roadless areas in the North Fork John Day Wilderness, Desolation and Northside travel management areas are good places to hunt big game. Camp Creek and Murderers Creek/Flagtail travel management areas are in effect, meaning no vehicle access in certain areas to protect wildlife and habitat and promote quality hunting. Please respect all road closures, gated or not.

Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area: Restoration projects will continue following the 2014 South Fork Complex Fire. Many other parts of the wildlife area are recovering following the fire and continue to provide good opportunity to hunt big game species including deer and elk. Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area is primarily big game winter range so hunters should look for animals to arrive late in the season, especially following cold snaps or early snow storms.

Mule Deer Buck
Mule Deer Buck
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

HARNEY DISTRICT (Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mt, Juniper, portions of Beatys Butte and Wagontire)

The county is mostly BLM land. Silvies contains portions of the Ochoco and Malheur national forests. See the Malheur National Forest website for the latest information on closures and fire restrictions. Some private lands in Harney County are open thanks to the Access and Habitat Program, contact ODFW Hines office (541) 573-6582 for more information.

HEPPNER DISTRICT (Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin wildlife management units)

Hunters will find most public lands opportunities in the Heppner and Fossil units and can also access private land through the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area thanks to ODFW’s A&H Program. Other properties open to the public in the Columbia Basin are available through the Open Fields Program. The old Wheeler burn in the Fossil unit is still a good bet for Fossil unit deer hunters. 

KLAMATH AND LAKE DISTRICTS (Klamath Falls, Keno, Sqrague, Silver Lake, Interstate, Warner, Fort Rock)

A high proportion of these counties are publicly-owned which results in few hunting access issues. The Klamath Falls unit may be an exception to this trend, and hunters are warned to make sure they have secured access to hunt before entering private lands. Although most of the forest habitats are managed by the Fremont-Winema National Forest, there are extensive tracts of private timber lands. The majority of these properties are open to public access hunting, although hunters are strongly encouraged to respect this access as a privilege. While these landowners appreciate the value of public access hunting, continued public use of these lands may be in jeopardy if off-road vehicle use, vandalism, and littering continue. Lakeview BLM manages most of the desert habitat. Hunters can also hunt the Summer Lake Wildlife Area for some big game (archery mule deer and Silver Lake and Wagontire unit controlled hunt buck mule deer hunts with a few restrictions). Klamath Wildlife Area is closed to deer hunting.

MALHEUR DISTRICT (Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah)

Much of the area is BLM land and there is public land hunting opportunities for most species. Contact the Vale Distrct BLM office for maps. Beulah contains portions of the Malheur National Forest. ODFW’s Riverside Wildlife Area is open to hunting for deer, elk and upland game. Please fill out a permit when you access the Riverside Wildlife Aread through one of the informational kiosks so ODFW can track use of the area. The use of motor vehicles on the area is limited to the main entrance road near the community of Riverside and the Long Siding Road near Juniper Basin, though this road is not maintained, is suitable only for high-clearance 4WD vehicles and is impassable during wet weather. There are many Access and Habitat projects opening private lands to hunters too.

MID-COLUMBIA DISTRICT (Hood, White River, Maupin, West Biggs)

Mt Hood National Forest, White River and Lower Deschutes wildlife areas offer big game hunting. Public access in the Maupin and West Biggs Units are limited to the Lower Deschutes Wildlife Area and BLM lands in the Deschutes and John Day River Canyons. In the Hood Unit, most Weyerhaeuser lands are either leased or by permit only. The following link provides information to hunters wanting to access those lands. http://www.weyerhaeuser.com/timberlands/recreational-access/oregon/

UMATILLA DISTRICT (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin)

Hunters without access to private land can use the Umatilla National Forest and ODFW’s Bridge Creek and Columbia Basin (Irrigon and Willow Creek) wildlife areas.

UNION DISTRICT (Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily, portions of Sled Springs, and Wenaha)

The Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla National Forests and ODFW’s Ladd Marsh and Elkhorn Wildlife Areas near La Grande are open to the public for hunting; see the Regulations for some special rules for these areas. The Dry Beaver-Ladd TMA will be in effect, meaning no vehicle access in certain areas to protect wildlife and habitat and promote quality hunting. There are seven travel management areas that exist in Union County; find maps on the ODFW website.

WALLOWA DISTRICT (Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, Imnaha)

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and Wenaha Wildlife Area provide public hunting opportunities, though the wildlife area and much public land in the unit may be closed due to fires in late summer and early fall. Call the Oregon Department of Forestry or the US Forest Service for the latest closure information. Remember several travel management restrictions are in effect in the district including the Noregaard, Whiskey Creek and Shamrock TMAs on Hancock Forest Management lands in Sled Springs, the Chesnimnus TMA in Chesnimnus and the Grouse Lick Creeks in Imnaha during bull season. In the Snake River unit, the Lord Flat Road north of Warnock Corral and the Summit Ridge Road north of PO Saddle will not be open to motor vehicles.

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