(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)
Spring bear hunting opened April 1 in western Oregon and the western Blue Mountains and remaining hunts open tomorrow, April 15.
A mild winter and light snow pack in the Blue Mountains and Cascades means hunters may be able to get out earlier than usual. ODFW staff expect bears will be out of their den 7 to 10 days earlier than usual in the W. Blue Mtns hunt area, and the SW Cascades should pick up before May.
Hunting will start slower on the mid-coast, where extended winter-like conditions are expected to keep bears very inactive during the early part of the season. “But that doesn’t mean early season hunts can’t be fruitful,” notes Stuart Love, ODFW district wildlife biologist in Charleston. “Often the earliest bears to come out of dens are boars and the larger animals.”
Wildlife biologists offer these tips for spring bear hunters:
* Look for open areas where bears will be moving through or foraging, including clear-cuts, meadows and open slopes that have cleared of snow.
* Earlier in the season, focus on south-facing slopes with rapid spring growth and open canyon slopes, where bears can be seen feeding on grass and digging roots.
* Predator calls are recommended later in the season when elk begin calving. Use calls near open meadows in forested areas.
* Find good vantage points and utilize optics to locate bears; early morning and late afternoon to evening are the best times to glass.
* Know your target—remember it is unlawful to take cubs less than one year old or sows with cubs less than one year old.
* See below for more information on conditions and locations to hunt. Hunters should be always be prepared for snow and limited access, especially early in the season. Visit ODFW’s online Hunting Access Map for more hunting locations.
Almost all spring bear seasons are controlled and require application by February 10 each year. The 4,000 2010 SW Oregon spring bear tags provided on a first-come, first-serve basis sold out on February 20 this year. All hunting seasons close on May 31.
Mandatory check-in of bears, and hunt reporting
For the last two years, successful bear hunters have been required to check-in their bear’s skull at an ODFW office within 10 days of the harvest so biologists can collect a tooth and take certain measurements. (More information) Bear skulls are also required to be unfrozen when presented for check-in. (It is very difficult to extract a tooth from a frozen skull.) ODFW also recommends hunters prop the bear’s mouth open with a stick after it is harvested, again to make tooth extraction and measuring easier.
This data collection is a critical part of the method ODFW uses to track Oregon’s bear population. ODFW also asks any hunter that takes a female bear to collect and turn in its reproductive tract, which helps determine reproduction rate and frequency. See page 34 of the Oregon Big Game Regulations for more information.
Separate from the check-in requirement, all hunters who purchased a spring bear tag are required to report their hunt results online or by phone (1-866-947-6339). Reporting is required even for those that did not go hunting or were unsuccessful. ODFW uses this information when setting hunting seasons.
As of March 11, 44 percent of 2009 spring bear tag holders reported their hunt results, a big improvement from 2008’s 8 percent. While there are currently no penalties for not reporting, penalties may be introduced for future hunting seasons if hunters continue to not report.
Scappoose-Saddle Mountain units (Hunt 710A, season April 1-May 31)
This is a new hunt. Bears appear to be well-distributed throughout Saddle Mt Unit (based on previous years’ damage information) and most areas are well along in green-up. ODFW had not received any reports of bear sightings in the Scappoose Unit prior to the recent cold and stormy weather, and bear densities are naturally lower here. Hunters should locate green grass openings on south slopes and skunk cabbage patches along the riparian zones for their best chance of success. Bear activity should improve towards the middle of the season.
Locations: In Saddle Mountain, good road access is available to most lands in the Clatsop State Forest with non-motorized access available in many private industrial forest lands in both units (expect Hampton Affiliates land in Clatsop County to be closed to entry, however). Walk-in and mountain bike-in access can be an advantage to the hunter where private foresters are offering that style of access. (Bears are very wary of vehicle noise and tend to move away from well-traveled roads so quietly moving hunters on foot or bike may have the advantage.) Remember public land is limited in the Scappoose Unit; hunters will need to check each private timber landowner’s access policy before entering private lands.
Wilson-Trask units (Hunt 712A, season April 1-May 31)
Last year, 269 hunters took 18 bears, a 6.69% success rate.
Green-up is well ahead of usual this year, especially closer to the coast. With current weather conditions, hunters should concentrate in river and creek bottoms and south-facing grassy slopes with new plant growth. Bear activity is normally slow in the early half of the season so hunters should plan their trips accordingly.
Locations: State and federal lands in the units include the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests and Siuslaw National Forest. Some industrial forest landowners allow spring bear hunting as well. Private forest and agriculture lands dominate the eastern side of the Trask unit; access is by permission only.
N. Cascades (Hunt 716A, season April 1 – May 31)
Last year: 213 hunters took 22 bears, a 10.33% success rate.
Expect better hunting later in the season (late April/early May), but if you want to get out early, start along riparian corridors at lower elevations. Watch weather forecasts to help predict snowmelt; warmer weather will be key for vegetation growth and increased bear activity. Snow in higher elevations will restrict access.
Locations: Santiam Unit: remember the Marion and Linn County portions outside of the Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forests are not included within the hunt boundary and are closed. The McKenzie Unit is open only on the Willamette National Forest. Hunters can find south-facing slopes throughout the Mt. Hood NF. The Clackamas and Collawash River drainages have a higher concentration of open ground and some good areas for glassing. Hunters can also find good concentrations of bears in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area.
Alsea-Stott Mt. (Hunt 717A, season April 1 – May 31)
Last year: 155 hunters took 6 bears, a 3.87% success rate.
Bears have been active for a month or so already in the Alsea Unit, though no damage complaints or problems have been reported. Late March and early April weather was more winter-like (high winds, precipitation and low elevation snow) but the snow does not remain around very long. Hunters should look for bears at lower elevations along streams or open areas with a south or southeast aspect.
Location: Access is fair on mainline forest roads but expect some roads to be impassible in April. Siuslaw National Forest lands on the central coast south of Waldport have well-maintained roads, making them good places to hunt.
(Season April 1 – May 31)
Tags for this hunt are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis and sold out on Feb. 20, 2010.
Snow pack this year appears to be below normal so access should be good throughout the upcoming season. However, bear activity is normally slow in the early half of the season and the mid-coast experienced extended winter-like conditions. While that means bears may be hard to locate in the early season it doesn’t mean these hunts can’t be fruitful. Often the earliest bears to come out of dens are boars and the larger animals.
Bear numbers in the entire region have been stable for many years. In general, bear density is greatest closer to the coast. Good spots to check are skid roads and side roads that are untraveled with lots of grassy margins and bear sign. Hunters should put their emphasis on watching clearcuts and natural clearings. The Biscuit fire area around the Kalmiopisis Wilderness Area in the Chetco unit continues to offer better visibility than other areas. While visibility is not as good in the Tioga and Siuslaw units, bear numbers are good there as well.
Locations: There is lots of public land in the SW Oregon hunt, including national forestland (Siuslaw, Rogue-Siskiyou, Umpqua, Willamette), BLM land and state land like Elliot State Forest. Do your homework and call private timberland companies as some offer access; local landowners include Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek, Menasha/Campbell Group, Roseburg Forest Products, and Lone Rock Timber Co. Hunters can access public land and some private timberland through the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area (JACTMA). JACTMA restricts use of certain roads through April 30; for a map contact an ODFW office.
High Desert Region
South Central (Hunt 731A, season April 15 – May 31)
Last year, 103 hunters took 2 bears, a 1.94% success rate.
Bear populations are stable to slightly increasing but low compared to other areas of the state. The highest bear densities are in the Cascade Mountains with lower densities in the drier, semi-desert portions of the hunt area. Areas for hunters to check include the Keno Unit, western portion of the Sprague Unit, and the Gearhart Mountain area in the Interstate Unit. Focus on the unburned fringes around 2002 fires (Grizzly Fire in the Interstate Unit and the Toolbox/Winter Fire in the Silver Lake Unit) and in riparian areas. In the northern portion of Fort Rock unit bear populations are low and hunters should expect low success. Bear activity is most common west of Highway 97 in the vicinity of riparian vegetation.
Locations: Public access is good within the Fremont-Winema and Deschutes National Forests and on open private timberland. Access for the opener will be excellent given the mild winter and lack of snow pack. Please respect private property, avoid driving on soft or muddy roads.
White River (Hunt 741, season April 15- May 31)
This is a new hunt this year, so tag holders will be pioneers. Bear densities are good in the White River, especially within forested areas. Like other spring hunts, effort should be focused within clear-cuts and meadows early and late in the day. The edges of the major drainages, such as the White River, Badger and Tygh Creeks, should be good places to find bears on the eastern edge of the unit.
Locations: Access is good, with the majority of bear habitat found on public lands. The western edge of the unit has a good amount of county and private timber lands that should provide good opportunity. Be sure to get permission if hunting on private lands.
Hood Unit (Hunt 742, season April 15-May 31)
Last year, 30 hunters took 6 bears, a 20% success rate.
Winter snowpack has been well below average this year, allowing bears to come out of hibernation early and in good shape. The recent spring snow events may help to get bears into lower elevation clearcuts where they are easier to find. Later in the season, when beehives are out in orchards for pollination, hunt forestland near the beehives or seek permission to hunt on private orchard ground that borders the timber.
Locations: Both public lands (Mt. Hood National Forest and Hood River County land) and some private industrial forestland are open to hunting; check with private landowners for access rules and permission.
South Blue Mtns (Hunt 746A, season April 15-May 31)
Last year, 178 hunters took 4 bears, a 2.25% success rate.
The hunt area experienced a light winter. Snow levels are high and should not have much effect on hunter access. Bear populations are stable or increasing but this hunt is still challenging due to the heavy forested terrain which makes it difficult to spot bears. Observations from an ongoing statewide bear study suggest that the northwest section of the Murderers Creek, Beulah, and Northside units have higher bear densities. Hunters often use this tag as an opportunity to scout new hunting areas for next fall’s deer and elk seasons, turkey hunt, or collect shed antlers. Remember it is legal to take naturally shed antlers, but not skulls with antlers attached. Last year’s success rate was low; 178 hunters took 4 bears.
W. Blue Mountains (Hunt 749A, season April 1 – May 31)
Last year: 150 hunters took 32 bears, a 21.33% success rate (highest of all spring bear hunts).
This year’s warm weather combined with mild snow pack will have the bears out as much as 7-10 days earlier than usual (so early to mid-April rather than late April). Bear density is highest in the northern portion (north of Interstate 84) and lower as one goes south and west in the hunt area. Early season bear activity is concentrated along the lower elevation fringes of national forest land. Bears follow the green-up elevation band; concentrate on timbered slopes with small openings with lush green moss, sedge, or grassy areas.
Locations: The hunt boundary contains a large amount of public land including the Umatilla National Forest.
Starkey (Hunt 752A, season April 15 – May 31)
Last year: 145 hunters took 6 bears, a 4.14% success rate.
Bear numbers are strong. The area received less snow than last year and access will be easier than in 2009. Hunters that use the Dry Beaver-Ladd Canyon road closure area routinely encounter spring bears. Be sure to check access and road conditions before heading out to hunt.
Wallowa District Hunts (Season April 15- May 31)
Access is much better than it was last year but high elevations are still blocked by snow and hunters will not be able to drive on unplowed roads for the opener. There has been little bear activity so hunters are safe in waiting until later in the season to head out. Bear numbers should be about the same as last year. Bear activity generally improves by the first week of May.
Remember the Noregaard, Whiskey Creek and Shamrock Travel Management Areas will be in effect in the Sled Springs unit through May 31; maps are available at entrance points or at ODFW’s Enterprise office.
756 and 756T (youth hunt), Wenaha Unit: Last year, 138 hunters took 29 bears, a 21.01% success rate. For 756T, 32 youth hunters took no bears.
757A and 757T (youth hunt), Sled Springs and Chesnimnus Units: For 757A, 210 hunters took 26 bears a 12.38% success rate and for youth hunt, 65 hunters took 8 bears, a 12.31% success rate.
Hunt 759A, Snake River Unit: Last year, 258 hunters took 30 bears, an 11.63% success rate.
Hunt 760A and 760T (youth hunt), Minam and Imnaha units: For 760A, 179 hunters took 28 bears, a 15.64% success rate and for 760T, 15 youth hunters took no bears.
Pine Creek-Keating-Catherine Creek (Hunt 762A)
Last year, 321 hunters took 28 bears, an 8.72% success rate.
Baker District has received no damage complaints or sightings yet but boars should start coming out soon. Baker experienced a mild winter with moderate snowfall. An early spring has led to open conditions at low and mid-elevations. Higher elevations near Pine Creek and McGraw Overlook still have deep snow. In the Keating Unit hunters will find snow-free areas in some of the lowest portions of the national forest. Many of the mid and high elevation roads in all units are still impassible; contact USFS or ODFW for conditions before heading out.
Locations: Low to mid elevation areas above Hells Canyon Reservoir or Pine Creek are recommended; later in the season try the upper portion of McGraw Creek.
Lookout Mt. Unit (764)
Last year, 23 hunters took 3 bears, a 13.04% success rate.
Moderate snow at high elevation will limit access in the early season. But low to mid elevation areas of Lookout Mtn. unit are snow free. Try south facing slopes near the treeline above Brownlee Reservoir. Private lands limit access; make sure you obtain landowner