HomeHEADLINES2022 Oregon Deer And Elk Hunting Prospects

2022 Oregon Deer And Elk Hunting Prospects

THE FOLLOWING IS THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE’S ANNUAL BIG GAME HUNTING FORECAST FOR DEER AND ELK

Deer and elk populations came through a relatively “normal” 2021-22 winter and enjoyed excellent spring forage conditions thanks to a cold, wet spring.

Western Oregon: While most of western Oregon experienced a warmer than average summer, water conditions in the northwest part of the state have remained normal. With water available throughout the landscape, hunters can expect to find big game for widely dispersed.

JAYCE WILDER, 17, NOTCHED HIS 2022 ARCHERY TAG WITH THIS TIOGA UNIT BULL. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

In southwest Oregon, abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions have persisted in some areas, which could affect forage quality during the late summer and fall. However, the wildfire season has remained quiet (so far) and early season hunters may face fewer fire-related closures and restrictions.

Eastern Oregon: Much of eastern Oregon remains under severe drought conditions, in spite of a wet, cool spring. Fire conditions may be extreme and summer/fall forage conditions poor. There are some exceptions. Drought conditions are less severe, and even absent, in the Columbia and Northeast areas.

Check current drought conditions throughout the state.

Regulation changes for 2022

While fire season is still in effect, most forests will have restrictions on activities and motorized use, and some private lands will be closed to public access. You’ll find links to fire restriction the latest updates for both private and public lands on MyODFW.com. Remember it’s your responsibility to know and follow any restrictions. Here are some of the common fire season restrictions:

  • Campfires may be either prohibited or only allowed in approved campgrounds.
  • Smoking and off-road driving (including motorcycles and ATVs) may also be prohibited in most areas.
  • You must have in your vehicle either 1) a gallon of water, or 2) a fully charged and operational 2½-pound fire extinguisher and shovel (except when travelling on state or county roads).
  • ATVs must have a charged and operational 2½ pound fire extinguisher.

Bear and cougar mandatory check in process REOPENS for 2022 

Due to COVID-19 related ODFW office closures, bear hunters were temporarily not required to check-in their animal at an ODFW office. This   fall, hunters will once again be required to check-in harvested bears and cougars at an ODFW Field Office within 10 days of harvesting. See specific check-in procedures

Chronic Wasting Disease check stations 

In November 2021, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was discovered in Idaho, 20 miles from the border with Oregon. CWD is a contagious and fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk, and moose populations. In an effort to increase surveillance for the disease, ODFW will be operating large scale CWD Check Stations in Prineville and The Dalles, as well as smaller scale check stations in many districts throughout the state, starting in the 2022 hunting season. The large check stations in Prineville and The Dalles will be conducted the opening weekend of Any Legal Weapon Buck Deer Season and the closing weekend of eastern Oregon’s First Rocky Mountain Elk Season.

Locations and times for smaller check stations across the state will be announced in advance. Hunters transporting harvested wildlife parts are required to stop and have the animal(s) checked. Samples collected at these check stations are of critical importance to ODFW as we monitor the health of our deer and elk populations. For more information on CWD, as well as a link to the Online CWD Testing Results Portal, please visit www. MyODFW.com/CWD

Wolves are present in Oregon

As Oregon’s wolf population continues to expand geographically, hunters need to take extra care to identify their target. Wolves can look like coyotes, especially wolf pups in the mid-summer and fall. Please report any wolf sightings or wolf sign online with the Wolf Reporting Form.

Test your identification skills with ODFW’s new Coyote and Gray Wolf ID Quiz.

Note: The area updates are organized by wildlife management units (WMUs) that are used to help organize hunting seasons.

Bulk Ammo In-Stock

Northwest Area

In general, it seems that deer and elk survived the variable winter pretty well. Access to private timberlands for the opener of deer and elk archery season will be dependent on the level of rainfall in the coming weeks. As the rifle deer opener approaches and fire danger decreases, more and more previously closed private lands will open to hunting.

At this time, private and public land restrictions are changing frequently due to on-going extreme drought conditions and wildfires. Please reference the online resources to determine closures prior to leaving for your hunting adventures. If a resource hasn’t been updated recently then attempt to contact the land manager directly during their business hours.

JAMIE MCLEOD BAGGED THIS BLACKTAIL IN NORTHWEST OREGON’S SADDLE MOUNTAIN UNIT LAST FALL. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

Saddle Mt., Wilson, Western Trask, Western Stott Mt., Western Alsea, North Siuslaw WMUs

DEER

Black-tailed deer on the north coast (Saddle Mt., Wilson, western Trask wildlife management units) endured winter well with only average post-winter mortality noted. Deer densities overall are moderate and estimates of buck escapement from last year’s hunting season were at benchmark (~20 per 100 does) for the Saddle Mtn. and Trask units and above average in the Wilson. Any of the three WMUs should offer decent buck hunting prospects.

There has been a lot of recent clear-cut timber harvest on state forestlands, so be sure to take a look at ODF lands if scouting for areas to hunt deer. Generally, deer densities tend to be highest in the eastern portions of these units. Most industrial forestlands will be open to at least non-motorized access once fire season is over, with the exception of Weyerhaeuser lands, most of which will continue to be in a fee access program this fall.

Along the mid-coast (western Stott Mt., western Alsea, north Siuslaw), overall deer numbers appear to be stable and buck numbers are fair to good in most areas. The success rate average for all three units during the west general deer rifle season is around 30 percent.  The 2021 and 2022 growing/weather seasons were good, which has likely improved overwinter survival. The prevalence of deer hair loss syndrome continues to be present in the district during late winter and into spring, and mortalities continue to occur due to this syndrome.

Deer hunters should focus on areas of early successional habitats (grassy/brushy clear-cuts), and checkboard lands (Public/Private Interfaces).

The Stott Mtn/North Alsea Weyerhaeuser and Manulife Access and Travel Management areas (TMA) provide some quality walk-in hunting opportunities. Manulife and Weyerhaeuser Access and Habitat open lands utilize yellow TMA road closed signs where motor vehicles are not permitted. Road closures and hunting access is year-round. Be aware of Weyerhaeuser lease and/or permit areas and please visit their recreation website for more information on access. Please obtain a TMA map online (Map 1) (Map 2) for more information on travel management in the North Alsea and Stott mountain units. Please pay attention to fire season restrictions as fire danger is increasing as the fall approaches.

Most private timber lands in Stott and Alsea are currently open to motor vehicle and/or walk-in public access due to Access and Habitat grants but please pay attention to fire season restrictions as they can change at any time. Lands in the Siuslaw unit are under more restrictive fire use and are likely closed during fire season.  Keep up to date by checking the Oregon Department of Forestry website or calling landowners. You will find links to Forest Service, BLM, and other landowner websites with updated fire closure information here.

Saddle Mountain Unit

Deer densities remain favorable throughout the Unit. Some areas to look at include Vollmer Creek, Green Mountain, the lower Klaskanine, Young’s, Lewis and Clark and Necanicum rivers in Clatsop County, and Fall, Deer and Crooked creeks in Columbia County.

While much of the unit is industrial timberland, most timber companies offer plenty of walk-in access in some areas and open gates for dawn to dusk vehicular access in others, once the fire season is over. See the newly revised 2022 North Coast Cooperative Travel Management Area map from ODFW for details.

Wilson Unit

Clear-cut habitat continues to be created on state (ODF) and private industrial forestlands. Areas with recent logging include the North Fork Wilson River, North Fork Nehalem River, Standard Grade, Buck Mtn. and the upper Salmonberry River. Deer populations continue to be on the increase, with decent buck to doe ratios.

Trask Unit

On state forestlands in the western portion, look in the upper Trask River and Wilson River basins. On industrial forestlands, the upper portions of the South Fork Trask River and Widow Creek along Hwy 18, as well as Cape Lookout and Cape Meares blocks, have a lot of good habitat.

ELK   

On the north coast (Saddle Mt., Wilson, western Trask) elk populations are at moderate levels, but continuing to increase, and are at their highest in the western portions of these WMUs. Bull elk hunting this year should be okay in the Wilson and Trask units due to good bull escapement from last year’s hunting seasons. Bull ratios are above Management Objective in both.

Some popular hunting areas In the Wilson Unit are the lower Wilson River, God’s Valley, Cook Creek, upper North Fork Nehalem River, Standard Grade, Buck Mtn. and Camp Olson.

In the Western Tract unit, hunters will find higher numbers of elk and open habitats include Cape Lookout, Cape Meares, Fall Creek, lower Nestucca River and the Trask River, especially the South Fork.

Both WMUs have general season archery and rifle hunting opportunities. Bag limit is any bull for archery and 1st rifle seasons and spike only for 2nd rifle.

The Saddle Mountain also had good bull survival from the last several seasons, but bull rifle hunting is through controlled hunting only and the bag limit for rifle and archery is 3-point or better. Areas with higher elk numbers and open habitat include Clatsop Ridge, Davis Point, the lower Klaskanine River, Young’s, Necanicum and Lewis and Clark Rivers, and Ecola Creek.

For archery elk hunters, most industrial forestlands will be open to at least non-motorized access once fire season is over, except for Weyerhaeuser lands, most of which will be in their fee access program this fall.

In 2022, the bag limit for elk for archery and disabled hunters in the Saddle Mtn., Wilson and Trask WMUs will not include an antlerless elk. Please check the 2022 Oregon Big Game Regulations for details.

Along the mid-coast (western Stott Mt., western Alsea, north Siuslaw), bull elk ratios are lower than management objectives (MO 10 bulls/100 cows) for the Alsea, and Stott but at MO for the Siuslaw unit.

Remember that the second rifle bull elk season in Siuslaw WMU has a bag limit of one spike bull; the bull ratio there continues to be highly variable year-to-year but appears to be showing signs of a slight decrease but still above objectives.  Elk in the Siuslaw Unit are highly scattered and difficult to find, and most larger herds are on private farmland. Spend time contacting private landowners for access and scouting to find elk sign as the topography is rugged in certain portions of this unit.

Elk will be scattered throughout the Stott, Alsea, & Siuslaw units, with larger numbers of elk close to agricultural valleys and private land interfaces. Industrial forestlands north of Hwy 20 typically receive lots of hunting pressure, with young tree plantations providing good visibility and travel management roads providing walk-in access.

Early successional habitats such as clear-cuts, plantations, and agricultural land interfaces have the highest densities of elk. U.S Forest Service lands south of Hwy 20 have lower densities of elk and are much more difficult to hunt in the thick older growth vegetation and rugged terrain. Hunters should check with landowners before hunting or check the ODFW website for links to fire restrictions and closures.

Stott Mountain and Alsea units

Some popular areas to hunt elk in the Stott Mountain Unit include the South Fork Siletz River, Fanno Ridge, Gravel Creek, Mill Creek, Elk Creek, Euchre Creek, Murphy road, and the mainstem Siletz River.

Popular elk hunting areas in the Alsea include the South tract 1000 line, Yachats River, Five Rivers, North Fork Siuslaw River, Big Rock Creek Road, Luckiamute River, Airlie, Burnt Woods, Grant Creek, Wolf Creek, Logsden, Pee Dee Creek, and Dunn Forest.

ALEXANDRA FONTANA HARVESTED THIS NICE BLACKTAIL DURING THE 2020 SEASON. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

Scappoose, Eastern Trask, North Willamette, North Santiam WMUs

DEER

Fall deer herd composition surveys completed in 2021 indicated similar trends to previous years for the eastern Trask, northern Santiam and Scappoose units. Surveys are not conducted in the Willamette Unit. Fawn ratios seemed to be up for all units this year in the North Willamette Watershed District, as compared to the past few years as well, which could result in more young bucks available for harvest this year, assuming average overwinter survival.

Lots of late spring precipitation in the northern portion of the state has resulted in increased fuel moisture and reduced fire risk later into the summer and fall this year compared to the previous couple of years. Many of the private timber company properties that allow hunting access have been closed during the past few archery seasons.

Currently it appears as though many of those properties will be open for access during this archery season, however, conditions can change quickly and hunters are reminded to contact local timber companies to obtain updated access information and check the Oregon Dept. of Forestry’s website for fire restrictions and closures. State and federal lands typically remain open during the archery season and provide the primary hunting opportunities.

Hunter access to the majority of Weyerhaeuser lands in the Scappoose, eastern Trask and north Santiam WMUs will be limited to those hunters who purchased an entry permit. However even these lands may be impacted in early hunting seasons if fire danger is high-extreme. There is a tract of Weyerhaeuser property included in the North Coast Travel Management Area in the eastern portion of the Trask unit that is new for 2022. Hunters can request a 2022 North Coast or Upper Tualatin-Trask Travel Management Area map showing landownership and access opportunities from the northwest Oregon ODFW district offices.

The majority of properties in the Willamette Unit are privately-owned and hunters are reminded to obtain permission before hunting on those lands. Remember to pay careful attention to the bag limit and identification characteristics of your quarry. White-tailed deer and hybrids have been documented across northwestern Oregon where only Columbian black-tailed deer are legal for harvest. 

Scappoose Unit

Deer herd composition surveys in the Scappoose unit resulted in a buck ratio that fell just below the benchmark of 20 bucks per 100 does in the fall of 2021 , however, the 5 year average is still above that benchmark. Public access in the Scappoose unit is very patchy. There is typically more opportunity for hunters willing to walk in. There are multiple timber companies in the unit that allow walk-in access when IFPL is below 2. Some companies to consider looking into for access potential are Hampton, Stimson, Campbell Global, and Lewis & Clark Timberlands. Some areas to locate deer this fall include Tater Hill, Long Mt., Serafin Point, Burgdorfer Flat, Buck Mt. Bunker Hill, Baker Point, Bacona and the hills above Pebble Creek.

East Trask Unit

Hunters wanting to experience less road traffic and more walk-in hunting opportunities are encouraged to explore the Upper Tualatin-Trask Travel Management Area located west of Henry Hagg Lake. A new tract of Weyerhaeuser property was also added to the North Coast Travel Management area this year in NW Yamhill County near Turner Creek.

Some areas with good habitat include the upper portions of the Yamhill and Tualatin Rivers, Trask Mountain, Barney Reservoir, Pumpkinseed Mt., Green Top, and Willamina Creek. Buck ratios observed during the fall 2021 herd composition surveys fell to 13 bucks per 100 does for the eastern portion of the unit, however the past 5-year average is still above the 20:100 benchmark. The western portion of the Trask made up for the lower buck ratios observed in the eastern portion of the unit.

North Santiam Unit

The north Santiam Unit buck ratios were slightly higher than those in 2021 and well above benchmark ratios, so prospects should be good this season for those hunters able to obtain access and willing to hunt thick cover where deer concentrate. Hunters will find a wide diversity of terrain in the WMU, ranging from high elevation meadows, thick, old growth forests, industrial forestlands and agricultural fields, so a variety of hunting styles can be used.

Whether hunters choose to still hunt, set up a tree stand, rattle antlers or conduct deer drives, scouting will be critical for success and to ensure access to your favorite hunting locations. Hunter access in the north Santiam is still drastically limited in 2022, compared to previous years, due to closures of large portions of the unit for safety concerns and rehabilitation efforts resulting from the Riverside, Beachie Creek, and Lion’s Head fires of 2020. It is expected that portions of the burned areas will open in the very near future, including access to popular hunting locations up Hwy 224, which has been closed since the fires occurred nearly 2 years ago. Information regarding current access & closures can be found on the Mt. Hood National Forest website or on the MyODFW.com website.

North Willamette Unit

The long hunting season in the Willamette Unit should provide hunters with a very good opportunity to harvest a deer this season. Deer damage to agricultural crops remains high throughout the northern portion of the unit. Hunters are reminded that land within this unit is primarily privately owned. Hunters need to have established a good relationship with landowners to ensure a hunting opportunity.

Hunters can find some public land hunting opportunities in the Willamette River area. Many of the hunting spots are also listed on ODFW’s Hunting Access Map.

RYLEE CHMELA TOOK HER FIRST DEER ON THE LAST DAY OF OREGON’S 2020 SEASON, THIS DOE-CHASING BLACKTAIL. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

ELK

Scappoose and East Trask units

Elk populations in the Scappoose and eastern Trask are above the commission adopted management objective of 10 bulls per 100 cows.  Both the Scappoose and eastern Trask units saw an increase in the number of ‘large’, 5-6 point, bulls surveyed this winter as well.

Antlerless elk tags available to hunters have been significantly increased with the institution of the General Season Antlerless Elk hunt in the east Trask and Willamette Units. The General Season Antlerless Elk tag is NOT currently valid in the Scappoose and Santiam units. This hunt is entirely on private land so make sure you have access to a plot of private land before you purchase a tag.  ODFW staff will not be able to assist you with finding a place to hunt (see pg. 44 of the 2021 Big Game Hunt Regulations).

In the Scappoose WMU, elk are more numerous in the timberlands of the northwestern and agricultural lands along Hwy 26. Herds in this unit tend to be “smaller”, typically ranging 15-60 animals, compared to the eastern Trask where there are multiple larger herds that range between the timber lands and agriculture lands.

In the north Santiam WMU, elk populations in the Mt. Hood National Forest continue to decline due to limited forage availability and other factors. Instead, hunters will find the majority of elk on the industrial forestlands and agricultural fields at lower elevations. Hunters should concentrate their efforts on these low elevation lands for their best chance of success. Contacting private landowners prior to the hunting season will be the key to finding these elk. Remember to always ask for permission before entering private lands.

The majority of Weyerhaeuser lands in the Scappoose, eastern Trask and northern Santiam WMU’s are limited to those hunters who have a lease agreement or acquired an access permit, with the exception of the recently added Weyerhaeuser property near Turner Creek in the North Coast TMA.

Some areas to consider in the Scappoose unit include Upper McKay Creek, Green Mountain, Buck Mt., and Bunker Hill. In the eastern Trask, hunters wanting to do more walk-in hunting should be looking at the Upper Tualatin-Trask Travel Management Area west of Forest Grove as a good option. Other areas to consider include Trask Mt., Stony Mt., Windy Point and Neverstill.

ANOTHER LOOK AT WILDER’S 2022 BOW BULL. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

North Santiam Unit

Declining elk numbers within the Mt. Hood National Forest will make for poor elk hunting on public lands, and hunter success should be average on lower elevation private timberlands. Hunters heading for the Mt. Hood National Forest will find elk highly scattered and difficult to locate. Scout early and often to be successful there.

Places to begin scouting include the areas around Timothy and Olallie Lakes in addition to meadow complexes along open sections of the Oregon Skyline Rd (NF-42). At lower elevations, hunters should explore Butte Creek, Upper Molalla River and Eagle Creek. Closures resulting from the 2020 fire season are still affecting large portions of the north Santiam unit, but it is expected that areas that have been closed for nearly two years will be opening in the very near future, likely in time for rifle hunting seasons this year. Ensuring that you have access prior to the start of season will be crucial for hunter success.

S. Santiam, McKenzie WMUs

Bulk Ammo In-Stock

DEER and ELK

Hunter success rates for the previous seasons are confounded by the 2020 Labor Day fires and the change in the season dates for the General West Cascade Elk Season and General Western Oregon Deer Season. It will likely take a few years of data to establish new trends. Some of the areas that burned in 2020 are now open for public access, but others remain closed.

Consult with the land manager before going hunting if you are planning to hunt within any of the areas that have burned in the last few years. And while some of these areas may have reopened to access, big game may not move into the newly opened habitat for another two to three years.

Hunters who know about habitat, take the time to scout and then hunt hard, will have the best chance for success. Populations are strongly tied to habitat conditions and hunting prospects are fair to good in places with high quality habitat. Hunting prospects are poor in lower quality habitats.

Forage is key to good deer and elk habitat. Early seral (brush and forb) forest conditions provide some of the best deer and elk forage. On public lands, early seral habitat is often found in areas not burned severely by wildfire and may be found in thinned areas if the enough trees were removed. On private timberland, forage is best in clear-cuts beginning a couple years after the timber harvest.

Precipitation this winter/spring came later and lasted longer than in recent years, resulting in good forage this summer. This delayed vegetation from drying out and made for a moderate fire season to begin the summer. However, there has been less moisture lately and a string of heat waves that continue to increase fire danger on the landscape which could result in restrictions or closures on both private and public lands. You can keep up-to-date on the latest fire closures and restrictions from this webpage.

South Santiam Unit

Surveys this previous winter continue to show both elk and deer meeting management objectives for bull and buck escapement. Elk numbers are down from historic numbers, but hunters can still find animals on both public and private ground if they’re willing to put in the scouting time. Deer are more evenly distributed across the unit and numbers are similar to recent years.

The old B&B Fire in the Santiam Pass area continues to hold good numbers of deer but the brush is becoming fairly thick, making the hunting more challenging. Still, this is a good early season place to hunt on National Forest lands.

However, lands burned in the 2020 fires still need more time to recover before they will start benefitting big game populations and access is still restricted in some areas. Hunters can find elk around the edges of the burned areas and near thinning operations or other openings created by the Forest Service.

At lower elevations in the Cascade foothills, look for elk and deer in two- to eight-year old clear-cuts. Elk are most plentiful at the timber/agricultural interface. Additionally, hiking into areas closed to motor vehicles increases your odds of finding both deer and elk.

McKenzie Unit

The East Lane Travel Management Area (TMA) will be open 7 days a week from the opening of the Western Cascade General Buck Deer season until the end of the Cascade Bull season. The 39,825-acre TMA is comprised of dispersed blocks of land located in the McKenzie and Indigo units.  Some blocks that burned severely in the Holiday Farm Fire may be closed to public access in 2021. Maps will be available at access point kiosks just prior to the TMA opening.

If you are not familiar with the TMA, you will find a map dispenser located outside of the gate at the Springfield ODFW office or in our office when we reopen to the public. Geo pdf maps can also be downloaded from our website and used on a smart device with its GPS feature enabled. The Geo pdf maps will show your location as you move around the TMA. Users must download the Avenza application to use in conjunction with the maps.

Southwest Area

Current black-tailed deer research in ongoing in a number of wildlife management units in the southwest area. Preliminary results show the local deer population is stable or slightly higher than previous projected.

W Tioga, Powers, and portions of Sixes WMUs

Unlike last year, there are few fire access restrictions on public and private lands at the start of the archery season. The Coos Mountain Access Area is open for public use. Only roads marked with green dots are open to vehicle traffic.  All other roads are open to walk-in access or bike access. E-bikes are considered motor vehicles and are restricted to green dot roads. Private landowners within the Coos Mountain Access Area are within their rights to close roads on a case-by-case basis if the roads are being used for administrative purposes such as logging or road construction.

DEER

Deer populations in the district seem to have been increasing over the past several years. ODFW survey and research work has indicated deer populations in many parts of the Tioga, Sixes and Powers units are fairly high in comparison to population levels of the early 2000s. However, they may have leveled off in more recent years.

Due to the wet, winter-like spring we saw this year water should be much less limiting for deer. Hunters will find deer distribution is likely to be driven more by food and cover availability. ODFW research has shown that local deer prefer grassy clearcuts. While they feed both on browse and grass, research has shown grass is a more important component in their preferred habitats. As a result, hunters should look for young clear-cuts dominated by grasses and forbs, which deer seem to prefer.

North facing slopes will likely be most attractive in the early fall thanks to high soil moisture supporting better plant growth. Later in the fall south slopes can be better because the sun warms the soil there, resulting in better forage production.  Regardless of habitat conditions and time of year, most hunters know deer tend to be more active early and late in the day.  There are days when they are active throughout the day, likely due to a variety of reasons.   

At this writing fire concerns don’t seem to be as high as in recent years. However, that can change based on how the weather plays out this fall.  Hunters may find local fire concern information at the Coos Forest Protective Association’s website.

ELK

Elk populations in the Sixes, Powers and Tioga Units are at or close to the management objectives for these units. Although the bull component in Powers appears to be down from historic levels. Elk distribution is more likely to be influenced by food and cover availability this year than in the past couple of years because of better soil moisture conditions this year.

In the early season the best forage should be be on north slopes, especially in forest openings like clear-cuts.  Later in the season elk may move to south slopes to take advantage of better forage production due to warmer soil conditions. Private timber lands can be very productive due to timber harvest activities, though hunters will need to find out if there is public access to these properties. Public land where there have been timber thinning operations also can be good places to concentrate hunting effort.

Elk on the coast will look for areas with minimal disturbance and relatively flat terrain. So experienced hunters will use a map to find places with low road density and relatively flat topography.

Dixon, Indigo, Evans Creek, Melrose, E Tioga and NE Powers WMUs 

More specific information about the upcoming 2022 season was unavailable at the time of publication.

JAYCE WILDER WITH HIS 2020 BUCK, AN OPENING-MORNING EVANS CREEK BLACKTAIL. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

DEER and ELK

Deer hunting should be fair to good in the Cascades and Umpqua Valley. Elk hunters in the Cascades have averaged about 5 percent success over the past few years and this year is expected to be similar. Cascade rifle elk hunters should be aware that the season has been shifted to Nov. 5-11. Also, with the elk season shift there is no longer a gap in the Cascade units for general deer season. It now runs the same time as the rest of Western Oregon general deer season Oct. 1-Nov 4.

The fawns per adult deer ratios in the Dixon, Indigo and Melrose have been stable to increasing over the last few years. Elk numbers in the Tioga Unit are close to population management objective and doing well.

All archery and rifle deer hunters hunting the first part of the season should be aware of fire restrictions and access issues. Oregon Department of Forestry Fire page has links for corporate timber closures.

Hunters should be looking at clear-cuts, thinnings or wildfire scars for deer and elk activity. Recent fire activity in the Dixon and Evans Creek units are already producing good forage and cover for deer populations. This should improve deer hunting in the Umpqua National Forest for years to come.

Hunters unfamiliar with this area are advised to hunt smarter, not harder. Use Google Earth or Google Map (satellite layer) to explore the area with a birds-eye view and get an idea of the terrain and vegetation. Get a hold of some good maps from the Forest Service/BLM/Local Fire Protection Association and use them in conjunction with Google Map to locate areas away from roads that will provide you a quality hunting experience. Another good source of information is to view historic fire perimeters online at Geomac.

These maps will give you an idea where large areas have been opened up by wildfire, which enhances forage opportunities for deer and elk. Find the food, and you’ll find the game.

North Indigo Unit

In the Indigo, the Tumblebug Fire that burned in the upper Middle Fork Willamette drainage improved deer habitat, and the deer population in the area is expected to improve over the next few years. Additionally, the US Forest Service and sporting organizations such as Oregon Hunters Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have been hard at work thinning old clear-cuts to improving forage conditions south of Hills Creek Reservoir. These habitat projects will help maintain the deer and elk populations in the area.

Still, the strongest deer and elk populations occur on private lands where expansive timber harvest results in improved forage. Please remember to check access restrictions before hunting on private lands.

BEAR and COUGAR

During hot dry weather, bears will be found around cooler wet drainages, with the best times in early morning and late evenings. The Chetco and Applegate units have had the best success during the fall season, although bears are found throughout the three counties in very healthy numbers.

Cougars are found throughout the district and can be hunted all year long. They are challenging to hunt, but many hunters increase their odds by using of predator calls along major ridgelines. Don’t forget to purchase a tag since the vast majority of cougars taken today are by hunters pursuing other species.

Applegate, Chetco, Evans Creek, Rogue, portions of Dixon, and Sixes WMUs

DEER

Current data shows the buck ratio for the local deer population is well above benchmark within the district. In general, the Rogue, Dixon, Evans Creek and Applegate units within Jackson County have mostly migratory deer populations. The majority of the winter migration happens somewhere around mid-October. Within these units hunting at higher elevations (above 4,000 ft.) during the early half of the season and lower elevations (below 4,000 ft.) during the last half of the season, after deer have migrated, may be a great strategy for harvest success.

The concentration of migratory deer on winter range during the rut provides especially good hunting opportunity for archery hunters in the Evans Creek and Rogue, and for muzzleloader hunters with a tag for the Applegate. Deer in Josephine and Curry counties are more likely to be found at all elevations throughout the season.

Big game hunting statistics indicate that most units within Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties had an increase in hunter success last year. The Rogue unit’s hunter success in the general deer rifle season increased to 25 percent from 23 percent in the previous year. Evans Creek increased from 45 to 46 percent, Applegate increased to 36 percent compared to 33 percent, and the Chetco increased from 42 to 46 percent.

However, over the past four years deer hunter harvest has remained roughly the same in all five units, indicating that this year should be the same. Like 2021, it will be another fairly dry year so take that into consideration while determining areas to hunt.

So far this summer we have been lucky in southern Oregon and have not had any major fires. Hopefully this holds up through the remainder of the year. Remember to check local restriction when it comes to campfires as well as hunting on private timber company land during fire season.

ELK

Elk numbers for the Rogue district hunting success increased from the previous season. For archery hunters, early season elk may not be very vocal and locating them may be more difficult than later in the season. During the early season when it’s hotter and drier, look for water sources and cool/shaded north facing hillsides where elk tend to spend their time during the heat of the day. As the season progresses and cooler temperatures prevail, elk will begin the rut. They will become more vocal and cow-calling or bugling may be a great way to locate them. Keep in mind that food consumption in preparation for the winter will also be a priority for elk. Grassy pocket meadows and windswept ridgelines may be a great place to locate elk.

During the Cascade Any Weapon Elk season, we partner with the Forest Service to implement the Upper Rogue Travel Management Area to provide hunters with larger tracts of untraveled roads to hunt in the Rogue Siskiyou National Forest. Hunters should focus on this closure area as it can provide elk an escape from more heavily trafficked roads, which they tend to avoid.  Upper Rogue and other TMA maps can be found  https://www.dfw.state.or.us/maps/here.

The 2021 season showed an increase in hunter success with the Cascade elk season moving back to its original November dates. Before this date change the Cascade hunt has had relatively poor success (2-3 percent), but in 2021 with a later opportunity we saw a jump in hunter success between 4 percent and 13 percent depending on the unit. On the coast, both seasons of the Chetco unit controlled rifle hunt showed in the same consistent hunter success as in previous years.

COUSINS JEFF AND WADE RAMSEY ENJOYED GOOD HUNTING IN EASTERN OREGON LAST SEASON. (BUZZ RAMSEY)
Bulk Ammo In-Stock

Columbia Area

Fawn ratios were up in all units in the fall of 2020 which should translate into more yearling bucks on the landscape. This comes following several years of relatively low fawn ratios so populations here are still in the recovery stage. Elk numbers are stable in this area. Heavy cover can make for challenging conditions in the forested portions of these units.

Hood, White River, Maupin, West Biggs WMUs

DEER

The West Biggs and Maupin units both have buck ratios above management objective. Surveys indicated a buck ratio of 26 bucks per 100 does in the Maupin unit and 19 bucks per 100 does in the West Biggs unit. In the West Biggs unit, buck ratios are highest in northern end of the John Day River canyon and on private lands, where public access is limited. Be sure to ask for permission if you intend to hunt private lands in these units.

The John Day River area can offer a great hunting experience, if the water is high enough to float the river, and offers hunters access to public lands within the canyon. Water levels in the John Day are at average for summer flow, but public access will be dependent on timing of fall rains. Public access points within the canyon (Cottonwood, Thirtymile, etc.) will be dependent on fire danger, but should be accessible. The Deschutes River canyon also offers public land hunting opportunities. Deer densities here are typically lower than in the John Day canyon, but pressure from adjacent private lands can push more deer into the higher elevations along the canyon rim after opening day.

Deer in the White River are still well below recent population highs and appear to still be suffering limitations on population density from hemmoragic disease. While it is too soon to know the outcome, the above average spring precipitation brings hope of better recruitment and less disease prevalence this summer. Buck ratios in the unit are still below management objective. Last fall’s surveys showed 22/100, which remains slightly below the management objective of 25 bucks per 100 does.

Most deer within the White River unit spend their summer on the western edge of the unit at higher elevations or on private lands adjacent to agriculture. Hunters should start their search at higher elevations to get away from other hunters and locate a buck to harvest. At the time of writing the only access restrictions within the unit are around the White River burn scar on USFS-owned lands. Be sure to check if there are any access or fire restrictions on the Mt. Hood National Forest’s website before you head out.

The deer population in the Hood unit has been historically difficult to monitor with typical survey methods. In 2020 we initiated a new method using trail cameras to estimate deer populations. Results of this survey estimated a population of 1,295 deer within the portions of the Hood unit outside the Hood River Valley. With mild winter conditions, we expect a similar number of deer should remain available for harvest in the unit this hunting season.

The best hunting in the Hood unit is on private timberlands, and hunters should always check with these landowners to find out the most recent regulations. The Hood Unit also has several large fires that occurred in recent years on the North side of Mt. Hood. Newly emerged woody browse and other vegetation make these burns an excellent place to focus efforts.

ELK

Elk populations district-wide remain relatively stable in all units. Bull ratios from the most recent surveys were nine bulls per 100 adult cows, which is slightly below management objective. Success has been slightly above long-term averages for the past couple of seasons.

Elk are found in scattered herds throughout the forested areas of the White River and Hood units. Public lands in both units area dominated by dense vegetation. More open areas within the forest created by recent burns and logging provide good forage for elk as well as excellent glassing opportunities. In contrast to deer, elk are much more likely to avoid roads and concentrations of people. Hunters who are willing to make the extra effort to get away from roads and cover lots of ground will have a higher chance of success. 

Most elk in the Maupin and West Biggs units are found on private lands. Make sure you get permission from the landowner before hunting private lands in these units. A few elk can be found on BLM and state lands in these units and hunting pressure is very low.

NORTHCENTRAL OREGON YIELDED THIS NICE MULE DEER FOR CHAD ZOLLER DURING 2020’S HUNT. (CHAD ZOLLER)

Central Area

The late winter snowfall and continued precipitation have generated excellent forage conditions and above-average moisture throughout the district. Early-season hunters can expect game species to be distributed throughout their range.

Maury, Ochoco, Grizzly WMUs

DEER

Buck ratios are near management objective for the Maury, Ochoco and Grizzly units, with a district-wide average of 20 bucks per 100 does. Over-winter fawn survival was lower than normal due to last year’s drought impacting doe body condition going into winter. This will result in fewer yearling bucks (spikes and forks) available for harvest this fall.

However, the increased moisture this year has improved forage conditions, and we expect deer to be in excellent body condition throughout the fall and have good fat stores for this upcoming winter.

Harvest rates last year were about average for both rifle and archery hunts in Grizzly and Ochoco, but Maury success decreased. Throughout the district, deer populations continue to be lower than management objectives due to continued drought as well as the usual suspects: habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, predation, disease and roadkill.

Please, remember to pick up a motor vehicle use map for the Ochoco and Deschutes National forests so you know what’s open and closed.

ELK

The bull ratio in the Ochoco WMU is above management objective, but bull ratios in the Maury and Grizzly remain below MO. The elk population in the district is holding steady. Hunter harvest last fall was about average throughout in the Ochoco and Grizzly WMUs, but below average in the Maury WMU.

Last year’s drought has also impacted our elk population, and calf ratios are low in the Grizzly the effect of which will be seen in future years. However, the Ochoco herd remains strong, if slightly increasing. The increase in rainfall and general water across the landscape throughout the summer will benefit the elk as they head into the winter. Wide distribution of forage and water can also lead to a wide distribution in elk, so hunters can expect to find them spread out throughout their range and they may not be as concentrated as in other years.

Typically, elk hunting improves as you get further away from open roads. With small streams flowing late into the summer, expect animals to remain up high early in the hunting season.

The Maury and Ochoco units offer the most public land hunting opportunities, 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 TMAs.

Most 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 lands throughout the seasons.

WITH OREGON’S LATE AUGUST START OF BOW SEASON, HUNTERS HAVE A CHANCE TO BACK A FUZZY-ANTLERED BUCK, AND TRAVIS CLOWERS DID JUST THAT LAST MONTH. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

Upper Deschutes, Paulina, Metolius, N. Wagontire WMUs

Bulk Ammo In-Stock

DEER

Overall deer populations are below desired management objective district wide. As usual, weather conditions prior to and during hunting seasons will have a big impact on hunting conditions and success.

Severe drought conditions will affect deer distribution in the eastern portions of the Paulina and the majority of the North Wagontire wildlife management units. Upper elevation areas with ample water supply in the Upper Deschutes and Metolius units should have normal deer distribution.

Buck ratios are near, or above, management objective district-wide. Last winter’s tolerable conditions resulted in an increase in over-winter survival, but spring fawn ratios are still down district-wide with a ratio of 29 fawns per 100 does. Low survival rates in both fawns and adult deer continues to push populations below management objective in all units. Habitat loss, disturbance, poaching, predation, disease and roadkill are contributing factors.

ELK

Elk numbers are stable in the East Central Cascade units. Low calf recruitment of 18 calves per 100 cows contributes to the slow growth in the district. Populations are at or near management objective in all units. Favorable winter conditions resulted in good overwinter survival.

Severe drought conditions will affect elk distribution in the lower elevation areas. At upper elevations, elk will be more evenly distributed, similar to recent years.

Hunter densities are high in the roaded portions of the Cascade units. For solitude, seek more remote wilderness and roadless areas in the Cascades.

PRONGHORN

Pronghorn numbers are steady throughout the district.  Severe drought conditions are affecting distribution throughout the pronghorn habitat.  Low fawn recruitment is the main reason the population is not growing. 

When in pronghorn habitat, remember to camp away from water sources as they are critical to wildlife, especially in drought conditions. Camping near water sources can restrict wildlife access due to fear of humans. 

South Central Area

Last year’s severe drought conditions continued through the winter with some reprieve from abundant spring precipitation. Forage conditions were ideal entering into summer.

Keno, Klamath Falls, Sprague, Ft Rock, Silver Lake, and Interstate WMUs

DEER

Deer populations in Klamath County overall are decreasing slightly. Klamath Falls, Keno, and Interstate WMUs are above buck ratio Management Objective (MO).

Even with mild winter conditions, spring fawn ratios were below maintenance levels to maintain current populations. The district-wide spring fawn ratio was a slightly lower than the previous year. Yearling bucks (last year’s fawns) generally comprise over half the buck harvest.

The 2021 Bootleg and Cougar Peak fires burned over 500,000 acres in three wildlife management units including Interstate, Silver Lake and Sprague. The Fremont Winema National Forest has implemented an area closure which encompasses just the fire perimeters. See Fremont-Winema National Forest website for closure updates.  

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.  Deer will also select for dried up, seasonal creeks. 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. Always check with the landowner/ land manager before starting your hunting trip. You’ll find links to Forest Service, BLM and other landowner websites with updated fire closure information here, and additional updates in the weekly Recreation Report. As the hunter it is your responsibility to make sure the area you plan to hunt is open and accessible.

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 limited entry only (231X-SE Cascades) through controlled hunts. 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 rifle seasons east of Hwy 97 are controlled hunts. Overall population trends are stable to slightly increasing in some areas but still below population management objectives. General season 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.

East Interstate, Silver Lake, and East Fort Rock WMUs

DEER

Deer populations in Lake County continue to be below management objectives. Significant wildfires during the summer of 2021 have further reduced some populations in the short term.  Buck ratios across most of the county are at or near management objectives, though. Spring deer fawn ratios averaged 30 across all units, which will translate into fewer younger-age bucks available.

Fire weather conditions have been in the “extreme” category for the past several weeks. Conditions will continue to be dry without significant precipitation. You will find links to Forest Service, BLM and other landowner websites with updated fire restrictions and closure information here, and additional updates in the Recreation Report. As a hunter, it’s your responsibility to make sure the area you plan to hunt is open and accessible.

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

East Interstate: Currently there is no public access to USFS and private timbers lands north of HWY 140, while BLM, state, and private lands are still open to hunting at this time. Land closures are in effect through at least Aug. 31, with potential for extension if the USFS deems it necessary. Plan accordingly if you decide to hunt. South of HWY 140 remains open and hunters should seek dark timber with cooler temperatures and potential for water.

Silver Lake: While as much as 18 percent of the unit burned last summer in the Bootleg fire, the majority of the unit will be open to hunting.  Buck ratios are improved over the previous two years. 

Warner: Deer numbers are lower than previous years. Those hunting the Warner Unit should look to spend lots of time behind binoculars and spotting scopes glassing open pockets at dawn and dusk.

East Fort Rock: Natural openings or old clear-cuts with shrubs in the understory within a few miles of springs and riparian areas are going to be the most productive.

ELK

Elk populations in the district are generally stable but low when compared to other areas of the state. Elk season should be fair to good depending on weather conditions. The Fort Rock and Silver Lake units offer the best opportunity for elk hunting in the Lake District. However, herds are at relatively low densities and cover a lot of country, so hunter success is typically low.  As a reminder, Hunters should stay up to date with public land closures prior to their hunt beginning.

The elk are most consistent in their daily patterns near alfalfa fields. Hunters should select their target animal carefully when elk are in open country in large herds to avoid wounding or hitting multiple animals.

NOT TO BE OUTDONE BY HIS SON AND NEPHEW, BUZZ RAMSEY ALSO BAGGED A MULE DEER WHILE HUNTING THE MALHEUR UNIT LAST FALL. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Southeast Area

Deer hunting prospects are good for the many units; there are plenty of animals available for harvest for all seasons and weapon choices.

Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mt, Juniper, Beatys Butte, Wagontire, Warner, and Whitehorse WMUs

DEER and ELK

All Harney County units are currently below population management objective (MO) for deer. Most populations steadily declined for several years following the harsh winter of 2016-17 but appeared to increase in 2020 and 2021. Fawn recruitment over the past winter was poor and so most units should slightly decline when compared to last year’s overall population level.  Buck to doe ratios were above average coming out of the 2021 season however, and hunter success is expected to be average.

Elk populations are stable in most portions of the Harney District. Elk populations are at or above MO in the Malheur River, Silvies and High Desert units.  Bull ratios have declined in recent years and as a result hunter success rates have also declined. Hunter success is expected to be below average and similar to last year.

Drought conditions persist across the district. While winter snowpack was well below average, spring and early summer were uncommonly wet. This resulted in good forage conditions across the district in late spring and early summer, but did little to fill up water holes in the desert. Forage conditions across the district are currently fair to good, but water sources in the desert units are extremely limited.

The good grass and forb growth we saw this spring has now dried out in many places and the risk of wildfire is extremely high as fall approaches and will remain so until significant precipitation arrives. Take extra precautions when out in the field to avoid starting fires and follow all federal and state fire restrictions.

Hunting prospects should be fair to good in the Warner Unit, as it is above management objectives for buck ratios with a good component of older bucks. With an average winter and a wet spring water, forage availability is good.

In the Warner Unit the forested habitats have more deer, and therefore more bucks, than the desert habitats. If you want to hunt the desert portion of the unit there is a lot of private land mixed in with the BLM properties, which will make hunting these areas a challenge.

Elk populations in the Warner unit are generally low and herds cover a lot of territory, so hunter success is typically low. Elk numbers in the northern part of Wagontire (High Desert hunts) are quite variable due to large movements these animals make.

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.

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. 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.

Whitehorse and Owyhee WMUs

DEER

Owyhee Unit

Deer densities in the Owyhee unit are low and still recovering from the severe winter of 2016-17. Tag numbers remain at a reduced rate. Fortunately, for a third year in a row, winter conditions were very mild with minimal over-winter mortality. Fawn recruitment has improved but still room for improvement while the buck ratio is above management objective at 25 bucks per hundred does.

Hunter success has been increasing as well as the percent of three- and four-point bucks in the harvest so hunting should be fair to good with all age class bucks available. Hunters should find more deer by looking for intact sage and bitter brush stands, and water sources with deer sign.

East Whitehorse

Deer densities in the East Whitehorse are low and hunters should consider scouting trips before the season to locate areas where deer are present. Despite lower deer densities, over 70 percent of the deer harvested are older age class bucks. Most hunters are finding deer associated intact sage and bitter brush stands while avoiding areas affected by larger wildfires dominated by annual grass.  

Trout Creek Mountains

The Trout Creek unit deer population remains stable and should provide good hunting for tag holders. The buck ratio in this unit remains high at 50 per hundred does and all age class bucks are available. The Holloway fire burned most of this unit in 2012. Since that time, the higher elevation vegetation has recovered nicely and provides good deer habitat. Deer will be spread throughout the unit at the mid and high elevations.

ELK

Whitehorse and Owyhee units

The Whitehorse and Owyhee units are part of the High Desert hunt area. The Whitehorse unit has very few elk with the majority found along the Oregon Idaho border. The Owyhee unit has several areas with increasing elk numbers, with the major populations in the north and western portions of the unit. Elk in both units can be difficult to find due to their nomadic nature. Being mobile and covering as much ground as possible while glassing from high points can be a productive strategy hunting in open country.

A HANDLOADED 230-GRAIN BERGER BULLET AND 480-YARD SHOT FROM HIS .300 IMPROVED NORMA MAGNUM DID THE TRICK FOR JULIO CABRERA IN THE DESOLATION UNIT LAST FALL. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

Northeast Area

Hunters may see a few more yearling bucks in the mix thanks to a mild winter and good over-winter survival. Early season hunters will be challenged by the dry conditions.

Beulah, Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt. WMUs

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. As of Aug. 3, Manulife Forest Management properties in the Shamrock, Whiskey Cr, Noregaard, Little Catherine Cr, Meacham Travel Management Areas and any other Hancock properties enrolled in the Access & Habitat program throughout northeast Oregon will close to public access.

DEER

Over-winter survival was good in Baker County. 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 or near management objective and calf ratios were good in all units. With controlled archery elk hunting taking place this year hunters are reminded to check the regulations for the area they intend to hunt. Elk populations in the Keating, Pine Creek 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 can 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.

Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, and West Beulah WMUs

The area experienced a moderate winter, and deer and elk faired ok through the winter. Both deer and elk had lower fawn/calf ratios in the spring than the previous year due to last summer’s drought conditions. The spring and early summer were wet and cool; however, the area is warming up so hunters should expect dry conditions at the beginning of the season.

DEER

Deer populations remain below management objectives in all units. Buck ratios were at management objective in Northside and Desolation and above management objective in Murderers Creek. Spring fawn ratios were lower than desired.

Last year, archery and rifle hunters had below average success for Northside and Desolation but above average for Murderers Creek. Similar or slight better results are expected 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, Canyon Creek Complex, and the Monument Rock burns are 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 in most of the district and above management objective in Murderers Creek and Northside but below in Desolation and  West Beulah. We have had slightly lower calf ratios and good bull ratios in most of the district.

Elk hunters should focus on areas with no open roads as elk tend to move away from traveled roads during hunting seasons.

Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin WMUs

DEER

Last year deer survival was very poor due to the hot dry summer.  Mule deer numbers in all of the units should be slightly smaller than last year.

Lots of spring rain and a relatively normal summer have created lots of forage and decent water conditions.  Deer are highly scattered and hunters will need to cover some ground to find deer.

Public lands hunters in the Fossil unit have historically had better success in the Wheeler burn, but deer numbers and success rates in that area have decreased the last few years. Fossil unit hunters might look to other areas for better deer hunting this fall. Public land hunters can also hunt the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area in the Heppner unit.  The Heppner Regulated Hunt area was reduced in size for the coming hunting season so hunters will want to make sure of the current boundaries before heading to the field.

The Columbia Basin is mostly all private land so hunters will need to secure access or hunt on some of the limited private land where ODFW has access agreements with the private landowners to allow public hunting access, such as the Open Fields access areas in the Columbia Basin unit.

ELK

The elk populations in the Heppner and Fossil units are at management objective. Bull ratios have remained constant from last year for both units. The elk calf ratio for both units declined last year so hunters will struggle to find spike bulls. There are, however, still good numbers of older age class bulls throughout the forest. 

Starkey, Catherine Creek and East Mt. Emily WMUs

DEER

Deer populations remain below management objectives. Catherine Creek buck ratios have been holding steady and above management objective for several years and hunters continue to have good success. However, due to lower fawn survival last winter we don’t expect to see as many yearlings in the harvest this year. Starkey unit buck ratios are at management objective; fawn survival over winter was average. East Mount Emily buck numbers are stable and above management objectives.

Whitetail deer in the district experienced a hemorrhagic disease outbreak last fall, but overall population numbers remain stable and buck ratios are high. The Grande Ronde muzzleloader hunt is a good opportunity for hunters to harvest an animal.

ELK

Elk numbers are strong throughout Union County. Spring calf ratios were about normal. Bull ratios are at management objective in Starkey Unit and above management objective in the Catherine Creek Unit. Mount Emily unit continues to provide a trophy quality hunting opportunity.

General Outlook

The region experienced a wet spring that created great forage conditions for big game. Water availability should be at or above normal and elk should be distributed throughout their range.  Depending on fall precipitation, animals could enter winter in above-normal body condition. 

The Starkey Unit Travel Management Areas are 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 provides plenty of opportunity 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. The Access and Habitat program continues to provide genuine hunting opportunities within Union County and should not be overlooked. 

Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, Minam, Imnaha WMUs

Bulk Ammo In-Stock

CONTROLLED DEER and ELK

White-tailed deer numbers are good in all units. Wallowa County did experience an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), which disproportionately affected white-tailed deer populations in low elevation areas, though overall harvest success should likely not be impacted. White-tailed bucks are nocturnal, but patient hunters often have success stand hunting between bedding and feeding areas.

Mule deer numbers are still well below management objective, though recruitment continues to be moderate, with good overwinter survival of fawns in most units.

Elk numbers are stable in all units and hunters should have good opportunities, though recruitment has been low due to drought conditions the past two years.

With continued high temperatures and lack of rain through August, early season hunters may choose to utilize remnant deep forest forage, as well as springs and wallows. When cooler temperatures and snow hit at higher elevations, watch for deer and elk to move down to lower elevations.

Travel management areas (TMA) and/or road closures are in effect in the Sled Springs (Noregaard and Shamrock/Whisky Creek), Chesnimnus, and Imnaha (Grouse-Lick/Canal Creek) units. Hunters can obtain maps of each TMA by visiting the following link. Be sure to call the Manulife Investment Lands (formerly Hancock Forest Management) information line before your hunt at 541-962-2184 for current information and/or restrictions.

Hunters interested in accessing the new Minam River Wildlife Area should note that access is by foot and non-motorized bikes only. Camping is not allowed at this time.

A 310-YARD SHOT DROPPED THIS UKIAH UNIT BRANCH BULL FOR AUSTIN MONTEE DURING 2020’S SEASON. (COAST HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin WMUs

DEER and ELK

Mule deer survival rates were good considering the long winter we experienced here in Umatilla County. However, mule deer numbers are below management objectives (MOs) in all units, but the buck:doe ratios are all at or above MO. The Umatilla NF has recently opened the forest in the Ukiah and Mt. Emily Units, but due to ongoing fire issues, Umatilla NF lands in the Walla Walla and Wenaha units are currently closed to all entry. It is hoped that the fire restrictions in these two units will be lifted in time for the opening of the archery season

In the fall of 2019, Umatilla County experienced a Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) outbreak in low elevation areas, but as expected we are seeing a large increase in white-tailed deer which should help in hunter success.

Hunters will find very similar elk numbers to previous years. Overwinter survival was good with calf ratios remaining low but stableranging from 16 to 18 calves in all three units. Both spike and branch bull hunters should expect good potential for this year’s hunts throughout the district.

Due to our extremely hot and dry conditions in the past 3-4 months, forage and water conditions for both deer and elk are poor at best, resulting in animals not being widely dispersed. Expect daily movements will be restricted to a few hours in the morning and early evening. However, hunters should continue to focus on north facing slopes where good feeding and bedding areas are more prevalent.

Hunting locations

Prior to hunting, we recommend hunters check the Umatilla National Forest and ODFW website for the latest restrictions that may apply to your hunting area.  For advice on places to hunt in Umatilla County,  call the Pendleton ODFW office at 541-276-2344.202