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ODFW considering next five-year framework for upland bird hunting seasons

SALEM, Ore. — Upland bird hunters have a chance to weigh in on possible changes to upland bird hunting seasons as ODFW is considering the framework for 2020-2025 seasons.

ODFW sets the general framework for upland bird hunting seasons once every five years, rather than making major changes annually, because upland bird numbers can fluctuate widely each year due to weather.

Long-term changes in upland bird numbers are largely due to the quality and quantity of habitat available, with little impact from hunting,” explains Mikal Cline, ODFW Upland Bird Coordinator. “Our goal is always to maximize upland game bird hunting opportunities while adequately protecting bird populations,”

Some staff proposals being considered are:

Open mountain quail season statewide with a 10-bird bag in western Oregon and a 2-bird bag limit in eastern Oregon. Hunters have the potential to encounter mountain quail in every county of the state due to successful translocation efforts in eastern Oregon. This change would protect hunters who may not be able to distinguish mountain quail from California quail on the wing, while still maintaining a conservative management approach. This change also aligns mountain quail seasons with California quail seasons in Hood River and Wasco counties, but does reduce the bag limit for mountain quail from 10 to 2 and delays the mountain quail opening until the second Saturday in October in these two counties. (Previously, hunters could hunt mountain quail in Hood River and Wasco counties on Sept. 1, but not California quail.) Similar to western Oregon, eastside quail bag limits would be combined (e.g. 10 birds singly or in aggregate with mountain quail, within the daily bag limit you may not have more than 2 mountain quail.)

Eastern Oregon upland bird seasons (chukar, pheasant, mountain quail) opening changed from “Saturday closest to Oct. 8” to “second Saturday in October.” This change is necessary to adhere to a season opening one week after most eastern Oregon controlled deer seasons begin. Controlled deer seasons are proposed to open the first Saturday in October beginning in 2021. This change would not affect the proposed 2020 eastern Oregon upland bird opener, which is already scheduled for the second Saturday in October.

Extend fall turkeys season to Jan. 31 statewide. Extending the hunting season for fall turkey by one month will allow additional opportunity for hunters and provide a tool for managers dealing with nuisance and damage, particularly on private land. Many fall turkey tag holders do not actually use their tags and harvest is low (approximately 1,000 birds statewide in 2018). Eastern Oregon fall turkey hunting seasons will remain private lands only from Dec. 1 – Jan. 31.

Change western Oregon fall turkey opener to be concurrent with eastern Oregon. Currently western Oregon fall season opens on Oct. 15 and the eastern Oregon season is proposed to open on the second Saturday in October. Having a concurrent opener simplifies regulations and adds more hunt days to the western Oregon fall turkey season.

Remove caps on total tags available for Oregon fall turkey hunts. Wild turkey populations continue to expand throughout Oregon. Western Oregon fall turkey tags have never sold out, so tag limits are not necessary. Eastern Oregon fall turkey tags always sell out, but based on mandatory reporting, harvest rates and actual hunter participation are low. Removing artificial tag caps will increase opportunity for hunters and provide an additional tool for Wildlife Districts seeking to address turkey damage using licensed hunters.

Eliminate White River WMU controlled fall turkey hunt (ending fall turkey hunting on the wildlife area and unit). The White River WMU hosts one of the most popular spring turkey hunts in Oregon with the highest hunter density. Maintaining the White River WMU turkey population is a management priority, but hunter success continues to decline. Fall seasons are a management tool to control turkey populations by potentially removing breeding hens from the flock, and therefore incompatible with White River WMU turkey management goals. Removing the White River Controlled Fall Turkey Hunt (K41) also simplifies turkey hunting regulations by removing the last controlled turkey hunt in the state.

To comment on these proposals, or make other suggestions, contact Mikal Cline, Mikal.L.Cline@state.or.us, (503) 947-6323.

The Commission will adopt a framework and 2020-2021 Game Bird Regulations at their April 17 meeting in Reedsport. Interested people can also testify in person about the topic at the meeting.