SALEM, Ore. — Fall may be months away but it’s time to start planning your big game hunt. Don’t forget to apply for a controlled hunt by Monday, May 15 at 11:59 p.m. PT.
Apply online, at a license sales agent or ODFW office that sells licenses, or by mail/fax order. The cost is $8 per application and hunters need a 2017 annual hunting license to apply.
Last year, more than half of the 467,028 applications were submitted in the last week before the deadline, including nearly 74,149 on deadline day. Many hunters wait till the last minute to apply, which can cause long lines at license sales stores and ODFW offices.
“Get your application in early to avoid the long lines and if you do wait until the last minute, be sure to check store hours where you plan to apply,” recommends Linda Lytle, ODFW license sales manager. ‘Remember you can submit an application online until 11:59 p.m. PT on May 15.”
Lytle also urged hunters to avoid common mistakes on applications. “Double check your hunt number against the 2017 Oregon Big Game Regulations, make sure your party leader number is correct, and check your current preference points at the My Hunter Information page,” she said. “And before you walk out of the store or ODFW office, check your application to be sure it’s correct.”
New this year as part of efforts to simplify the regulations, final tag numbers are already printed in the 2017 Oregon Big Game Regulations. (Previously, big game tag numbers for fall were not formally adopted until June.) Due to the severe winter in parts of eastern Oregon and higher winter mortality of wildlife, there have been some tag reductions for deer and pronghorn hunts in Baker, Union and northern Malheur county units. More information
ODFW limits the number of tags for some hunts (all rifle deer and most rifle elk hunting in eastern Oregon, plus all pronghorn, Rocky Mtn goat and bighorn sheep hunting) to fairly distribute tags and control hunting pressure. Hunters who apply for one of the controlled deer, elk or pronghorn hunts and don’t draw their first choice receive a preference point for that hunt series, which increases their chances the following year.
While the most sought after hunts can take more than 10 years to draw, every hunter has a chance to draw each year. Only 75 percent of tags are awarded based on preference points; the remaining 25 percent are awarded randomly among first choice applicants. Find out more about how the process works on ODFW’s Controlled Hunts page.
2016 Premium Hunt Winners rave about experience
Last year was the first year that Oregon offered “Premium Hunts,” special deer, elk and pronghorn tags with a months-long hunting season that includes both early and late season opportunity. The same number of tags are available this year—one Premium Deer tag in each of Oregon’s 67 wildlife management units, one Premium Elk tag in 59 hunts, and one Premium Pronghorn tag in 27 hunts. (A few elk and pronghorn Premium Hunts include two units.)
Unlike regular controlled hunts, Premium Hunts don’t use preference points, so every hunter who applies has the same chance ever year. Premium Hunts are also considered additional hunting opportunities, meaning hunters who draw one of these tags can still hunt on a regular controlled or general season big game tag. The hunts are open to both residents and non-residents and are not “once-in-a-lifetime” hunts, so hunters can reapply even if they drew a Premium Hunt tag last year. Applications also cost $8 and Premium Hunt tags are the same price as other deer, elk and pronghorn tags.
While the bag limit for Premium Hunts is any-sex, most 2016 Premium Hunt winners took a male animal. Among hunters who reported, 39 Premium Deer hunters took four-point bucks and 18 Premium Elk hunters took six-point bulls.
Second-year hunter Kayla Hathorn of Bonanza, Ore. says “I’ve never seen, or imagined getting any harvest larger than a four-point.” She took a six-point buck in the Sprague Unit.
“The length of the hunt gave me a chance to grow as a beginner elk hunter and I really became a better elk hunter overall,” said Nick Baszler of Creswell, Ore., who took an impressive elk in Sled Springs Unit.
Kent Berkey of Enterprise, Ore. took a very nice mule deer buck in the Imnaha Unit. “I looked at over 60 bucks, all on public lands, and saw two bigger than the one I harvested,” he said.
Tim Mickelson of Independence, Ore. took a “speedgoat” aka a pronghorn in Beatys Butte. “It was so nice being able to hunt speed goats that had not been pressured by other hunters,” Mickelson said. “Thank you ODFW for the unique opportunity to harvest this unique, beautiful, symbol of the American West.”
The most applied-for units for Premium Hunt applications last year were Metolius for deer, Mt Emily for elk and Juniper for pronghorn while the least applied-for were Sixes for deer, Klamath Falls for elk, and Sprague for pronghorn.
See pictures of the winners, hear their stories and learn more at ODFW’s Premium Hunts page or Facebook page. Applications for Premium Hunts are also due by May 15, 2017.