SALEM, Ore – August 20 is the deadline to apply for the limited number of permits for controlled sage-grouse hunts in eastern Oregon. Results will be available August 31 for the season which runs September 8 – 16.
Oregon hosts a very conservative sage-grouse hunting opportunity. While research shows a 10 percent harvest will not change the trajectory of a sage-grouse population, ODFW sets regulations annually to harvest less than five percent with actual harvest rates of about three percent of the population.
Hunters should be aware of two changes in permit applications from last year’s season.
No permits will be issued for the Juniper Unit this year. The population has been slow to recover from the 160,000-acre Miller Homestead Fire in 2012 and harvest success has been minimal.
Permits in the North Wagontire Unit are reduced from 30 to 20 in a conservation measure to keep harvest below the five percent threshold.
Mikal Cline, Upland Game Bird Coordinator, is optimistic the Juniper Unit change will not be permanent. “Sagebrush habitat takes time to recover after a fire. We are seeing some positive evidence in the Whitehorse Unit that sage-grouse are bouncing back after the 336,000-acre Holloway Fire which also burned in 2012,” she said.
ODFW’s rigorous process to set sage-grouse seasons uses a variety of data sources collected throughout the year to predict fall population sizes in each hunt unit. “We are one of the only states in the west to calculate population size to set our tag allocations,” Cline said.
Successful hunters donate the wings of their harvested birds to ODFW. From these parts, biologists can determine hatch date, fall recruitment, and age and sex ratios in each of the hunt units. This data gives managers a snapshot of the structure of the sage-grouse population that could not be obtained in any other way.
Sage-grouse hunters are reminded to return any radio collars to the nearest ODFW office. These transmitters can often be refurbished and used again to collect valuable information on sage-grouse movement and survival in Oregon.