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Duck numbers up, geese 'robust' as hunting seasons approach.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

It's August, which means the long drought between major hunting seasons is finally over.

General bear and cougar seasons opened Aug. 1, but hunters' primary focus this time of year is on the approach of antelope season (opening Aug. 12 for those with tags), deer and elk archery seasons (opening Aug. 26) and upland game bird seasons (several of which begin Sept. 1).

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission met Friday in Salem to adopt the 2006-07 game bird season regulations, which are set at the last minute to incorporate the results of federal waterfowl surveys in the decision-making process.

The outlook for bird hunters is generally good, according to reports presented to the commission by field biologists.

Most of the adopted seasons and regulations are very similar to last year's - including the maximum 107 days of duck hunting allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mallard numbers in Pacific Flyway states increased 7 percent this year, biologists reported, and "total ducks in Oregon increased 17 percent from 2005."

And 2005 was a decent year for duck hunters. Harvest Information Program surveys indicate 18,700 adult Oregon hunters took home 357,600 ducks - a 39 percent increase over the previous year.

The 2006-07 duck and merganser season in Zone 1 (western Oregon and Columbia basin counties) will run Oct. 14-29 and Nov. 1-Jan. 28, 2007. In Zone 2 (the remainder of eastern Oregon), hunting will be allowed Oct. 7-Dec. 5 and Dec. 8-Jan. 21. A statewide waterfowl youth hunt will be held Sept. 23-24.

One change the commission approved in bird-hunting regulations involves the schedule at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area west of Eugene.

The Fisher Butte Unit, previously open three days each week, will now be open to hunting every day. However, hunting hours there will end at 1 p.m., and a total public access closure will begin at 2 p.m. during the general duck season. The Royal Amazon Unit will be managed on the same schedule.

Also, scheduling of the Western Oregon Fee Pheasant Hunt at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area will be juggled to provide a full month between the end of that hunt and the opening of waterfowl season.

Coupled with recent habitat improvements, the scheduling changes are intended to better attract and distribute waterfowl and improve hunter success, said Brad Bales, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife game bird program manager.

Meanwhile, goose populations remain "robust" throughout the state. But hunting those big birds now involves an even more complex checkerboard of dates and locations, as the commission approved two new goose hunting zones to address depredation problems on private agricultural land.

One is a new south coastal zone for lands in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties west of Highway 101. Hunting there will target Aleutian Canada geese in late February and early March. The second new zone is in Klamath County and allows late February and early March hunting for white-fronted geese.

Including the Northwest Oregon Permit Goose Zone, there are now four different fall goose season frameworks in Western Oregon - each of which has two or more "sessions." That's in addition to the September Canada goose season targeting resident geese.

This year's September goose season will run Sept. 9-19 in the 13 northwest Oregon counties, and Sept. 9-14 in five southwest Oregon counties, plus all of eastern Oregon.

The complicated nature of goose hunting notwithstanding, 11,500 hunters harvested 66,000 geese in 2005, or about one bird per day spent in the field.

Another new hunt created by the commission is a fall turkey season in the John Day Watershed. That season runs Sept. 30 to Nov. 30 in eight wildlife management units, with bag limit of one turkey. Only 300 tags are available and the application deadline is Sept. 12.

The earliest bird seasons - for mourning doves, forest grouse and western Oregon quail - start Sept. 1.

Last year, 8,600 dove hunters took home 85,600 birds. Grouse hunters took 33,138 blues and 84,746 ruffed grouse. Quail hunters tallied 185,557 birds. Most successful of all were the 13,122 chukar hunters who took the field last year. They harvested 221,418 birds.

Sage grouse regulations are unchanged. The season is Sept. 9-17 in 12 wildlife management units, with a season bag limit of two sage grouse. Application deadline for the 1,300 available permits is Aug. 28.

Finally, the commission approved several special hunting opportunities, including a statewide youth waterfowl hunt (Sept. 23-24), a dozen youth upland game-bird hunts statewide and "fee" pheasant hunts at several wildlife areas. Local special hunts include youth pheasant hunts at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area Sept. 9-10 and at E.E. Wilson Wildlife area Sept. 16-17 and 23-24. Fee pheasant hunts will run Sept. 11 to Oct. 8 at Fern Ridge Wildlife area and Oct. 1-31 at E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area north of Corvallis.

The newly adopted game-bird season regulations are being rushed to the printer and are scheduled to be available Aug. 18 at ODFW offices and license retailers statewide. They also will be posted on the ODFW Web site: www.dfw.state.or.us.

Meanwhile, in other hunting and fishing business, the commission also adopted the 2007 sportfishing regulations and adopted regulations for a program that will provide hunting tags to terminally ill youths.

Revisions in the statewide fishing rules include a change in crayfish (crawdad) harvest regulations to prohibit angling for crayfish with hook and line. The rule was adopted to close a loophole some anglers are using to fish in streams closed to trout, salmon or steelhead angling. Under the new rules, crayfish harvesters can still legally use fishing rods with baited lines but cannot use a hook to hold the bait.

In the Northwest Zone, the commission expanded trout fishing opportunities by opening 26.2 miles of three streams (Deadwood Creek, Indian Creek and Lobster Creek) in the Central Coast District. To protect fall chinook salmon, the season in those three streams will close early (Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 31). Bag limit is two trout over eight inches per day, and angling is by artificial flies and lures only.

In the Willamette Zone, the commission adopted regulations that open the mainstem Willamette River above the falls and sections of the Yamhill River, Molalla River, Santiam River and Tualatin River (and its tributary Gales Creek) to the retention of unmarked coho salmon.

The angling rule changes take effect Jan. 1.

Regulations governing the issuance of free hunting tags to terminally ill hunters between the ages of 12 and 21 were adopted in response to passage of Senate Bill 694 by the Oregon Legislature. Tag holders also get an expanded season. The regulations set a limit of 10 deer, 10 elk and five pronghorn tags annually for the program. Each charitable organization sponsoring hunters is limited to five tags per year.

The adopted regulations are similar to guidelines used by the national `Hunt of a Lifetime' organization.

Last year, when the program was operating under temporary regulations, two tags were provided (one deer tag was issued to a nonresident and one elk tag was issued to an Oregon resident). Both tag-holders were successful.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Recreation
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 8, 2006
Words:1215
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