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Oregon's dedicated duck hunters rewarded with banner season.

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

Yearning for the "good old days" is a popular pastime for hunters and fishermen of my generation.

But the "bad" times can actually be pretty darn good for men and women dedicated to their sports - especially when the competition stays home in droves.

Case in point: duck hunting in Oregon.

The past three winters have generally been considered disappointing for duck hunters, due mostly to the fact that large numbers of northern migrants that had been predicted to arrive in this state never showed up. State and federal biologists have been unable to explain why their estimates have been so far off the mark.

After being burned by overly optimistic projections two years in a row, duck hunters stayed home in droves last winter.

Indeed, the number of resident waterfowl hunter stamps sold in Oregon reached an all-time low in 2003, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

Only 24,708 waterfowl stamps were sold - about 12,000 fewer than in the banner year of 1998.

However, those who bothered to actually go hunting last winter- as opposed to just staying home and grumbling - were rewarded with some pretty decent success.

The duck harvest in Oregon during the 2003-2004 waterfowl season averaged 14 birds per hunter, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That's better than the harvest rates reported by 40 other states.

In only four states did hunters experience significantly better success than Oregonians, in terms of the average season bag.

California led the way with 23 birds per hunter, followed by Utah and Louisiana with 20 and Mississippi at 19. Oklahoma (16) and Arkansas, New Mexico and Kansas (15 each) were better than Oregon, but only marginally so.

To put it into further perspective, the 14 birds per hunter recorded in Oregon last year compares favorably with the highest U.S. average in the past 40 years, the 12 birds per hunter recorded in 1998.

Just 10 years earlier, in 1988, duck hunting was at a low-water mark and the typical U.S. waterfowler averaged just 4.7 birds.

Fourth 'deer' the charm

Speaking of bad times, the final day of the 2004 general deer season won't be remembered with fondness by a pair of Springfield hunters cited by Oregon State Police game law enforcement officers.

Senior trooper Kyle Elmenhurst and trooper Matthew Falk were staked out near a stuffed "decoy" deer off Dollar Road in the Marcola area when a van approached about 9 p.m. on Nov. 5.

According to Elmenhurst, the van stopped and the passenger fired at the decoy.

To make matters worse, when troopers pulled over the vehicle they found three deer inside - including one doe and one spike-antlered animal. The third deer was a legal buck, but it had not been tagged even though two of the van's occupants had valid buck tags in their possession.

The driver of the truck, Robert Salgado Azvedo, 42, of Springfield, was charged with driving under the influence, in addition to: 1) hunting with the aid of artificial light; 2) hunting deer with a prohibited weapon or ammunition (in this case an assault rifle with "full metal jacket rounds" in a 10-round clip); 3) unlawful taking of a spike deer; 4) unlawful taking of a doe deer; 5) failing to validate a deer tag; and 6) two counts of exceeding the bag limit.

A passenger accused of shooting at the decoy, Carlos Reyes Vazquez, 34, of Springfield, was charged with hunting with the aid of artificial light and two counts of aiding in a wildlife offense. A third person in the truck was not charged.

Troopers seized two rifles and a spotlight, as well as the three deer.

Each of the game violations is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg@guardnet.com.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 18, 2004
Words:662
Previous Article:Ready, set . . . SNOW!
Next Article:BRIEFLY.


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