OREGON — New big game regulations don’t take effect until Dec. 1 2020, but hunters should take note of what’s to come.
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife released detailed information about specific changes on the horizon.
According to ODFW, many controlled hunts have been consolidated into larger areas and/or have longer seasons. Boundaries of many controlled hunts were expanded or made simpler.
Even though some of the controlled hunts have been consolidated, the variability of tags has not been reduced. The tag numbers might be different, due to fluctuation of animal populations or damage to wildlife.
The ODFW wanted to make the rules easier to understand for the hunters and for them to have larger areas to access. The longer seasons benefit hunters with busy schedules, and the simpler boundaries allow them to find it easier to know where to hunt.
ODFW also said new general antlerless elk damage season will address chronic elk damage and growing elk populations on some private lands.
The new general season tag will replace 19 controlled hunts and the need for landowner damage tags during the season. The specific tags will only be available in specific chronic elk damage areas, which are listed by ODFW.
More hunters will have a chance to harvest elk in various areas (distributing opportunities fairly) where they are causing damage. This in turn will allow more public hunts and in time change elk populations from migrating toward private lands.
In Western Oregon, spike deer are now included in the buck hunt bag limit and removed from the 600 Series “Antlerless Deer” bag limit. Previously, the bag limit, which didn’t allow the harvesting of spike bucks, was deemed unnecessary and limited hunters’ ability to fill their respective tags.
Now, bag limits of “any buck with visible antler” will allow hunters more opportunities to harvest deer in Western Oregon.
The change will result in an increase in the harvesting of bucks, but the ODFW contends there is a sufficient population to handle the uptick in hunting. Only one Western Oregon area hasn’t met the benchmark for post-hunting season buck ratio in at least two of the last three years.
Lastly, deer bag limits will be more consistent statewide.
In addition, “centerfire” seasons are now called “any legal weapon” seasons.” Only a change in the language, ODFW hopes to make it more clear that bows, handguns, shotguns and any legal rifle will be allowed during the hunting seasons. See Hunting Tag Requirements on page 8 of the Big Game Regulations for more information.
Most eastern Oregon “any legal weapon” elk hunts are now controlled. The eastern Oregon units that were in the Cascade general any legal weapon elk season (Metolius, Upper Deschutes, Keno, parts of Fort Rock, Sprague, and Grizzly) have also been moved to new controlled hunts to improve ODFW’s ability to meet bull ratios.
Rocky Mountain bull and spike elk seasons in the Hood-White River-Maupin-Biggs-Columbia Basin units are now controlled hunts to improve hunt quality and accommodate the new General Antlerless Elk Damage Season.
For more information about changes to big game hunting in 2020, go online at myodfw.com/articles/whats-new-2020-changes-big-game-regulations