The 2018-19 Oregon game bird seasons look promising with pheasant numbers up in the east, forest grouse numbers up in the west and duck populations holding steady above their long-term average. This year’s forecast offers an area-by-area look at the upcoming season.
North American duck populations are looking good and most species remain above their long-term average. Spring habitat conditions were similar to last year in the portions of the continent surveyed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, which contribute birds to Oregon’s wintering waterfowl population. Closer to home, breeding mallard numbers in CA, OR, and WA were all up substantially from recent years, likely due to excellent production last year. Production of locally produced waterfowl should be good this year, however, as seasoned waterfowl hunters know, hunting success this fall and winter will be dependent on locating concentrations of birds and hoping the weather cooperates. The only regulation change hunters should be aware of this season is that the bag limit for pintail has increased back to 2 per day. Goose populations, both our locally breeding western Canada geese and migrants from the north, remain robust and will provide plenty of hunting opportunity across the state this fall and winter. Although there was early discussion regarding a possible bag limit increase for cackling Canada geese in the Northwest Permit Goose Zone, hunters should be aware that the bag limit for this upcoming season is unchanged from last season.
Hunters should also consider giving mourning dove hunting a try this coming season. This season traditionally opens on Sept. 1, before most of these early migrants have left the state. Just like waterfowl, hunters should scout for concentrations of doves which will usually be close to food sources, often harvested grain fields, or waterholes. Although the largest concentrations of doves are likely to be found in agricultural areas of eastern Oregon, huntable numbers can be found in most areas so long as they are not heavily forested. This season is a great way to introduce new and young hunters to wing-shooting since the weather is usually nice and no special equipment is necessary. Hunters are reminded that a migratory HIP validation for the 2018/19 season is required to hunt mourning doves, just as it is for waterfowl.
Upland game bird hunting is going to be above average for most species this year. Upland game bird populations can vary greatly from year to year, primarily due to variable weather events and habitat conditions. Oregon had a mild winter, bringing hens into the nesting season in good condition. Some heavy, but short-lived, late spring precipitation may have impacted hatching and brood success, likely resulting in some re-nesting attempts. Therefore, hunters may encounter some younger broods this fall, particularly in central Oregon. Habitat conditions are very dry going in to fall. Lack of precipitation can mean chicks need to work harder to find important high-protein insects, reduced vegetative cover from predators, and vulnerable concentrations of birds around water sources. Surveys suggest minimal impact to upland bird numbers at this time.
Here’s what our surveys found for upland bird species:
This should be a remarkable year for eastern Oregon pheasants, compared to recent trends. Pheasant abundance came in at twice the 10-year average on summer brood routes with highest densities in the Umatilla, Heppner, and Malheur districts, respectively. Pheasant brood production was highest in the Mid-Columbia, Malheur, Heppner and Umatilla districts, respectively. Malheur County pheasants are slightly down, but locally abundant in the remaining good quality habitat.
Statewide California (valley) quail populations continue on their upward trend, exceeding the 10-year average by 33 percent. The highest production effort by California quail was observed in the Mid-Columbia, Grant County, and the South Coast. Biologists found the highest overall densities in Malheur, Harney, and Grant counties.
Chukar, known for their large annual population fluctuations, have bounced back in most areas following an excellent year of production in 2017. Overall, expect a banner year in the Columbia, Deschutes and John Day basins, with improved numbers in Malheur and Harney counties.
Hunters may want to stick to the west side to pursue forest grouse. Biologists encountered very few forest grouse during summer surveys in eastern Oregon. It seems that both ruffed and blue grouse in the Blue Mountains and the West Cascades are reaching a trough in their population cycle. This is a normal function of grouse populations and there should be better years ahead. Forest grouse are notoriously difficult to survey in western Oregon, but the bright spot is Coast Range blue (sooty) grouse detections of hooting males were the highest in seven years. Anecdotal observations suggest excellent ruffed grouse production in both the western Cascades and the Coast Range.
Back this year, ODFW launched the Take a Friend Hunting Contest to encourage experienced hunters to take out new and lapsed hunters. Prizes will be awarded in early January 2019 and include a statewide deer tag, Cabela’s $500 gift card and many more. To be eligible, the experienced and new or lapsed hunter must each have a 2018 hunting license and register online by Dec. 31, 2018 with their Hunter/Angler ID#. New or lapsed hunters are those who have never purchased an Oregon hunting license, purchased for the first time in 2016=7, or have not purchased since 2013. More details at the
Statewide youth waterfowl season Sept. 22-23. Hunters age 17 and under eligible, must be hunter education certified and be accompanied by a non-hunting adult 21 years of age or older.
Wildlife area/refuge youth waterfowl days: See for more details. Some require advance application and registration. Baskett Slough NWR Sep. 22, Sep. 23, Fern Ridge WA Nov. 24 and Dec. 26, Klamath WA Oct. 20, Sauvie Island WA Oct. 21, Nov. 10, Dec. 2, Dec. 26 and Jan. 13. Tualatin River NWR Nov. 3, Nov. 11, Nov. 17, Nov. 25, Dec. 1, Dec. 9, Dec. 15, Dec. 23, and Dec. 29. Umatilla NWR Nov. 10.
Youth chukar hunt, Oct. 20-21, Lower Klamath Hills Regulated Hunt Area. Advance registration required See page 27 of the for details.
Free youth pheasant hunts around the state. ODFW and partners stock pheasants at these special events. Youth age 17 and under, hunter education certified are eligible to participate. Details on the MyODFW.com . Pre-registration required for most events.
Please return wings and tails of mountain quail and forest grouse; they provide important information about populations. Remove one entire wing and whole tail including small feathers. Place in paper collecting bags (your own or those provided at ODFW offices), one bird per bag. Mark the bag with the species, date taken, county where taken and general location taken. Drop it off at a designated collection sites (ODFW offices or collection barrels). Freeze the bag if you will be delayed in dropping it off.
Header photo by Cathy Nowak
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