ODFW wildlife biologists offer a look at the habitat conditions and hunting outlook for the upcoming season.
The winter of 2017–2018 was drier and warmer than normal making for a mild winter. Warmer temperatures and lack of winter storms resulted in below normal snowpack throughout the state. Most areas reached only 40 to 70 percent of normal snowpack. March brought cooler temperatures and new snow to the mountains, sustaining the already low snowpack and increasing it in some locations. Most of the state entered June in drought conditions, with 20 percent of the state already in severe drought.
In most areas of eastern Oregon, deer and elk survival was at or slightly below average. Southeastern Oregon snowpack peaked at 20 to 70 percent of normal. Northeastern Oregon was wetter with snowpacks peaking at 50-103 percent of normal. Some areas of eastern Oregon, including Baker, northern Harney and Malheur counties, and some parts of Union County, have deer and pronghorn herds that have not fully recovered from the severe winter of 2016-2017.
In western Oregon, winter 2017–2018 was very mild with warmer than average temperatures. Generally, the winter was drier with most of the area well below average snowpack. However, Tillamook County received above average moisture. The further south one looks, the further winter moisture fell below average precipitation.
Unfortunately, the dry weather continued into the summer. Most places are currently very dry—which is typical for the start of fall hunting seasons. Several large fires are burning, which will create great big game habitat in the years to come. However, in the short term, hunters are advised to concentrate their efforts elsewhere and stay out of the very recently burned areas.
While fire season is still in effect, most forests will have restrictions on activities and motorized use, and some private lands will be closed to public access. Oregon Department of Forestry’s Public Fire Restrictions Map is a great place to start to find out current restrictions. ODF and the Oregon Forest Industries Council keep a Corporate Closure List about access restrictions on industrial timberland, including phone numbers of landowners to check the latest status. If you plan to hunt on public land, check with the land manager (US Forest Service or BLM, ODF) for public lands information. You’ll find several links to closure information on the Remember it’s your responsibility to know before you go and follow any restrictions, which could include these common ones:
Once again wildlife biologists are crossing their fingers for rains in September. These early fall rains green up forage and help big game put on weight, so animals head into breeding season in good body condition and fit to reproduce.
If you’re new to big game hunting, or even just want a refresher, check out the online course . Do the course at your own pace or skip around to topics you are interested in, such as scouting, shot placement, and field care/meat preparation.
There are plenty of other online tools to help too. Scout from home to find good habitat using the or Google Earth. can show you historic fire perimeters; old fires can create some of the best deer and elk habitat.
Wildlife biologists share these tips for hunting in dry weather early in the season:
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
There are just a few changes from last year:
ODFW is monitoring about 20 areas of known wolf activity, mostly in northeast Oregon and several in southwest Oregon. Wolves may also occur in central Oregon and the Cascades.
Wolves remain on the federal ESA west of Hwys 395-78-95. In the rest of eastern Oregon, wolves remain protected under the state’s Wolf Management Plan and no take is allowed, except in defense of human life or by livestock producers in certain situations in the eastern third of Oregon.
Hunters in Oregon need to take extra care to identify their target as can look like coyotes, especially wolf pups in the mid-summer and fall. Please report any wolf sightings or online with the .
Test your identification skills with ODFW’s new .
Header image by Charlotte Ganskopp
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