image of two spaniels retrieving a mallard duck
Statewide

2019-20 game bird hunting forecast

August 29, 2019

The 2019-2020 Oregon game bird seasons look promising with quail and chukar numbers up in the east, forest grouse booming in the west and duck populations still above their long-term average.

Table of Contents

The statewide outlook

North American duck populations are down from recent highs but still 10 percent above the long-term average. Spring habitat conditions were rated as fair to good but generally drier than last year in the portions of the continent that contribute birds to Oregon’s wintering waterfowl population and are surveyed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Closer to home, breeding mallard numbers in California, Oregon and Washington were down slightly from last year, though wetland conditions, especially in eastern Oregon, were excellent this spring. Production of locally produced waterfowl should be good this year; however, as seasoned waterfowl hunters know, hunting success this fall and winter will depend on locating 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 decreased to one 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 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 consider a mourning dove hunt this coming season. Eastern Oregon surveys estimate mourning dove populations at 22 percent above the long-term average. 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 hunters will likely find the largest concentrations of doves in agricultural areas of eastern Oregon, huntable numbers can be found in most areas that 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 needed. Hunters are reminded that a migratory HIP validation for the 2019-2020 season is required to hunt mourning doves, just as it is for waterfowl and other migratory game birds.

Like mourning doves, band-tailed pigeons are another of Oregon’s migratory upland game birds. Counts this summer were some of the highest observed in recent years across the bird’s range in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California, though there is no trend in the population over the previous 15 years.

The season is short, Sept. 15 – 23, with a 2 bird daily limit. If you go, be sure to get your band-tailed pigeon permit first. Pigeons can be found in throughout forested areas of western Oregon and are typically hunted near food sources or at ridge-top passes. Look for pigeons in forest openings or timber cuttings feeding on elderberries or cascara.

Upland game bird hunters will find that this is the year to pursue California (valley) quail and chukar in southeast Oregon and forest grouse in the Coast and Cascade ranges. Upland game bird populations can vary greatly from year to year, primarily due to variable weather events and habitat conditions.

Eastern Oregon had heavy snow into March, followed by flooding events during the thaw and abundant rainfall well into summer. While the extra moisture has delivered excellent habitat conditions in the most arid corners of the state, it seems the cold, wet spring was detrimental to hatching success and early brood survival in the Columbia Basin and Blue Mountains. California quail rallied in their later nesting efforts, with numerous younger broods sighted, particularly in Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties.

Western Oregon also experienced flooding this spring, which seemed to redistribute breeding turkeys, quail and pheasants to higher ground for a period. Coast range forest grouse are thriving according to spring hooting surveys. Fall bear hunters are also reporting frequent sightings throughout the Cascades. 

Habitat conditions are excellent going in to fall with no large-scale fires and more basins holding water than last year.  Ironically, this can make hunting challenging as the birds will be more widely distributed across the landscape. Good forage on the ground bodes well for Oregon’s upland birds achieving good body condition going into winter.    

2019 upland bird surveys

Here’s what our surveys found for upland bird species:

PHEASANTS

Eastern Oregon’s pheasant numbers have declined after last year’s peak. Production was positive, but overall hunters will find fewer birds on the ground. The highest densities were found in the Malheur, Umatilla, Heppner and Mid-Columbia, districts, respectively. Pheasant brood production was highest in the Heppner, Malheur, Umatilla and Mid-Columbia, districts, respectively. 

CALIFORNIA QUAIL

Statewide California (valley) quail populations continue on their upward trend, exceeding the 10-year average by 26 percent. The highest production effort by California quail was in the Harney, Wallowa, and Mid-Columbia districts, respectively. Biologists found the highest overall densities in the Harney, Malheur and Umatilla districts. 

CHUKAR

Chukar, known for their large annual population fluctuations, are down slightly statewide, but are on the increase in southeast Oregon. Overall, Malheur and Harney districts found the highest densities of chukar, followed by the Heppner District.  The Malheur and Grant districts had the highest chukar production with an average of 4.5 chicks/adult, followed by Harney (3.6 chicks/adult). 

FOREST GROUSE

Forest grouse remain scarce in most of eastern Oregon, but continue to boom in the Cascades and Coast range.  Grouse populations are known for these types of population cycles and should soon respond to good habitat conditions. Best bets for eastside forest grouse hunting will be found in the Wallowa District for blue (dusky) grouse.

What’s new

  • Increased the number of fall turkey tags in eastern Oregon.
  • The pintail bag limit is decreased to one daily.
  • New youth pheasant hunts at Coquille Valley WA and Ontario.

What’s NOT new

  • The bag limit for Canada geese in the Northwest Permit Goose Zone remains the same as in 2018-19. There was a possibility there might be a change after the 2019-20 Game Bird Regulation was printed, based on surveys of spring breeding grounds in Alaska. Those results of those surveys do not support a bag limit increase.

Youth opportunities

The statewide youth waterfowl season is Sept. 21-22. To participate, hunters must

  • be 17 or younger,
  •  have successfully completed hunter education, and
  • be accompanied by a non-hunting adult 21 years of age or older.

Several wildlife areas/refuges hold special youth waterfowl hunts, including Baskett Slough NWR Sept. 21 & 22, Fern Ridge WA Nov. 30 and Dec. 30, Klamath WA Oct. 19, Sauvie Island WA Oct. 20, Nov. 19, Dec. 8, Dec. 26 and Jan. 11. Tualatin River NWR Nov. 2, Nov. 10, Nov. 16, Nov. 24, Nov. 30, Dec. 8, Dec. 14, Dec. 22, and Dec. 28. Umatilla NWR Nov. 9.

Some of these hunts may require advanced application and registration. See the current Oregon Game Bird Regulations for more information.

There will be a youth chukar hunt, Oct. 19-20, on the Lower Klamath Hills Regulated Hunt Area. Advance registrationis required.  See the current Oregon Game Bird Regulations for more information.

There are several free youth pheasant hunts around the state. ODFW and its partners stock pheasants at these special events, which are open to youth 17 and younger who have successfully completed. Details on the MyODFW.com Workshops and Events page. Pre-registration is required for most events.

  • Central Point, Denman Wildlife Area, Sept. 14 and Sept. 15.
  • Corvallis (near Camp Adair), EE Wilson Wildlife Area, Sept. 21 and Sept. 22.
  • Eugene, Fern Ridge Wildlife Area, Sept. 7 and Sept. 8. Registration not necessary but appreciated.
  • Irrigon Wildlife Area (between Irrigon and Umatilla), Sept. 21 and Sept. 22, sign up for morning or evening hunt (morning only on Sunday), see event listings at www.odfwcalendar.com
  • Klamath Falls, Klamath Wildlife Area, Sept. 14 and Sept. 15. Additional hunt on Oct. 19 when Miller Island Unit open to youth hunters only from 10 a.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • John Day Valley, Sept. 14 and Sept. 15
  • La Grande, Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area, Sept. 14 and Sept. 15.
  • Madras, private land, Sept. 14-15.
  • Portland, Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, Sept. 14 and Sept. 15.
  • Tygh Valley/The Dalles, White River Wildlife Area, Sept. 14 and Sept. 15
  • NEW Coquille Valley Wildlife Area, Sept. 7-8.
  • NEW Ontario, Oct. 12-13.

Turn in wings and tails

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 can’t drop it off right away.

Fin more information, including a map of barrel locations.

 

image of chukar hunter scanning landscape in eastern Oregon

EASTERN OREGON UPLAND GAME BIRD FORECAST

Baker County

Upland game bird hunters should see an average year in Baker County.  A mild winter and favorable spring conditions led to good chick production. Birds had good reproduction, chicks were of good size, and broods were generally large.

Quail seem to be still trying to recover from the hard winter of 2016-17 and their numbers have been down the last couple of years. Chukar are making a quicker comeback, numbers seem to be about average. Hunters should expect to see birds scattered in pockets of good habitat. A&H properties offer good upland hunting and access to public land.

Crook and Jefferson counties

Hunting opportunities are limited in central Oregon as most upland bird populations are on private lands. The best opportunities for doves will be at lower elevations, including private agricultural lands, and adjoining BLM and Crooked River National Grasslands. Doves may use public lands for roosting and watering, and scouting these areas lands can help hunters locate these hunting opportunities.

The Eurasian collared dove population is increasing in this district, and hunters can target these birds with no closed season or bag limit. Forest grouse inhabit the Ochoco National Forest, but are less abundant than in other parts of the state.

California quail prefer lower elevation brushy habitat, particularly near agricultural and riparian areas. Although most of these habitat types are on private lands, some public opportunity exists on BLM lands and at the Prineville Reservoir Wildlife Area. Area.

Deschutes County

Upland game bird species are limited by the climate and available habitat in this district. Biologists believe most upland species nested successfully this year. Last winter‘s milder conditions and favorable spring conditions contributed to a slight increase in upland bird populations. Some areas got heavy spring rains that impacted nesting success; however, most birds successfully re-nested.

California quail populations are healthy with most found on private lands. Remember to ask for permission before entering private lands.

Good forest grouse habitat is limited in the district but populations are stable, albeit at low numbers in the Cascade portion of the District.

Mountain quail remains closed in the county. Although ODFW re-introduced mountain quail into the Metolius unit a few years ago, the population is still too low for a hunting season.

Dove hunters are encouraged to take advantage of the expanding Eurasian collared dove population.

Grant County

Trend counts for quail, turkey and chukar are down for the 2019 season while forest grouse were difficult to find and may be down. The likely reasons were the prolonged winter conditions and deeper than normal snow. Turkey and chukar offer the best opportunities this season for upland hunters, with turkey widely distributed through the county.

The Philip W. Schneider Wildlife Area is open to the public and offers good bird hunting. Quail, both California and mountain, can be found in brushy and riparian areas throughout the county but hunters will have to work to flush them out of cover.  Hunters will find grouse throughout the national forest with blue grouse on ridge tops, like Strawberry Mountain or Vinegar Hill, and ruff along brushy creek bottoms, like Murderers Creek or Camp Creek.

Harney County

Upland bird populations are still struggling to recover from the harsh winter a few years ago. Population trends are up a little compared to last year but still well below the 10-year average. Sage-grouse permit holders should still find good hunting in the district. California quail can be found throughout Harney County around both agricultural and range lands in the Steens, Pueblos and Trout Creeks. Focus on basins and creek bottoms. Most pheasant hunting in the county occurs on and around Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Klamath and Lake counties

In Lake County, hunting prospects are much better than last year due to good water conditions in nearly all wetland basins and favorable local production.

The best areas for forest grouse are in the Cascades on Fremont-Winema National Forest or private timberland that’s open to public access. Look for blue grouse along ridge tops in more open forest habitats in both Klamath and Lake counties, and ruffed grouse along riparian areas in the Cascade Mountains. There are very few ruffed grouse in Lake County.

Remember there is a two-bird bag limit for mountain quail in Klamath County. Lake County is closed to mountain quail hunting. In Lake County, California quail appeared to have had excellent nesting success and some very large broods have been seen. Hunters should focus around the edge of agricultural and open areas where food sources are abundant with patches of trees or tall shrubs that provide roosting and escape cover. Most California quail hunting opportunities are on or adjacent to private land, so remember to ask for permission.

Mourning dove appeared to have had good nesting success. Hunters should focus around agricultural areas and forest openings where food sources are abundant. Ask permission to hunt private lands. Be sure of your identification before you hunt these birds, which are smaller and darker than the Eurasian collared dove. Identify this species and its habitat.

Eurasian collared doves are expanding throughout Lake County. These birds have no protections in Oregon, so there are no closed seasons or limits to their harvest. A hunting license is required on public land. Focus around agricultural areas and forest openings where food sources are abundant. Be sure of your identification before you hunt these birds, which are larger and lighter than mourning doves with a distinctive band around the back of the neck. Identify this species and its habitat.

California quail production was fair on Summer Lake Wildlife Area and should provide good hunting opportunities. The northern portions of the wildlife area along Thousand Springs Lane (Lake Co. Road 4-17) up towards Lake View Lane (Lake Co. Road 4-18) and homestead sites such as the Turner Place are the best places to find quail.

In Lake County, the best chukar hunting opportunities are along the desert rims such as Diablo, Coglan, Abert and Coleman in the southeast portion of the county. While there are very few Hungarian partridge in Lake County they are generally found in open rolling grasslands.

Smaller numbers of wild turkey are distributed throughout the southern portion of the Keno Unit available for the spring turkey season. In Lake County, turkey numbers are very low.

Wild pheasant numbers remain at extremely low levels. Unlimited Pheasants will be releasing pheasants at Klamath Wildlife Area and selected private lands open to the public. The Summer Lake Wildlife Area doesn’t release pheasants, and wild pheasant populations on the wildlife area, already very low, appear to be down this year with very few broods having been observed this past summer.

Malheur County

Last winter was very mild, resulting in good over winter survival of upland birds. Timing and intensity of spring precipitation has a major influence on chick production for upland species. This year was characterized by heavier than normal spring rains in April and May and slightly cooler temperatures in early summer. Overall, nesting conditions were good with range conditions in fair to good shape for upland bird chick production. 

Chukar - Surveys on established routes yielded 54 chukar per 10 miles and good production with 11.4 chicks per brood. This is a 15 percent increase from last year and is 23 percent above the 10-year average of 40.7 birds per 10 miles. The most productive routes were along the west side of the Owyhee Reservoir and Cottonwood Canyon southwest of Harper.

Pheasant - Surveys along established routes yielded 3.4 birds per 10 miles, a 39 percent decrease in number of birds observed from last year’s survey and 50.6 percent below the 10-year average. Chick production was fair at 4.0 chicks per brood. Hunting prospects will vary depending on the farming practices in the area where you have permission to hunt. The outlying areas around Willow Creek and Vale have higher bird numbers than areas closer to Ontario and Nyssa. Those areas with suitable year round habitat continue to produce pheasants.

There are very few public lands in the area available to pheasant hunters and the few parcels that are available tend to get hunted daily. One option for private lands access is the Cow Hollow fundraiser https://www.facebook.com/CowHollowPark/ to benefit the Cow Hollow Park.

California quail - Surveys on established routes yielded 41.5 quail per 10 miles, up 5.7 percent over last year and 2.5 percent above the 10-year average. Production was good at 9.9 chicks per brood with similar production observed in both agricultural and range lands.

Mid-Columbia counties (Hood, Wasco, Sherman)

Upland counts for the district were average to below average for all species with the exception of mourning dove. Unfortunately, the great year we had in 2018/ 2019 seemed to get knocked back by the rains we got throughout the nesting period for upland birds.

Pheasants have been on a steady decline and are not normally counted in large numbers throughout these counties. This year, pheasants were at 96 percent of their 10-year average. Most pheasants observed on surveys this summer were in Sherman County.

Hunters can find pheasants in and around farmlands throughout Sherman and Wasco counties and they are mostly a private land hunting opportunity. There is some opportunity to hunt them on private lands through ODFW’s UCAP program. Call The Dalles field office at 541 296 4628 to learn more about this program.  Hunters can also find a few pheasants on Lower Deschutes Wildlife Area along the Deschutes River. 

Chukars are one of the premier upland hunting opportunities throughout the Mid-Columbia district.  Chukars had a below average brood production year and were at 83 percent of their 10-year average count. Hunters can find chukar throughout The John Day and Deschutes River Canyons and they can be hunted on public lands within the river canyons. Popular access points include the Macks Canyon access road in the Deschutes, Lower Deschutes Wildlife Area, and Cottonwood Canyon State Park in The John Day.

Gray partridge (Huns) were at 86 percent of their 10-year average. They are almost exclusively a private land hunting opportunity. Common habitat for Huns includes grasslands and heavy cover adjacent to farmlands. Hunters can also try hunting our UCAP properties for Huns.

Surveys indicate a poor brood production year for California quail.  They were at only 33 percent of their 10-year average, but still continue to be the most commonly counted upland species throughout the Mid-Columbia district.  Quail are mostly associated with heavy cover adjacent to riparian areas.

Sooty and ruffed grouse can be found in forested portions of Hood River and Wasco County. There are relatively few grouse of either species throughout the Mid- Columbia, but they seem to be more concentrated in the Hood unit and the western part of the White River unit.

Hunters can find mountain quail in forested portions of the district. They are rarely counted on surveys so it is difficult to comment on trends over time.

There are turkeys throughout all three counties in the Mid-Columbia.  Fifty fall tags are available through a controlled hunt draw in the White River unit. In 2019 the Maupin and Biggs units are included in the general Central Oregon season for the first time, and 900 tags are available starting Sept. 20.  Turkeys had a slightly below average year and surveys indicate they were at 85 percent of their 10-year average.

Morrow, Gilliam and Wheeler counties

Species counts were down for the entire area from last year. Over winter survival of adult birds was decent but nesting success was poor and bird numbers overall are down. Hunters will have to work a little harder to find birds this year but there still should be decent numbers for hunters to pursue.

Hunters can access lands in the Upland Cooperative Access Program, the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area in this district for upland bird hunting. Also, see ODFW’s Columbia Basin Bird Hunting Guide for maps and other good information on the 250K acres open to public hunting.

Umatilla County

This year’s brood routes have shown a decrease in upland game bird numbers.  Pheasant counts on our established routes were below our 10-year average. Untimely spring rains and a long harsh winter may be having a negative effect on our upland game birds after last year’s robust numbers.

The majority of upland hunting is on private land, so be sure to ask permission prior to hunting.  Hunters looking for public land can access the Columbia Basin Wildlife Areas, including Power City, Irrigon, Coyote Springs and Willow Creek.

Union County

Quail counts suggest a better year than last year and pheasant counts are down. Hunters can expect to work a little harder to fill game bags with roosters this season. The best hunting opportunities are pheasant on the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area and forest grouse on national forests. Hunters should work ridge tops above 5,000 feet for blue grouse and stream corridors with heavy cover and water for ruffed grouse.

Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area

The 2019 hunting season will be challenging for hunters. Although spring weather conditions looked promising, the number of pheasant broods as well as the brood sizes observed have been significantly lower than previous years. Quail however seem to have done better with strong brood sizes.

Dove number on the area look good. Hunters can find success hunting tree rows, and harvested farm fields. Pass shooting may also be good where hunters can get between water and these areas in the morning and evening. 

Hungarian partridge, ruffed and blue grouse were not seen during the brood routes but can still be found in low numbers on the Glass Hill unit. Overall, hunters should be able to find birds but may have to hunt in non-traditional habitats to find them.

Upland game birds can be located throughout Ladd Marsh providing ample hunting opportunity for all. Grassland, fencerows, brush, and areas adjacent to agricultural fields are good locations to key on but do not overlook dry and receding wetlands. The wetland habitat provides more opportunity for pheasants than all the rest combined.

All visitors, including hunters, must have in their possession a free daily permit to access the wildlife area. Permits will be available at several self-check-in stations at entry points and parking lots. All visitors are required to have an ODFW Wildlife Area Parking Permit to park on the wildlife area. Hunters receive a free parking permit with their hunting license. Parking permits are to be displayed on the vehicle dash. Learn more about ODFW’s Wildlife Area Parking Permit Program.

Wallowa County

Surveys for blue (dusky) and ruffed grouse indicate that blue grouse populations are still below the long-term average. The number of blue grouse broods observed this summer is below normal as well.  Nevertheless, these species should provide fair opportunity during September and early October.

Forest grouse hunters should be aware that there are vehicle restrictions and no camping allowed on Hancock forestlands during fire season.

Chukar numbers are doing well and hunting should be good this fall.

Upland game bird hunting locations

See ODFW’s Columbia Basin Bird Hunting Guide for how to hunt the 250K acres open to hunters in the area. Also see ODFW’s Oregon Hunting Access Map and wildlife areas Summer Lake, Klamath, Lower Deschutes, Prineville Reservoir, Riverside and White River (Tygh Valley). Some private lands are accessible through the Access and Habitat program. Through ODFW's Upland Cooperative Access Program, hunters can access private land in Gilliam and Morrow counties in the Columbia Basin to hunt.

 

image of waterfowl hunters at Summer Lake

EASTERN OREGON WATERFOWL FORECAST

Baker County

Duck and goose hunting is expected to be similar to past years with a few resident birds available early in the season. More migrant birds will arrive later in the season and hunting should improve, especially in the Baker and Keating valleys. Almost all hunting is on private property, so be sure to ask permission before hunting. The Powder River from Baker City to Brownlee Reservoir offers the best waterfowl hunting.

Deschutes County

Duck and geese hunting should be average or above average for local birds prior to freeze up. Canada geese numbers have increased over past survey years. Due to low water levels, some areas may be high and dry for hunting season and access to waterfowl will be difficult in some areas.

Hunters hunting the upper Deschutes River area should remember that Deschutes County Ordinance prohibits the discharge of firearms in portions of the river between Sunriver and Fall River (reference the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office website for more information).

Crook and Jefferson counties

Mallards and Canada geese are the most common waterfowl species in these counties. Hunting opportunities are limited due to the lack of wetlands, marshes, and access, especially on public lands – but hunters could try hunting the limited BLM along the Crooked River or the Prineville Reservoir. Most of the better hunting is associated with private agricultural lands where gaining access can be difficult.

Grant County

Grant County offers very limited waterfowl hunting opportunities due to lack of habitat -- it’s mostly jump shooting on private land along the John Day River.

Harney County

Typically hunting is best in late fall and early winter and on agricultural lands. Be sure to get landowner permission before hunting private lands. Portions of Malheur National Wildlife Area are open to waterfowl hunting (see the Game Bird Hunting Regulations) though hunting success and access to hunting areas is dependent on water levels in Malheur Lake.

Klamath County

Early season usually is best for local and early migrant ducks. Hunting prospects will depend on Pacific Northwest weather systems moving birds into and around Klamath County before freeze-up.

Most goose hunting opportunities are for resident Canada geese, however there are some white-fronted, snow and Ross’s geese staging in the Klamath Basin prior to continuing south. Goose hunting should improve later into the season with freezing conditions, which tend to concentrate geese near open water areas. Area refuges and state managed wildlife areas, in addition to private lands, offer ample hunting opportunities.

The late goose season (Jan. 24-March 10, 2020) will again be open in all areas with the exception of Klamath Basin Refuges and Miller Island Unit at Klamath Wildlife Area. The hunt helps alleviate agricultural damage from large numbers of white-fronted, lesser snow and Ross’ geese.

Contact ODFW's Klamath Falls office at (541) 883-5732 for more information.

Klamath Wildlife Area – Miller Island Unit

The Miller Island Unit is open to hunting and public use daily through the end of September, except on the days reserved for youth waterfowl and upland hunts (Oct. 19).  Hunters should expect good hunting for mourning doves early in the season and Canada geese during the September Canada Goose season.

Opening weekend for general waterfowl and pheasant hunting seasons is Oct. 5 (reservation only) and Oct. 6. Hunt days are then every following Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from October-December and open every day in January during authorized gamebird seasons. Upland bird hunting opens at 10 a.m. during waterfowl season (see regulations for details).

A daily hunting permit is required and hunters shall be in possession of permit while in the field. Check out is required. Daily hunt permits are available at the check station located on the North side of Miller Island Rd. just west of the railroad tracks.

Early season is usually best for local and early migrant birds, and hunters can expect to find abundant gadwalls and mallards on the wildlife area.

Goose hunting should improve later in the season with geese using frozen ponds for loafing and the small grain fields for forage.

Pheasants are released throughout the season thanks to donations by Unlimited Pheasants. After Oct. 12, pheasants will be released in subunits A and C.

There is a special youth waterfowl and upland bird hunt on Oct. 19 when the unit is open only to hunters age 17 and younger. Hunters must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older, who may not hunt. Reservations are not required for this hunt. See page 26 of the Oregon Game Bird Regulations.

Lake County

Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Over 60 percent of this almost 19,000-acre area is open for game bird hunting during authorized seasons. Hunting is permitted 7 days per week and a free daily hunting permit is required. Hunting permits are available at Headquarters.  Hunters should be aware the wildlife area is not open during the September Canada goose season.

In most years, a fair number of mourning doves can be found early in September but they typically move south once cooler fall weather conditions arrive. The best areas to hunt on the wildlife area are from Thousand Spring Lane (Lake Co. Road 4-17) north toward Lake View Lane (4-18) and old homestead sites such as the Turner Place.

Waterfowl hunting conditions should be good across most of the wildlife area. Water supplies have been fairly good, but some areas may be slow to flood-up due to growing season management actions.  Gold Dike Impoundment and the area South of Gold Dike will held dry or at a low level the entire hunting season.  However, moist-soil annual plants should produce abundant seed sources in some areas.  To compensate for the diminished size of flooded hunting areas, the northern portion of Bullgate Refuge will be open to hunting this year. Summer Lake proper has held a good level most of the summer, but the recent drying trend has seen its size decline dramatically.

The early portion of the waterfowl season is usually best for local and early migrant birds, and hunters can expect to find abundant dabbling ducks such as green-winged teal, gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, pintail and mallards on the wildlife area. Waterfowl production was fairly strong this year, with good numbers of Canada goose, gadwall, mallard and cinnamon teal broods being observed throughout summer. Regular season goose hunting should be fair for locally produced Canada geese. Canada goose hunting should improve later in the season with freezing conditions, which tend to concentrate geese near open water. In an attempt to reduce harvest pressure on the rarer Tule white-fronted goose, the daily bag limit in Lake County is one. 

Most snow geese staging at Summer Lake Wildlife Area are from Wrangel Island, Russia. Production this year is unknown at this time, but the population has been on a recent upward trend. Typically, good production results in favorable hunting success due to the large number of juveniles. When production is low, hunting for the more wary adults is difficult. A large portion of this population is either wintering in NW Washington/SW British Columbia, along the Columbia River or staying on northern (Alberta) staging grounds until late in the fall, until they are pushed south by winter weather. Unfortunately, these geese migrating out of Canada are now by bypassing traditional staging areas such as Summer Lake on their way to California. Recently, staging numbers at the wildlife area appear to have stabilized at around 5-6,000 birds. Favorable weather conditions will be necessary to encourage large numbers of geese to stage in the basin, reduce overflights to wintering areas further south, and create favorable hunting conditions.

Closure: Access to hunting areas south of Thousand Springs Lane (Lake Co. Rd 4-17, except the Foster Place) will be prohibited from Sept. 28 until 4:00 am on opening day (Oct. 5). This seven-day closure will reduce disturbance to staging waterfowl and improve hunter success. Campgrounds and open roads will remain available for use.

Malheur County

Many of the desert ponds dried up this summer because of mild winter conditions and very little precipitation, but those ponds that held water through the summer had fair duck and goose production. Desert ponds are also a good opportunity for early season jump shooting. Jordan Valley provides an excellent opportunity for September Canada goose hunting. Hunters need to get permission to hunt private lands.

Fair waterfowl hunting is available in the Treasure Valley (agricultural areas near the Snake River in the vicinity of Ontario, Adrian and Nyssa) most of the season, and improves significantly during cold weather events. Cold weather events reduce open water, concentrating birds and increasing the time spent foraging. Field hunting for both geese and ducks can be good for hunters willing to spend the time and effort to secure access to private land.

Mid-Columbia District (Wasco, Sherman and Hood Counties)

Duck hunting is mostly jump shooting on private lands and should offer good opportunity where available. Goose hunting opportunity in wheat fields should be good with most access via private land. Some private land access can be found through Upland Cooperative Access Program lands in Sherman County.

The Columbia River is open for hunting and provides some opportunities for hunters up to Arlington. Access will primarily be by boat. For more information contact ODFW The Dalles at 541-296-4628. Note that hunting is not allowed on most Corps of Engineers property.

Umatilla and Morrow counties

Hunting prospects depend on weather conditions. If the region does not experience a real winter, many of the northern migrants will stay in Washington. The best hunting is usually later in the season (late November) after some weather pushes birds down northern areas. The Columbia River is usually the best opportunity for hunters on public land, but those who can access irrigated circles in northern Morrow County usually get good goose hunting.

Habitat in the Columbia Basin still supports large numbers of wintering Canada geese and the number of snow geese wintering in this area has greatly increased in recent years. Waterfowl hunters should not forget about the Columbia Basin Wildlife Areas (Power City, Irrigon, Coyote Springs, Willow Creek). Food crops were planted and ponds have been enhanced, all of which will make conditions better for waterfowl hunting.

Union County

Duck and goose hunting is expected to be similar to last year.

Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area

The 2019 year was another good production year for waterfowl, especially Canada geese. Nest success appears to be similar to past years with lots of mallard, gadwall and teal broods. Water levels in the marsh as of the end of August are looking very promising. Most wetlands still have a small amount of huntable water. Hunters should call the office at 541 963 4954 to get a current update on water levels or plan to make a trip out on one of the open days prior to the hunting season to scout out potential locations.

All visitors including hunters must have in their possession a free daily permit to access the wildlife area. Permits are available at several self-check-in stations at entry points and parking lots. The Wildlife Area is closed 10 p.m. - 4 a.m. daily. There is no camping on the wildlife area. Both of these rules include area parking lots. Violators will be asked to leave and may be cited.

Wallowa County

Waterfowl hunting should be similar to previous few years. Expect good hunting opportunities later in the fall and early winter when migrating birds arrive. The few resident geese Canada geese in the district have fared well, too. Most hunting is decoy hunting in agricultural fields, and jump shooting irrigation ditches so be sure to get landowner permission before hunting.

Waterfowl hunting locations

Explore bird hunting locations using ODFW’s Oregon Hunting Access Map. ODFW's Summer Lake and Klamath wildlife areas are major winter staging areas for waterfowl and provide great hunting opportunities. Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area provides opportunities in northeast Oregon. Some private lands are accessible through the Access and Habitat program. Remember to ask permission before hunting on private lands.

 

image of a dog retrieving a grouse

WESTERN OREGON UPLAND GAME BIRD FORECAST

Fee pheasant hunting at wildlife areas

ODFW stocks pheasants at these western Oregon wildlife areas as there are few natural pheasants in the region. To hunt, you need a license, upland bird validation, HIP validation and $17 fee pheasant tag. The bag limit is two roosters. See regulations for more details.

  • E.E. Wilson, Monmouth: Oct. 1-31
  • Fern Ridge, Eugene: Sept. 9-Oct. 6 (East and West Coyote, Fisher Butte and Royal Amazon Units)
  • Sauvie Island, Portland: Sept. 16-Sept. 29 (Eastside Unit)
  • Denman, Central Point: Sept. 16-Oct. 4

Coos County

Weather conditions in spring and early summer can be a primary driver for upland bird chick survival.  This spring and summer were relatively warm and dry, so chick survival should have be good.  Considering Coos County has had pretty good conditions for chick survival most years over the past several years, overall abundance of mountain quail, California quail and ruffed grouse is good.  Sooty (blue) grouse, however appear to be in a long term decline that is not likely due to weather conditions.

Hunters should not expect to find many of these birds in the woods of Coos County. Insects tend to be a primary food resource for young upland birds in the early part of the hunting season when they are growing plumage and bones. Grouse hunters will often find them on closed forest roads or near creek bottoms.

Quail production appears to be above average this year with many broods favoring areas around clearcuts and exposed ridges. Hunters can find wild turkeys around agricultural areas in the county. Remember to scout early and get permission to hunt private land before you hunt.

Douglas County

Hunters should expect an average year for hunting forest grouse and mountain quail. Brood counts in the district are showing good production of both. Mountain quail production has increased within the recent fire impacted areas in the Umpqua National Forest. Blue grouse success is best in mid to high elevations of the Cascades in partly open conifer stands. Ruffed grouse can be found near creeks mostly at mid elevations of both the Cascades and Coast Range.

Overall, nesting season production was average for California quail and mountain quail, so hunting opportunity should be good. Success is best in the lower elevation agricultural lands for California quail. Look for mountain quail in mid-elevations of the Cascades and Coast Range near brushy clear cuts on secondary forest roads. Check local fire restrictions for current fire danger before going hunting.

Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties

Trend surveys suggest mountain quail, ruffed grouse and sooty grouse are near the five-year average and turkey numbers are on the increase once again. A few sooty grouse broods were observed at higher elevations. Overall, hunting for mountain quail and forest grouse should be fair. Turkeys had another good hatch and should be very abundant especially at lower elevations on private land. Dove numbers seem better this year in the Rogue Valley than in the past few years; however, band-tailed pigeon numbers may be slightly down compared to last year.

Mountain quail are widely distributed throughout this district, and are usually found near brush fields and old clear-cuts. Ruffed grouse are found in middle elevation forests near water. Sooty grouse prefer higher elevation habitat consisting of a mix of large conifer trees and meadows. Some dove hunting is available on the Denman Wildlife Area in agricultural fields or in dry brushy areas, however harvest success drops quickly after the first few days of the season. Band-tailed pigeons are usually found at high elevations feeding on elderberries or acorns.

Hunters should be aware of fire season closures on private timber lands in Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties. Check the latest fire closure information before heading out into the field. The Denman Wildlife Area will host a Youth Pheasant Hunt on Sept. 15 and 16, and a Fee Pheasant Hunt from Sept. 17-Oct. 5. Birds will be stocked during this period. Hunters new to hunting the wildlife area are encouraged to call 541-826-8774.

Mid-Coast (Lincoln and western Lane counties)

Quail and Ruffed grouse populations appear to be at moderate densities. Hunt for mountain quail in brushy clear-cuts and near gravel roads, but realize they’ll get hard to find once the fall rains begin.

Ruffed grouse are usually found along streams or closed forest roads. They can also be found in well-developed or older forest areas. Blue (sooty) grouse are rare and are found only at the highest elevations.

North Coast (Clatsop and Tillamook counties)

Ruffed grouse, blue (sooty) grouse and mountain quail are present in the northern coast range in moderate densities. This season is likely to be good as the weather this spring was relatively dry, likely leading to decent survival for early broods. Later broods, especially those of mountain quail, experienced even better conditions and likely greater survival.

Ruffed grouse are usually found along riparian areas and mid-slopes, while blue grouse prefer high-elevation ridges. Mountain quail frequent brushy clearcuts, especially those along south- and west-facing slopes.

North Willamette (Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia, Yamhill and Marion counties)

The relatively dry conditions this spring were favorable for forest grouse and quail chick survival and some birds may have been able to double clutch with the clear weather conditions. Hunters should expect more developed and abundant juvenile birds when the season opens this fall.

Spring surveys for male sooty grouse this year resulted in lower detections than last year. Although biologists detected less sooty grouse this spring than the six-year average in the west Cascades, grouse populations in the cascades still remain larger than in the coast range.

Mountain quail are commonly found in or around 2-5 year-old clearcuts in the coastal mountains. Covering lots of ground in newer clearcuts with a well-trained dog should help hunters find a few scattered coveys of mountain quail. Most hunting for California quail occurs on private agricultural lands and hunters are reminded to obtain permission before entering private land.

Grouse hunting is likely to be similar to the past few seasons, but may offer above average hunting opportunities this fall. Hunters looking to harvest both ruffed and sooty (blue) grouse should concentrate their efforts in the Cascade Mountains for the best chance of success. Ruffed grouse prefer the brushy cover along riparian areas and sooty grouse can be found on the higher elevation ridgelines.

An effective hunting strategy should include hiking along ridgelines or open slopes near timber and bodies of water in the early morning or late evening since grouse typically spend the warm afternoon hours in trees high off the ground.

Turkey production was average this year and populations in the southwest portion of the district continue to slowly increase; most turkey hunting opportunities are on private land and hunters will need to secure permission to hunt well before the season opens.

South Willamette (Marion, Polk, Linn, Lane and Benton counties)

Blue grouse and ruffed grouse are relatively common in forest habitat. Sooty (blue) grouse surveys this spring recorded less grouse than in 2018. Overall detections in the West Cascades were slightly lower than the 7-year average. California quail are common on the valley floor but most hunting occurs on private lands and hunters will need to obtain permission from landowners. The north and central Cascades are generally not great mountain quail areas but birds can be found in some of the brushy areas created by clearcut logging or wildfires.

Upland game bird hunting locations

Explore Oregon’s Hunting Access Map for bird hunting locations; use the upland bird range map. ODFW’s wildlife areas Sauvie Island (Portland), EE Wilson (Monmouth), Fern Ridge (Eugene) and Denman (Central Point) offer bird hunting; see regulations for details. Some industrial private forest lands are accessible through the Access and Habitat Program; the Jackson TMA has grouse and quail; and the new East Lane TMA offers good grouse hunting opportunities. National forestland and some state forests also offer bird hunting opportunities. Much opportunity in the region is on private properties; hunters will need to gain permission.

 

image of a wood duck and fun

WESTERN OREGON WATERFOWL FORECAST

Coos County

Ducks will begin moving into the county early in the fall and initially concentrate in coastal bays and other large water bodies. A large portion of Coos Bay is open to hunting even though some of it is within the city limits of Coos Bay. Other areas within the city limits of Coos Bay and all areas within city limits of North Bend are closed to hunting. There is also an area near the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend that is closed to hunting. Hunters are encouraged to contact the ODFW Charleston Field Office (541) 888-5515 to obtain the latest information on areas open for hunting.

The entire Coquille Valley Wildlife Area is open to public access.  After several years of habitat restoration on the Winter Lake tract, waterfowl numbers are beginning to increase as local ducks and geese discover these new food sources.  As fall precipitation inundates fields with water, and more waterfowl migrate in there should be good hunting in late fall on CVWA.

Hunters need to be aware there are channels throughout the Winter Lake tract that have very steep sides and at high tide may be deep enough to go over chest waders. Also, as the tide changes there may be a current in the channels that could make crossing them challenging. Hunters should wear PDFs when crossing the channels or, in most cases, not try to cross the channels at all.

These channels are part of a habitat improvement project designed to establish an intertidal connection between Coquille River the and the Winter Lake tract.

Hunters who want to hunt CVWA need to fill out a permit daily.  Permits are available at the access point located along North Bank Road.  Each hunter must fill out their own permit.  Please do not take more than one permit per hunter from the box.

The Ni’Les-tun and Bandon Marsh  Units of the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge near Bandon will have areas  open for waterfowl hunting.  Waterfowl numbers in these areas can be quite good early in the season.

Geese will concentrate on private pastures around river valleys. Canada goose populations have been growing over the past few years. Good goose hunting can be found in most of the county. The key to a successful hunt is prior scouting for areas where geese are going to feed or rest.

Douglas County

Nearly all waterfowl hunting in the Umpqua Valley is on private property and hunters are reminded to get landowner permission before hunting. Many agricultural landowners along the valley floor are seeing significant damage to fields from increases in Canada goose populations over the recent years. Many landowners and managers have been welcoming hunters to help them reduce this damage. Plat-I Reservoir, Ben Irving Reservoir and Galesville Reservoir have areas set aside for hunting waterfowl. Hunters need to be familiar with Douglas County and Sutherlin Water Control District regulations for access times and watercraft use on these reservoirs. The Umpqua River and its tributaries also offer great waterfowl hunting in the Umpqua Valley.

Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties

Hunting success will depend on local weather and water conditions, and on weather conditions to the north. Storm systems in northern Oregon and Washington push birds south to our area. Waterfowl hunting on the Denman Wildlife Area is usually best during December and January.

Local Canada geese should be very abundant for the September goose season and throughout the general season. The Rogue River is a good place to hunt during the September goose season as well as on the Hall Tract of the Denman Wildlife Area.

The Denman Wildlife Area is dependent on rain to flood fields, and hunters can call 541-826-8774 to check on the status of flooding. Hunters should remember that after Nov. 1 the Hall Tract of the DWA is only open on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The Military Slough and Modoc Units are open all days of the general season.

North and Mid-Coast (Clatsop, Tillamook and Lincoln counties)

Early duck hunting should be fair to good on coastal bays. A mix of ducks (mainly wigeon, pintails, mallards and divers) should be available in larger north and mid-coast estuaries, such as the lower Columbia River and Tillamook, Nestucca, Nehalem, Siletz, Alsea, and Siuslaw Bays. In recent years, the numbers of ducks on these estuaries tends to be greater earlier in the season, with numbers diminishing by December. However, numbers and distribution can change on a yearly basis and success can be good in these areas into January.

With the onset of storms comes the best waterfowl hunting on the coast. Stormy weather moves birds off the bays and into more sheltered waters where they can be hunted more effectively. However, when there is too much rain, birds move into agricultural areas where hunting cover tends to be limited or nonexistent. Another excellent time to hunt the coast is during cold spells when some inland waters are ice-covered.

Goose hunters, don’t forget to purchase your annual NW goose permit. Goose hunting should be good all along the north coast during the September goose season as production of local geese (westerns) is usually good. Migratory geese also be available in high numbers for hunters during the traditional NW Permit Goose seasons. On the mid-coast, opportunities for goose hunting are limited to the estuaries or private agricultural land.

North Willamette (Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia, Yamhill and Marion counties)

Waterfowl hunters should expect a good hunting season this year. Resident mallards will continue to provide the majority of the early-season hunting opportunities along the Willamette River and in local ponds, wetlands and lakes. Late-season hunting is expected to be good for ducks and geese when cold winter weather brings northern migrants into the state.

Goose hunting opportunities in the northern Willamette Valley and lower Columbia River should also be good this season. Hunters can expect good numbers of local Canada geese to be present during the early September goose season. For a successful September season, hunters need to be out scouting for feeding and loafing areas that concentrate geese. When a feeding flock is found, wait until the birds fly back to roost before going into the field to pinpoint the feeding area via fresh droppings.

Hunters will also need to secure permission to hunt on private lands where most of the geese can be found. Hunters participating in the Northwest Permit Zone hunt should also find very good numbers of geese available as migrating birds move into the area.

Finding locations to hunt is difficult without access to private lands. Hunters without this access should explore opportunities to hunt waterfowl along the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Multiple hunting opportunities along the Willamette River can be located in the Oregon State Parks and Oregon State Marine Board’s Willamette River Recreation Guide. The majority of these sites are only accessible by boat but there are several locations that can be reached from local roadways.

Hunters should review the Oregon Department of State Lands website for information concerning the use of Oregon’s waterways and the land underlying and adjacent to them. You will additional information concerning waterfowl hunting can be found in the state and federal refuge areas regulations in the Oregon Game Bird Regulations.

Sauvie Island Wildlife Area

Waterfowl hunting on Sauvie Island Wildlife Area should be about average this year with waterfowl populations at a relatively high level. The best hunting is usually during colder weather when birds are pushed south from Alaska and Canada. The wildlife area’s crop production was slightly down this year due to a very dry summer.  All hunt units will have some flooded areas on opening day of general waterfowl season. Ongoing work on wetland and food resources on the wildlife area will continue to improve hunting in future years.

The Northwest Permit Goose Season will be open this year on the Wildlife Area, but only for white geese (Ross and snow). Dark goose hunting will remain closed on Sauvie Island Wildlife Area except for the September season.

If you are new to waterfowl hunting on Sauvie Island, see our Beginners Guide to Waterfowl Hunting on Sauvie Island.

Special youth waterfowl hunts for hunters age 17 and younger Oct. 20, Nov. 9, Dec. 8 and 26 and Jan. 11. See the Game Bird Regulations for details.

South Willamette (Marion, Polk, Linn, Lane and Benton counties)

Prospects for waterfowl hunting will be good if the district sees some rain to flood feeding areas when the birds come down from the north. The Willamette River offers good duck hunting for those with the proper boat. Goose hunting occurs throughout the valley but hunters will want to obtain permission to hunt private lands or hunt properties enrolled in the Open Field Program that allow access for goose hunting. A map of those properties can be found at www.OregonHuntingMap.com or at the ODFW website.

Fern Ridge Wildlife Area

April floods coincided with the peak of goose nesting negatively affecting goose production.  The floods may also have negatively affected some early duck nesting attempts.  As a result, we expect the local waterfowl population to be lower this year in comparison to previous years. Hunters might experience lower harvest rates for the September goose hunt and October duck hunting, both of which primarily harvests locally produced birds.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manages lake levels in Fern Ridge Lake. Wildlife Area pumps depend on high water levels to fill wetland units in preparation for the October waterfowl hunting season opener. If lake levels drop early, field flooding may be limited and hunters should expect dry hunting areas at the beginning of duck season, specifically in the reservation hunt area on the East and West Coyote units.

Once the lake level drops, the only way for wetland units to fill is with rainfall. We expect later season hunting to be more productive as fields flood naturally.

Please contact FRWA headquarters at 541-935-2591 for more details and other information.

EE Wilson Wildlife Area

The wildlife area can be productive for duck hunting later in the season, as winter rains fill wildlife area ponds.  In October, the area has little water available for duck hunting and disturbance from the fee pheasant hunt likely reduces waterfowl use of the available wetlands.

Waterfowl hunting locations

Sauvie Island (Portland), EE Wilson (Monmouth), Denman Wildlife Area (near Central Point) and Fern Ridge (Eugene) wildlife areas offer bird hunting. On the North Coast you can hunt around estuaries on the coast and in the lower Columbia River; call ODFW’s Tillamook Office for more information or try ODF for a map that shows public and private lands. The Willamette River has some decoy and drifting opportunities; see the Oregon Department of State Lands website.

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