photo of a Coquille Valley duck hunter scanning the water
Statewide

2020-21 game bird hunting forecast

September 3, 2020

The 2020-21 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

Migratory game birds

Due to COVID-19, nearly all spring waterfowl surveys across the continent were canceled for 2020, including the USFWS’s Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat survey. This survey covers much of Canada, Alaska, and parts of the Dakotas and Montana, and it’s the first time since its inception in 1955 that the survey has been canceled. Closer to home, ODFW’s May breeding waterfowl survey was also canceled due to COVID-19. Without information from these surveys, biologists cannot assess the 2020 breeding population relative to last year.  

However, breeding waterfowl populations and production of young birds are generally corelated with wetland habitat conditions. Conditions in Oregon were mixed this spring and summer. In western Oregon, precipitation in May and June likely resulted in better than average production of young as many wetlands remained wet well into the summer. Conditions were also good in northeast Oregon.

In south central and southeast Oregon, the snow pack was average or below average. Larger wetlands and marsh systems still maintained good carryover water from previous years. Smaller wetlands, which rely on annual perception to fill, were generally in poor condition this spring. Goose populations, both our locally breeding western Canada geese and migrants from the north, should remain robust.

That said, hunters should still enjoy a successful season this fall and winter, especially if timely and abundant rainfall floods seasonal wetlands and provides desirable conditions for hunting. The only regulation change hunters should be aware of this season is that the bag limit for scaup has decreased to two per day.

Hunters should consider a mourning dove hunt this coming season. Preliminary surveys indicate eastern Oregon mourning dove populations are 41 percent above the 10-year 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, 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.

Like mourning doves, band-tailed pigeons are another of Oregon’s migratory upland game birds. The season is short, September 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.

Get HIP in 2020-21

Hunters are reminded that a free 2020-21 HIP validation season is required to any migratory game bird, including mourning doves, just as it is for waterfowl and other migratory game birds. Hunters who bought Sports Pac licenses also need to remember that they must first redeem their upland game bird and/or waterfowl vouchers for their upland game bird and/or waterfowl validations before they go hunting.

Upland game birds

Upland game bird hunters should find noticeable increases in upland game bird populations, particularly in the Columbia Basin and throughout chukar range this year. Upland game bird populations can vary greatly from year to year, primarily due to variable weather events and habitat conditions.

Eastern Oregon had numerous long-lasting precipitation events during spring hatch, leaving managers concerned about brood survival. It appears the eastern and southeast regions of the state did have some reduction in production, though plenty of adult chukar and quail were identified in surveys.

The Heppner and Grant districts reported strong production almost across the board, indicating a smaller weather impact in the central part of the state. While the extra moisture resulted in good cover, forage and insect production, the wet spring turned into a very dry summer, with concerns for wildfire still in effect throughout eastern Oregon.

Hunters will find upland birds utilizing the remaining “green groceries” of the desert, valuable wet meadows and riparian areas with abundant forage plants and insects. 

Western Oregon experienced one of the wettest springs on record, which did not bode well for early hatching chicks. There is some evidence to suggest that re-nesting attempts were more successful. On the bright side, Coast Range forest grouse are thriving, with peak numbers recorded on spring hooting surveys. 

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

PHEASANTS

Eastern Oregon’s pheasant numbers have improved after a poor showing last year. In particular, the Umatilla and Heppner districts are reporting strong production and overall densities, compared to last year. Hunters will also be able to find pheasants in the Mid-Columbia and Malheur districts. 

CALIFORNIA QUAIL

After a remarkable year in 2019, California (valley) quail populations continue on their upward trend, exceeding the 10-year average by 16 percent. Districts reporting the strongest California quail densities include Harney, Malheur and Grant. Grant, Lake and Harney districts had the highest quail production in 2020. 

CHUKAR

Chukar, known for their large annual population fluctuations, are showing a strong increase from the previous year and are exceeding the long-term average. Overall, Harney and Baker districts found the highest densities of chukar, followed by the Grant District. The Grant and Heppner districts had the highest chukar production, followed by Harney. 

FOREST GROUSE

Forest grouse should be entering the increase phase of their population cycle in eastern Oregon.  Despite the poor hatching conditions, hunters should find plenty of adult forest grouse in the Cascades and Coast range. Best bets for eastside forest grouse hunting are found in the Wallowa and Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon.

What’s new for regulations

  • All eastern Oregon counties are now open to mountain quail with a 2-bird bag limit.
  • Increased season length and removed tag limits for fall turkey hunts.
  • Scaup bag limit reduced to 2 daily.
  • New Veteran and Active Military Personnel Waterfowl Hunt Day on Feb.6, 2021.

Youth opportunities

The statewide youth waterfowl season is Sept. 26-27. To participate, hunters must

  • be 17 or younger,
  • have successfully completed hunter education,
  • have the proper hunting licenses, validations, and federal duck stamp for their age category, and
  • be accompanied by a non-hunting adult 21 years of age or older.

In addition to the statewide youth season, several wildlife areas/refuges hold special youth waterfowl hunts, including Baskett Slough NWR Sept. 26 & 27, Fern Ridge WA Nov. 28 and Dec. 28, Klamath WA Oct. 24, Sauvie Island WA Oct. 25, Nov. 15, Dec. 12, Dec. 28 and Jan. 17. Tualatin River NWR Nov. 7, Nov. 15, Nov. 21, Nov. 29, Dec. 5, Dec. 13, Dec. 19, and Dec. 27 and Jan. 2, 2021. Umatilla NWR Nov. 14.

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. 24-25, on the Lower Klamath Hills Regulated Hunt Area. Advance registration is 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 hunter education. Details on the MyODFW.com Workshops and Events page. Pre-registration is required for most events.

  • Sept. 12-13, Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (Eugene)
  • Sept. 19-20, Denman Wildlife Area (Central Point), Klamath Wildlife Area (Klamath Falls), Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area (La Grande), Sauvie Island Wildlife Area (Portland).
  • Sept. 19-20, Prairie City.
  • Sept. 26-27, Coquille Valley Wildlife Area (Charleston), E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area (Monmouth), Irrigon Wildlife Area (Pendleton) and White River Wildlife Area (Tygh Valley)
  • Oct. 17-18, Ontario
  • Oct. 24, Klamath Falls Wildlife Area (Klamath Falls)

Return 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.

Find more information, including a map of barrel locations.

 

image of chukar hunter scanning landscape in eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon upland bird forecast

Baker County

Upland game bird hunters should see a better than 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 few years. 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.

  • 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 are slowly increasing and are now legal to harvest.  The bag limit for mountain quail in Eastern Oregon is limited to two birds.
  • Dove hunters are encouraged to take advantage of the expanding Eurasian collared dove population.

Grant County

Trend counts for quail, turkey and chukar are all up for the 2020 season while forest grouse were difficult to find in surveys. However, they tend to follow the same patter as other birds and are likely up as well. It was a mild winter followed by a wet spring which led to better production but we observed a large proportion of smaller birds, indicating a later hatch.

Turkey and chukar offer the best opportunities this season for upland hunters, with turkey widely distributed through the county. Turkeys tend to congregate in large numbers in the John Day Valley, Ritter area, and Monument during winter months. However, many of these birds are on private land so hunter must be sure to obtain permission before hunting. 

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 game bird hunting in Harney County is expected to be average, but better than the past few seasons. Last winter was extremely mild and should not have impacted upland bird populations. The spring was generally mild and wet enough to result in good habitat conditions, and insect production was favorable. This appears to have resulted in good production for most upland birds. 

Chukar –Trend surveys found 76.8 birds/10 miles which is a 110 percent increase compared to last year and a 30 percent increase from the 10-year average. Production was good for the second year in a row with 3.1 chicks/adult which is about 30 percent above the long term average.  Surveys in the northern end of the county were more productive than those down south where conditions were much drier.

California quail – Trend surveys found 31.9 birds/10 miles which represents a 50 percent decline from last year, but is only about 5 percent below the 10-year average. Production was good for the second year in a row with 5.1 chicks/adult compared to the 10-year average of 3.0 chicks/adult. Quail populations appear to be doing well throughout the County.

Pheasants -- Most pheasant hunting opportunity is found on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  No formal surveys are conducted, but production is expected to have been good, similar to other upland game bird species. 

Klamath and Lake counties

In Lake County, cold spring rains extending over several days or weeks were experienced during nesting season with a corresponding reduction in brood survival. 

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 eastern Oregon. In Lake County, California quail appeared to have largely failed in their efforts to produce young this spring, though some second clutch brood have been observed.

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 and Klamath counties. 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. Hunters should 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.

Wild turkey are distributed throughout the southern portion of the Keno Unit. Several transplants and natural production have resulted in a slight increase of birds on the landscape available for the spring turkey season. There is no fall turkey season in Klamath or Lake county. 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 and dry. This was good for over winter survival for upland bird but lack of late winter/early spring moisture was not good for providing good quality forage for pre-nesting hen. We did receive 2 to 3 inches of precipitation in late May and June. These rain events had mixed results, the much needed moisture helped improve range conditions but the timing had a negative effect on early chick survival.

Chukar - Surveys on established routes yielded 29 birds per 10 miles, this is a 46 percent decrease from last year and 37 percent below the 10-year average of 46 birds per 10 miles. Brood production was average at 10.3 chicks per brood but total number of brood classified was significantly lower than previous years.  The most productive routes were along the Owyhee Reservoir and Cottonwood Canyon southwest of Harper.

Pheasant - Surveys along established routes yielded 4.3 birds per 10 miles, a 26 percent increase in number of birds observed from last year’s survey and 35 percent below the 10-year average. Chick production was great at 5 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.

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 to benefit the Cow Hollow Park.

California quail - Surveys on established routes yielded 32 quail per 10 miles, a 24 percent decline from last year and 23 percent below the 10-year average. Production was good at 9.8 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 above average for all species with the exception of gray partridge (Hun).

Pheasants are not normally counted in large numbers throughout these counties. This year, pheasants were at 111 percent of their 10-year average. Most pheasants observed on surveys this summer were in Sherman County, which is the norm for Mid-Columbia district.

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. 

Chukar hunting is the premier upland hunting opportunity in the Mid-Columbia district.  Chukars had a brood production year well above the 10-year average.  Summer surveys indicate they are at 196 percent of their 10-year average. 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 53 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 strong rebound for California quail in the mid-Columbia.  Surveys indicate quail at 114 percent of their 10-year average, with 527 birds counted on surveys opposed to only 145 in 2019.  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.  Both species are counted in very low numbers during surveys in the Mid-Columbia.

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. The Maupin and Biggs units are included in the general Eastern Oregon season. There is no longer a controlled fall turkey hunt in the White River unit. Turkeys had a slightly above average year with summer surveys indicating they were at 113 percent of their 10-year average.

Morrow, Gilliam and Wheeler counties

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

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

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

Ladd Marsh is open Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays Aug. 1 through Jan. 31.

It’s looking like we’ll have a moderate upland season out here on the Marsh. We are seeing good brood sizes but they’re few and far between. The extremely wet spring didn’t bode well for the early chicks and we saw almost zero early survival.

Mourning doves on the other hand did PHENOMENAL! We banded a record 299 birds in our 8-week banding season had some amazing flocks in all corners of the area.

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.

Please call the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area with any questions 541-963-4954.

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. 16-March 10, 2021) 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 (Sept. 26-27) and upland hunts (Sept. 19-20).  Hunters should expect good hunting for mourning doves early in the season and Canada geese during the September Canada Goose season (Sept. 12-16).

Opening weekend for general waterfowl and pheasant hunting seasons is Oct. 10 (reservation only) and Oct. 11. 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. 13, pheasants will be released in subunits A and C.

There is a special youth waterfowl and upland bird hunt on Oct. 24 when the unit is open only to hunters age 17 and younger. Hunt hours are the same as during the general season. 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 (Summer Lake WA Map)

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. Rd. 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 be 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. Map of 2020-21 hunt area changes. Summer Lake proper has been low most of the summer with most water found along the NE corner of the lake.

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 when 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

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.

 

photo of a youth hunter and his adult mentor taking aim at a pheasant

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 western Oregon fee pheasant permit. The bag limit is two roosters. See regulations for more details.

  • E.E. Wilson, Monmouth: Sept. 28-Oct.31
  • Fern Ridge, Eugene: Sept. 14-Oct. 11 (East and West Coyote, Fisher Butte and Royal Amazon Units)
  • Sauvie Island, Portland: Sept. 21-Oct. 4 (Eastside Unit)
  • Denman, Central Point: Sept. 21-Oct. 9

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.

Coos County had another good year of quail production, and brood survival appears to have been good, as well.  Hunters will find the best mountain quail hunting near ridge tops, rocky outcroppings on hillsides and around the periphery of clear-cuts. California quail (aka valley quail) also appear to have done well this year in terms of production and survival of chicks. These birds are found near private agricultural lands for the most part. 

Wild turkey populations have been increasing steadily for the past several years.  ODFW has been seeing and hearing about wild turkeys in parts of Coos County that don’t have a history of supporting turkeys in the past. That being said, hunters will find most turkeys in and around private agricultural lands, which is their more traditional habitat choice. One of the best ways to locate wild turkeys is to cruise forest roads looking for tracks, droppings and feathers. With the apparent expansion of turkeys locally, searching for birds in forest lands adjacent to agricultural lands is worth the time spent.

Douglas County

Hunters should expect a slightly above average year for hunting forest grouse and an average to below average year for mountain quail. Mountain quail production appears to have decreased this year but is still close to the 5-year average. Nesting season production was average for California quail, so hunting opportunities for them should be similar to last year. 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.

Blue grouse production on the other hand, is above the 5yr mark and Ruff grouse was close to the 5-year average. Blue grouse success is best in mid to high elevations of the Cascades in partially open conifer stands and edges between habitat types (old fires, meadows and timber thinnings).

Ruffed grouse can be found near creeks and over grown roads mostly at mid elevations of both the Cascades and Coast Range. Check local fire restrictions for current fire danger before going hunting.

Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties

Trend surveys suggest mountain quail numbers are slightly better than our five year average, whereas ruffed and sooty grouse numbers were below the five year average. As always turkey numbers are very good in southern Oregon and are likely on the increase in many areas in Jackson and Josephine County.

This year, there were quite a few mountain quail broods observed at higher elevations. Overall, hunting for mountain quail should be good 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 to be similar this year in the Rogue Valley compared to past years. Band-tailed pigeon numbers this year are right at average when compared with previous years.

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. 19 and 20, and a Fee Pheasant Hunt from Sept. 21-Oct. 9. 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 fair, as rainy periods during much of June likely led to poor survival for early broods even though good numbers of adults held over after last winter.  Later broods, especially those of mountain quail, experienced 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 clear-cuts, especially those along south- and west-facing slopes.

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

The prolonged wet conditions of this spring and early summer typically prevent grouse and quail from double clutching. Therefore, this weather may have impacted the number of birds for the upcoming season. Hunters should anticipate some smaller juveniles this year.

Grouse hunting is likely to be similar to the past few seasons, but may offer above average hunting opportunities this fall in some areas. Sooty grouse detections during spring surveys have been on an upward trend in the coast range over the last four years. Spring surveys for male sooty grouse in the Cascades this year resulted in similar detections to last year.

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.

Mountain quail are commonly found in or around 2 to 5-year-old clear-cuts in the coastal mountains. Covering lots of ground in newer clear-cuts with a well-trained dog should help hunters find a few scattered coveys of mountain quail. California quail are abundant on private agriculture lands and timber lands.

Anecdotally, staff have been seeing abundant numbers of quail in both the Coast Range and the Cascades. Hunters should always secure access permission from private landowners and check online for what private timber companies are allowing access during fire season.

Turkey hunting in much of the North Willamette area is nearly non-existent with only a few small scattered flocks. However, turkey populations in the southwest portion of the district continue to slowly increase, though they are still very small compared to other areas of the state. Most turkey hunting opportunities are on private land and hunters will need to secure permission to hunt well before the season opens.

Band-tailed pigeon counts were similar to previous years. Scattered flocks of pigeons can be found when walking roads in conifer forest, but can also be found in association with oak woodlands. If considering hunting band-tailed pigeon for the first time, be mindful of the short season window. There is also an additional permit that needs to be purchased.

Mourning doves seemed to start their breeding activity a little earlier this year and many birds have already begun leaving the area. As such, hunting success may be lower.

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

Blue grouse and ruffed grouse are relatively common in forest habitat. 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 clear-cut 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, especially teal, 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) was good again this year. Migratory geese should 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 good  this year.  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. 25, Nov. 15, Dec. 12 and 28 and Jan. 17. 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

The Wildlife Area experienced a dry winter and spring season. We are currently 19 inches of rain below normal for the water year. As a result, Fern Ridge Reservoir only filled to 67 percent capacity. Wetland cells that are normally filled with water were dry throughout the nesting season, which possibly impacted nest production as nests would have been accessible to land predators. Additionally, a relatively wet and cool June might have negatively impacted local chick survival.

The low reservoir level will also impact wildlife area operations this fall. Wetland cells are currently dry and many of our pumps do not have access to water. Wetland cells can only be filled with rainfall so early season duck hunting opportunities will likely be impacted without substantial fall rains. Expect the Fisher Butte and Royal Amazon Units to be completely dry for opening day of waterfowl season.

Waterfowl hunters applying for the reservation hunt should consider applying for dates later in the season when rainfall is likely to improve water conditions. Hunters participating in our September and October fee pheasant hunt should also expect dry conditions. Make sure to bring water for your dogs as water will be scarce on much of the wildlife area.

Two new hunting opportunities are available beginning this year. We are including the north half of the South Coyote Unit in the waterfowl reservation hunt and will hold a Veterans and Active Military Personnel Hunt on Feb. 6. For more details please review the 2020-2021 Oregon Game Bird Regulations.

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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