A beginner's guide to waterfowl hunting on Sauvie Island - an introduction. Part 1 of a 5 part series.
Part 1: A Beginner's Guide to Waterfowl Hunting on Sauvie Island - An Introduction (you are here)
Part 2: Hunting Sauvie Island’s East Side Unit
Part 3: Hunting Sauvie Island’s West Side Unit
Part 4: Hunting Sauvie Island’s North Side Unit
Part 5: Goose Hunting on Sauvie Island
Some of the best duck hunting in the country takes place on Oregon’s Sauvie Island Wildlife Area (SIWA) just 10 miles from downtown Portland.
At 15 miles long and 4 miles wide, Sauvie Island is the largest island in the Columbia River and a main stopping point for migratory birds as they travel along the Pacific Flyway between Alaska and South America. In the winter months the island hosts more than 150,000 waterfowl, including several species of ducks, geese and swans.
Almost half of the island’s 26,000 acres are owned by the State of Oregon, which purchased the land in the 1940s largely through funding from a federal tax on arms and ammunition. These lands were subsequently designated as a state wildlife area by the Oregon Legislature and placed under management of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
Today, ODFW manages the wildlife area to provide habitat for waterfowl, conserve important natural resource values, and to create recreational opportunities for hunters, anglers and wildlife viewers. An important component of ODFW’s management plan is a waterfowl hunting program that provides unparalleled recreational opportunities to tens of thousands of hunters each fall and winter. This program is designed with the dual goals of maximizing quality hunting experiences for sportsmen while protecting migratory birds.
The waterfowl hunting program is multi-faceted to accommodate a wide variety of hunting styles and abilities. The possibilities include hunting from bench-style blinds in a corn field and from makeshift blinds next to the shores of one of the island’s many lakes. There are accessible blinds for people with disabilities. And there are hunts for those who want to roam wide open fields or even hunt from a boat.
If you are new to waterfowl hunting on Sauvie Island, this guide was specifically designed for you. It is not intended to be a definitive explanation but, rather, an introduction to this unique public resource. Most of the discussion in this guide revolves around duck hunting, since that is by far the most extensive hunting opportunity on the wildlife area. Part 5 of this series is about goose hunting on the island.
- Valid hunting license
- State waterfowl validation
- Hunter Information Program (HIP) validation
- Federal waterfowl stamp
- Sauvie Island Wildlife Area Parking Permit
- Sauvie Island Wildlife Area Hunting Unit Permit
- Goose hunters need a Northwest Goose Permit, except during the September season
Mid-October through January, varies slightly year to year
Eastside Unit – Every other day; for exact dates, refer to the Sauvie Island Reservation Hunt tables, which are printed in the back of the Oregon Game Bird Regulations
Westside Unit – Every other day; same dates as Eastside Units
North Unit – Every day
Early goose hunt – Early to mid-September
Late goose hunt – Mid-October through January
Suavie Island Map (pdf)
For the purposes of duck hunting, the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area is divided into three general areas – the East side unit, West side unit, and North side unit. The East side and West side units are divided into a total of 20 smaller hunting subunits. Hunters must obtain a SIWA hunting permit to hunt in any of these areas, and this permit must be in their possession while they are hunting. Due to differences in the number of and types of blinds, topography, hunter demand, waterfowl distribution and other factors, each area has its own system for allocating permits. These systems are designed to give everybody an equal chance to “draw” a permit as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Only federally-approved, nontoxic shot is allowed for hunting on the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area.
Hunting by boat is possible in the North side unit, East side unit (Aaron, McNary and Malarky subunits) and on the West side unit (Crane and North Crane subunits). When hunting from a boat, make sure to wear personal flotation devices (PFDs) and consult tide tables, since the waters on the island are tidally influenced. Some hunters also carry in canoes that they can use to retrieve birds shot down over water.
Many areas of the wildlife area are accessible with hip waders, but chest waders are best. Good camouflage rain gear, including coat, hat, gloves and face mask, is very popular. Many waterfowl hunters bring a 5-gallon plastic bucket to carry gear, plus it makes an excellent chair.
Many duck hunters use decoys to attract birds. Decoys should not be placed more than 35 yards from blinds to prevent “skybusting,” which is the unethical practices of shooting birds that are too far away. Skybusting can lead to lost and injured birds.
A good bird dog can be a big help when it comes to retrieving ducks. Sauvie Island Wildlife Area has a lot of lakes and wetland areas. Failure to retrieve a game animal, if possible, after it has been shot is unlawful.
Calls can be an effective way to attract ducks. There are many educational materials that can help hunters become proficient duck callers. The best teacher is experience and watching and listening to more experienced hunters.
Study the Oregon Game Bird Regulations so you are familiar with the rules of the road. These regulations are designed to protect the wildlife and to ensure your safety and the safety of the people around you!
All vehicles entering the wildlife area are required to display a valid Sauvie Island Wildlife Area parking permit. Parking permits can be purchased online, from any point of sale license agent, as well as many island businesses. Portions of Sauvie Island Wildlife Area are closed to entry during the waterfowl season, except with a daily hunting permit, from Oct. 1 through April 15. Many of these areas remain closed to all public access through April 30.
It is a good idea to learn about the types of waterfowl that you may encounter out in the field. Common duck species harvested on SIWA include mallard, wigeon, green-winged teal, pintail, shoveler, ring-necked duck and common merganser. In the case of geese, hunters must take a test demonstrating that they can identify the various species of geese before hunting them.
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