Big game hunting season review

August 17, 2020

ODFW has been reviewing big game hunting to simplify regulations, provide fair and consistent opportunity and ensure biological objectives are met. Here's how you can be a part of the review process.

Sign up for email or text updates

The Department has been working for several years to conduct a complete review of big game hunting seasons and associated regulations.

This year’s review has been focused on eastern Oregon deer and elk archery seasons and the timing of West Cascade deer and elk season.

ODFW first developed concepts for change after collecting hunter input via an online public forum and survey of randomly selected Oregon resident deer and elk hunters.  Details on concepts was provided in early summer and hunters were asked to provide further input.  After considering feedback received from hunters, we’re ready to move some of these proposals forward to the Commission.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider proposals and adopt 2021 hunting regulations and seasons at their virtual Sept. 11 meeting (more information below).

Final Department proposals include:

CROSSBOWS ALLOWED DURING ANY LEGAL WEAPON SEASONS: Some hunters have long advocated for Oregon to allow the use of crossbows to hunt big game.  ODFW staff reviewed the use of crossbows in other states and the proposal for Oregon would only allow them during “any legal weapon" seasons for big game (when rifles, bows, handguns, and other weapons are also allowed).  This proposal was not an outcome of the Big Game Review, but is a proposed change we wanted to make hunters aware of.

WEST CASCADE ELK SEASON: ODFW will propose to move the West Cascade Elk Any Legal Weapon season two weeks later to improve hunt quality. The 2021 season would be Nov. 6-12, starting the day after general deer season closes. This change will also remove the seven-day break during general deer season in the Cascade Buck Area. 

NEW APPROACH FOR ARCHERY DEER: ODFW will propose that all archery deer hunting be controlled in Eastern Oregon for 2021. This change from a statewide general season with unlimited tags to controlled hunting in Eastern Oregon with limits on tags is necessary due to continued mule deer population declines. Mule deer populations have declined by nearly 50 percent in the last 40 years and having no limits on archery harvest is no longer a responsible management approach. Archery deer hunting in Western Oregon will continue as a general season opportunity.

POTENTIAL ARCHERY ELK SEASON CHANGES DELAYED UNTIL 2022: The popularity of archery elk hunting in Eastern Oregon has led to significant management challenges in many wildlife management units. ODFW has collected extensive hunter input to develop changes initially being proposed for the 2021 archery elk season which would have also moved Eastern Oregon archery elk to controlled hunting. While these significant management issues need to be addressed, based on hunter input received, staff want to further refine proposed changes, collect additional information on archery hunter preferences around those changes, and expand involvement across all hunters. A significant component of balancing the proposal is to achieve equitable opportunity. ODFW does plan on proposing changes for the 2022 eastern Oregon archery elk season, but the proposals will be taken to the Commission for consideration in 2021 at a time that does not overlap with archery season. 

Proposed 2021 Controlled Hunt Tables

To comment to the Commission on the final proposals

To comment, send an email to or register to testify at the virtual meeting via Zoom call (more information on how to register will be available the week before the meeting and the deadline to register will be Sept. 9 at 8 a.m.).

Process for developing 2021 hunting season proposals

  • Information on hunter opinions and preferences was collected via a 2019 survey and 2020 online public forum and survey
  • Department staff, in coordination with OSP, reviewed information collected, management challenges with existing seasons, and developed potential changes to 2021 hunting seasons
  • Department staff conduct public outreach on potential changes to 2021 hunting seasons from late-June to early-August 2020
  • Department staff collect hunter input on potential changes being considered and use input to inform development of final proposed changes to 2021 hunting seasons
  • Final Department proposed changes to 2021 hunting seasons posted online by mid-August for the public to submit comments to the Commission
  • Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meet on Sept. 11, 2020 to review and adopt 2021 hunting seasons and controlled hunt tag allocations.

Collecting input on hunter opinions and preferences

As part of the Big Game Review, the Department prioritized collecting unbiased information on the preferences and opinions of Oregon’s deer and elk hunters. Responsive Management, a survey and research firm specializing in hunting, fishing and natural resources survey work, was contracted to survey Oregon hunters. Survey efforts began in 2019 with over 2,000 randomly selected hunters being surveyed on their satisfaction, weapon preferences, factors influencing hunt choices, and other issues important for the Department to know.

In early 2020, an online public forum was launched for 30 days so all hunters could provide input on deer and elk hunting season and other issues that were important to them. The forum provided an opportunity for hunters to share ideas and opinions prior to the Department developing proposed changes to 2021 hunting seasons. Following the online forum, another survey was conducted of 4,000 randomly selected Oregon resident deer and elk hunters. This survey focused on preferences and opinions on specific issues related to changes being considered for 2021 hunting seasons.

2020 Online public forum results

2020 Resident deer and elk opinion survey final report

2019 Oregon Resident Deer and Elk Hunter Preferences and Opinions Final Report

Comments received on initial proposals considered

In late-June, the Department started collecting public input on changes the Department was considering proposing for the 2021 big game hunting seasons.  Comments were received via an online comment form, email, U.S. mail, and input received through local level outreach by Wildlife District staff.  Input received was taken into consideration when developing final proposals for 2021 big game hunting seasons.

The below links, provide access to all input received prior to final proposals being developed.  Note that the majority of comments received are related to archery elk season and the Rogue River bear closure; both of which the Department is no longer proposing changes to for the 2021 season.

Further Background Information

Below are videos and additional information resources we posted earlier this summer to inform hunters on concepts that we were considering at that time.  These resources were created prior to final proposals being developed. As detailed above, we are no longer proposing changes to 2021 archery elk seasons but the information resources below are still helpful to stay informed on the issue. 

Additional resources

Explore Related Articles

Buying a license or permit

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife owns or manages nearly 200,000 acres of land set aside for wildlife use...

How to hunt big game

The four options below are designed for self-motivated students with good reading and comprehension skills - just choose one. All four course...

How to hunt big game

If you bought a tag you must report, even in you weren't successful. For 2020-2021, hunters will have until January...