Eastern Oregon archery draw 2021
New for 2021, all eastern Oregon archery deer hunting is controlled. We talked with several experts for their thoughts on what to expect—and provide some resources to help you choose a hunt this year.
Last year I made the transition to archery hunting. With the upcoming changes to the tag system, I am thinking about how to approach this year’s archery deer hunt applications.
If you aren’t aware yet, the previous general season eastside archery deer units have been converted to controlled hunts. This will allow local District Biologists some additional control over the harvest of mule deer, which have been struggling in Oregon and across the West.
The change also means hunters will need to be thoughtful and strategic about their selection of an archery deer hunt. I have had many conversations recently about how this will impact hunters. It seemed like everyone had a different theory so I decided to talk to a few experts in the field to get a clearer picture of what we can expect.
Speculating with Ron Wold of Oregon Tag Draw Percentages
I first spoke with Ron Wold who runs a popular Oregon draw statistics website, This site has become very popular in recent years and is integral to many hunters as they plan a strategy for their annual controlled hunt draws.
Wold first made it clear that everything this year is speculation. “I do everything in mathematics, based on trends and history, all different algorithms going on. I don’t have any direct data with these new hunts so it’s conjecture,” he said.
Archery deer tag distribution per unit is based primarily on the deer population and herd parameters, such as the number of bucks per 100 does (buck ratio). There are some units where tags offered are less than hunter numbers in that unit in recent years. (Check the big game harvest statistics at MyODFW.com to see how tags offered compare to the number of hunters who reported hunting most in that unit last year.)
Ron expects some of the more popular units to become what he calls “premier” hunts that take 3+ points to draw. These hunts will be in line with the number of points needed to draw a rifle deer tag. Also, units producing higher success rates will rise in popularity and require spending your buck deer points to draw the tag.
Wold says elk hunting choices will also play a role (more on that below). He expects more predictability in the archery deer draw in 2023, as hunter behavior begins to stabilize after two years.
Be a data driven hunter
I also spoke to Andy Hamilton, the ODFW Archery Education Coordinator for the state and an avid outdoorsman and passionate archery hunter. Andy is a data driven hunter and researches his hunt choices more than anyone I know. He spoke to me about his process in selecting a unit using data available at MyODFW.com.
Andy takes many variables into account, including size of unit, percentage of accessible land, hunting pressure and deer population. He likes to target places with large enough deer populations and low hunter pressure in hopes of finding overlooked pockets of huntable public ground.
Andy predicts that hunters will now fall into three groups: First, archers who will target a “premier” unit. Willing to burn points, they will want to ensure they have the opportunity to harvest a good buck in a unit of their choosing.
The next is the point-driven group, who may have been stacking points with eyes on a particular hunt for the future. Andy expects this group to use their second-choice options, targeting a first choice with the intention of losing, in order to stack points and still pick up a 2nd-5th choice eastside hunt.
The last group consists of those hunters who will fall back to rifle deer or general westside archery.
What about elk hunters?
The last person I spoke with was Jeremy Thompson, District Biologist for the Mid-Columbia, who has recently taken over reviewing ODFW’s approach to eastside elk archery seasons.
Jeremy says most archery hunters target elk, holding a deer tag opportunistically during their elk hunt. He expects the majority of archers to maintain this practice and focus on second choice hunts or westside general season for deer to preserve points. In his opinion, the point numbers needed for the elite deer units (10+ points) will remain unchanged. Conversely, he expects the points needed for mid-range hunts might drop as people look to have yearly opportunities and choose something easier to draw.
But that’s no excuse for not thinking carefully, doing your research by checking out resources at MyODFW.com and choosing your hunt wisely. Finally, do not be afraid to reach out to your ODFW District offices to get more local information.