Bailey's Mule Deer

How to hunt

March 23, 2018

Oregon offers some great opportunities for the first-time hunter -- from deer and elk, to geese and ducks, to chukar and pheasants. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.

OK, so you want to go hunting in Oregon. Taking an ODFW Learn to Hunt class is a great way to get started, but so is just going out with a friend or family member who hunts. This page has some basic information to help get you started.

How to Hunt for Deer and Elk in Oregon covers
everything a beginning big game hunter needs to know.

Screen shot of how to hunt


What you'll need:

Firearm or bow

  • Big game (deer and elk) hunters need a rifle or bow (shotguns with slugs can also work for deer hunting).
  • Bird hunters need a shotgun. A 12- or 20-gauge is a good choice for a beginning hunter.
  • Visit your local gun or archery range or gun/archery shop or take a hunting class with ODFW to try out some different firearms and bows.
  • The Big Game Hunting Regulations lists what weapons are legal for various hunts.

Hunting license, tag or validation

  • Look here for a complete list of permits and fees. Prices are for adult residents; kids get a discount.
  • All hunters need a hunting license
  • Big game hunters need a tag and need to buy it before a certain deadline (usually the day before the hunt begins).
  • Most rifle big game hunting in eastern Oregon is limited entry. Hunters need to apply for these special controlled hunts by May 15 each year.
  • Bird hunters need validations for waterfowl and upland birds and a tag to hunt turkey. Costs vary. See the License, Tag and Permit Fees page to understand what’s needed. Bird hunters can buy these anytime before going hunting.
  • There are several ways to buy your license, tag or validation, including online, at a license sales agent or at an ODFW office that sells licenses.

Copy of the hunting regulations

At first glance, Oregon’s hunting regulations can seem overwhelming. But you don’t need to review every page in the book; just be sure to look at the General Hunting Regulations in the front of each booklet, the pages for your particular hunt and for any special rules for your hunting area.

  • Pick up a copy of the regulations at any store that sells license or an ODFW office, or find them online.
  • The Oregon Big Game Regulations (for deer, elk, bear, cougar, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain goat, western gray squirrel) are valid Jan. 1-Dec. 31.
  • The Oregon Game Bird Regulations (for grouse, chukar/partridge, pheasant, quail, turkey, mourning dove, pigeon, goose, duck and other birds) are valid Sept. 1- May 31.

These are some of the major issues regulations cover:

  • Bag limits – Hunters are often limited to 1) a certain number of animals 2) taking only a particular sex (usually males) and 3) big game animals with a certain number of antler points.
  • Wasting --  Hunters must take the meat from the animals they kill (with the exception of cougar). It’s fine to leave guts in the field after you field dress your animal.
  • Tagging/transport – Tag your big game animal immediately after killing it (or mark your tag if you are bird hunting). Keep this tag and evidence of the animal’s sex with the animal until you get it home.
  • Dates & times – Season dates shift with the calendar but most hunting opportunities happen in fall (beginning September) and winter, except for spring turkey and bear seasons in April and May. Big game hunters can hunt a half hour before and after sunrise/sunset. Bird hunters need to follow specific shooting hours (printed in the regulations each year).
  • Hunting area restrictions – ODFW state wildlife areas, travel management areas, federal refuges and other landowners may have particular rules about hunting. Check the regulations or directly with the landowner if you are hunting in these areas.
  • Hunting methods – Take note of certain things you can’t do while hunting, like shooting from a motor vehicle or across a road, or on behalf of another person.
  • Lead and non-toxic shot – Many ODFW wildlife areas and federal refuges prohibit hunters to even carry toxic (lead) shot. Lead shot also can’t be used to hunt duck, goose, snipe and coot.
  • Reporting hunt results – Big game and turkey hunters need to tell ODFW the results of their hunt—even if they didn’t go hunting or weren’t successful. ODFW uses the information to set hunting seasons and harvest statistics. Deer and elk hunters face a $25 fine for not reporting by the deadline (Jan. 31 for most hunts).

How to do it

To hunt effectively, you need to understand the animal you are hunting: where it lives, what it eats, sign (tracks, scat, rubbings on trees) and when it’s most active (dusk, dawn or daytime).

Hunter safety

Following these basic rules of hunter safety—and insisting others in your party do, too—will help keep you safe:

  • Muzzle – Control the direction of your muzzle at all times.
  • Trigger – Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
  • Action – Treat every firearm as though it were loaded. Open the action and visually check if it is loaded. Firearms should be unloaded with actions open when not in use and when crossing an obstacle or difficult terrain.
  • Target – Be sure of your target, and what is in front of it and beyond it.
  • Hunter Orange –Wearing a blaze orange hat or vest is required for rifle big game and upland bird hunters under age 17 and recommended for everyone. Deer and elk are color blind and won’t even see the color orange, but other hunters will. Waterfowl hunters shouldn’t wear hunter orange as ducks and geese have excellent eyesight.

Where to go

  • Most public land is open to hunting including national forests, BLM properties, state forests, ODFW wildlife areas and some federal wildlife refuges. Most national and state parks are not but there are some exceptions; see the bird hunting regulations.
  • The Oregon Hunting Access Map is a great tool to find a place to hunt. It lists all ODFW wildlife areas, travel management areas (areas with motor vehicle restrictions during hunting season) and Access and Habitat properties (private lands open to hunting). It lets you search based on what type of animal you want to hunt.
  • Oregon wildlife managers divide the state into 67 wildlife management units to help manage hunts and wildlife populations. You should always know which unit you are hunting in, especially when hunting big game.
  • Don’t forget to ask permission before hunting on private land. Hunters are responsible for knowing boundaries and not trespassing.

Didn't find what you're looking for? We’ve got lots more information on Just use the search function to find what you want to know.

Have a question? Don’t hesitate to email us or call us; we’re here to help you. We also have field offices across the state with local expertise about hunting opportunities and conditions.

Follow us on social media or get our weekly Recreation Report to learn about hunting opportunities, important deadlines, tips and more.

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