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Game bird reports updated monthly
Malheur NWR opens to bird hunting Oct. 9
Beginning this year, this National Wildlife Refuge will open the Buena Vista hunt area to game bird hunting on Oct. 9, to correspond with ODFW established season openers.
However, the NWR also reports the South Malheur Lake Unit will not open to waterfowl hunting this year due to drought conditions.
Find more information on game bird hunting on the Malheur NWR.
The 2021-22 Oregon game bird seasons look promising with pheasant, quail and chukar numbers steady in the east, forest grouse holding the line in the west. However, duck populations and habitat conditions are not as promising.
Data gathered from wings and tails helps ODFW biologists look at population productivity and set seasons.
Legal shooting hours for game bird and Northwest Permit Goose during the 2021-22 hunting seasons – find them online.
Experienced hunters know to check for fire closures before their early season hunts. Make sure to carry water or fire extinguisher, as well as a shovel and axe/polaski while traveling in remote desert country. Bookmark this page – it has links to the most current fire closures and restrictions.
UPLAND BIRD OVERVIEW
This week several bird seasons open in Oregon, including rooster pheasant, chukar and gray (Hungarian) partridge, and California and mountain quail. Fall turkey opens in select eastern Oregon counties (see the map on page 18 of the Game Bird Regulations).
While production effort was generally down this year, hunters should find good carryover for most upland birds this fall.
Rooster pheasant are most abundant through the agricultural lands and margins of the Mid-Columbia, Columbia Basin and Malheur districts. The Grande Ronde Valley is also known to hold pheasants. After cropland harvest, pheasants will move to permanent cover, including emergent wetland edges, irrigation ditches, fence rows, and other thick and weedy habitat. Some National Wildlife Refuges have good pheasant hunting opportunities (see pages 41-42 in the Game Bird Regulations). Other access agreements such as the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area, Upland Cooperative Access Program, and Open Fields. A link to these resources and other helpful tips can be found here.
Chukar hunters should be able to find plenty of birds, even with a decline in production this year. Best bets include the open bluffs associated with the lower Deschutes River basin, the John Day River, the Malheur River and the Snake River. Chukar are widespread throughout Oregon’s high desert and are largely available on public BLM land. Gray (Hungarian) partridge remain rare as always, but can be found in agricultural margins of the Columbia Basin or lower elevation mixed sage in southeastern Oregon.
California quail are holding strong in eastern Oregon. Hunters will find these birds at lower elevations, nearly always associated with early successional (weedy and brushy) cover and near a permanent water source. Openings for dust bathing are also an important component of California quail habitat. Hunters in eastern Oregon may include 2 mountain quail as part of their overall 10-quail bag limit. Mountain quail can be found at higher elevations, typically on steep, brushy slopes associated with riparian areas. Hunters are asked to submit one wing from each mountain quail harvested to the nearest wing barrel or contact their nearest ODFW office for dropoff instructions.
Wild turkey populations remain strong through much of eastern Oregon. Hunters are reminded that only certain units are open to fall turkey hunting (see page 18 in the Game Bird Regulations). An eastern Oregon fall turkey tag is required. The season limit is 1 fall turkey in eastern Oregon. Additional harvest opportunity may be available through emergency hunts, particularly in Grant County. More information can be found here.
Forest grouse harvest usually peaks as big game hunters take to the field. Look for dusky (blue) grouse at high elevation ridge tops among mixed conifer forests. Ruffed grouse are more often found along riparian draws with good vegetative cover. The strongest reports for eastern Oregon forest grouse are coming from the northeastern corner of the state this year.
MIGRATORY BIRD OVERVIEW
October is the month when the regular waterfowl seasons kick off in Oregon. For regulatory purposes, eastern Oregon is divided into different zones for waterfowl hunting. The counties bordering the Columbia River are included within the Zone 1 duck season and the Mid-Columbia goose season. In these areas, the waterfowl season opens on Oct. 16, except that white geese and white-fronted geese may not be taken until Nov. 9. The balance of eastern Oregon counties is included within the Zone 2 duck season and the High Desert and Blue Mountains Zone Goose season. In these areas, the waterfowl season opens on Oct. 9.
Eastern Oregon waterfowl hunters should be prepared to encounter dry habitat conditions this year, as widespread drought in eastern Oregon has reduced the amount of wetland habitat on the landscape. This is especially true in southcentral and southeast Oregon. Many wetlands and marshes in this region are dry, though the popular Department’s popular Summer Lake Wildlife Area and Miller Island Unit of the Klamath Wildlife Area have good wetland conditions. In contrast, some areas are exceptionally dry and will provide reduced or no waterfowl hunting opportunity this season. These areas include:
- Warner Valley – All lakes and wetlands are nearly dry, including Hart, Crump, and Flagstaff Lakes.
- Goose Lake Valley – Goose Lake is dry.
- Harney Basin – Very dry, with Malheur Lake at a level which does not support waterfowl hunting, so the South Malheur Lake Hunt unit is closed. The Buena Vista Hunt until will have limited wetland habitat available.
- Klamath Basin – Very dry, with Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWRs just across the border in California, have very little to no wetland habitat. Upper Klamath Lake will provide some hunting opportunities, though the wetland units on the north end of the lake (Wood River Wetlands and the Barnes and Agency Lake units of Upper Klamath NWR) are essentially dry.
If you are unsure if your favorite hunting area has water, be sure to call ahead or make a scouting trip and be prepared to go to Plan B.
Waterfowl hunting in the Columbia Basin and along the Snake River will be less affected by the drought, as many of the birds in this area are associated with the large river systems.
The drought will also impact hunter success this season, as hunters should expect to see fewer locally produced mallards and gadwall in the bag. Additionally, the drought this year is also affecting much of the Canadian prairies, where significant portions of our wintering waterfowl originate. Similarly, hunters should expect a reduced fall flight from these areas. However, habitats further north in Alaska and northwest Canada fared better, and duck populations form these areas should be in good shape.
Goose populations are faring better, though local Canada goose production was down this year. However, arctic nesting geese fared better, and we expect a large flight of snow geese from Wrangel Island, Russia this year. Large number of these geese are now wintering in Morrow and Umatilla counties, with recent wintering counts exceeding 150,000. Hunters should note that the opening day for these geese is delayed this year, until Nov. 9, to allow for a new late season hunt in Feb.
Although the mourning dove season remains open in Zone 2, most mourning doves have already migrated to wintering areas and hunting for mourning doves is usually very slow during October. In Zone 1, the mourning dove season is closed during October, though it will open in mid-November for 30 days.
Eurasian collared doves: 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. Focus around agricultural areas 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.
COLUMBIA AREA (White River, Hood, West Biggs, and Maupin Units)
Mourning dove: The season is currently closed in Zone 1.
Forest grouse and mountain quail: Sooty (blue) grouse can be found in forested portions of the White River and Hood units. They seem to be more heavily concentrated in the Hood unit and in the western portion of the White River unit. Targeting breaks of major ridges is a good strategy for finding sooty grouse.
Ruffed grouse are found at lower elevations that sooty grouse. Targeting riparian areas in these units is usually your best bet. Additionally ruffed grouse can also be found near elderberry or other mast producing trees.
Mountain quail can be found but at low densities throughout these units associated with heavy cover and riparian areas. Areas that have burned or been recently clear-cut are good places to start your search.
Turkey: The Biggs WMU can offers limited public land turkey hunting options. Both the Deschutes and John Day river canyons have limited amounts of turkey. Check side canyons that have oaks or other large trees that can serve as roosting areas.
Chukar, hun, pheasant: The chukar hatch in the Deschutes and John Day river canyons was a little above average in 2021 and there was good hold over form the excellent hatch in 2020. This should give hunters a similar number of birds on the landscape this season as they saw in 2020. In early season finding water sources will be key to getting into birds. Both canyons offer BLM and state lands to hunt, but be sure to know boundaries. Pheasant and Hungarian partridge numbers were average compared to previous years. Heavy cover between agricultural fields and places with a water source are good places to look. These birds are typically found more on private property in this district so be sure to ask permission before accessing private land. ODFW’s Upland Cooperative Access Program offers several hunt by permission properties within the district. Call The Dalles field office for a map of these properties (541) 296-4628.
Waterfowl: In this district waterfowl hunting opportunities are primarily found on along the Columbia River. Biologists have noticed more waterfowl concentrating along the river earlier than in previous years so there should be opportunity for good early season shooting. If you do hunt the Columbia, be sure to know legal access points and avoid trespassing across railroads or other private property.
Fall turkey: There is NO FALL TURKEY HUNT in the White River unit. The White River Wildlife Management Unit is CLOSED to fall turkey hunting, to allow population numbers to recover and provide more opportunity during the popular spring season. (White River WMU is the most popular destination to spring turkey hunt in Oregon.)
Current road and weather conditions: The roads on the wildlife area are still dry and dusty. Most of the roads are seasonal and travel is allowed only on open roads designated by the green dot. Look for maps with road information at entrances to the wildlife area or click here WRWA Map. The weather forecast is cool with high temperatures in the low 60s and low temperatures in the 30s and 40s with a few scattered showers.
Reminder: Display your required parking permit when visiting the wildlife area. Camping in the wildlife area is only allowed in designated camping areas. Please pack out your trash. Campfires are allowed only in designated campsites. Only street legal vehicles are allowed in the wildlife area, no ATVs or snowmobiles.
Please continue to follow the state guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic. More COVID19 information can be found at the entrances to the wildlife area.
SOUTH CENTRAL AREA
Quail (mountain and California): Season opens on Oct. 9 for Klamath County even though season opened on Sept. 1 in western Oregon. Daily bag limit is 10 Quail/day of which only 2 can be mountain Quail in eastern Oregon. The Keno Unit is only unit with substantial mountain quail abundance. California quail are distributed throughout the county, typically at lower elevations with a good shrub component.
Mourning dove: Season opens Sept. 1 and continues through Oct. 30. Best prospects are near agricultural areas and water, though most mourning doves have migrated to wintering areas by now.
Forest grouse: Season opens Sept. 1 and continues through Jan. 31. Best prospects are in the Cascade Mountains for both blue and ruffed grouse, although there are fair numbers of blue grouse in forested habitat in eastern Klamath County. Hunters are asked to provide a wing and tail from each grouse harvested and drop them off at the Klamath District Office on Miller Island Road. A self-service collection barrel with bags is located at the front door of the office.
Miller Island Unit:
- The Miller Island Unit is located 6 miles south and west of Klamath Falls. Miller Island Unit is closed to all access from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m.
- Discharging firearms is prohibited except during authorized game bird hunting seasons or by special permit.
- Oct. 1 – Dec. 31: Open to public use Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
- Open to game bird hunting Oct. 9 and 10 and every following Monday, Wednesday and Saturday during authorized game bird seasons.
- All other days are closed to all entry, except public roads, parking areas, boat ramp, designated birding trail and designated dog training area.
- Upland game bird shooting hours begin at 10 a.m.
- Oct. 23, all of Miller Island Unit is open to youth hunters only on a first-come basis
- Overnight camping is not allowed on the Miller Island Unit.
Although duck production in the region was poor this summer, duck hunting should be good at Miller Island this season as habitat conditions on the Wildlife Area are good, with many area wetlands flooded. However, conditions in other areas of the Klamath Basin are dry and this should concentrate migrant waterfowl in the areas with available habitat, such as Miller Island. Hunters are reminded that waterfowl hunting on opening day is by advanced controlled hunt permit, and the drawing as already occurred. After opening weekend, the wildlife area follows the Monday, Wednesday, Saturday schedule.
Gorr Island Unit:
Gorr Island is located four miles south of the Miller Island Unit in the Klamath River, accessible only by boat. Gorr Island is open daily with no permit required during authorized seasons.
Shoalwater Bay Unit and Sesti Tgawaals Unit:
Shoalwater Bay and Sesti Tgawaals are both located on the west side of Upper Klamath Lake approximately 10 miles to the north and west of Klamath Falls. Shoalwater Bay and Sesti Tgawaals Units are both open for hunting daily with no permit required during authorized seasons.
Weekly and summarized harvest statistics for the Miller Island Unit can be found at Hunting Statistics
If you have any questions, please contact Klamath Wildlife Area at (541) 883-5732.
ocus around agricultural areas and forest openings where food sources are abundant. Hunters are reminded to ask permission to hunt private lands. Identify this species and its habitat.
Please remember to make sure youth hunters meet all the requirements listed on page 26 of the 2021–22 Oregon Game Bird Regulations. Summer Lake no longer has a point-of-sale license agent and cellular service for electronic licensing is sometimes spotty.
All hunters will need to obtain and have a daily hunting permit in their possession while in the field. Free daily hunting permits will be available by self-serve. Check out is mandatory and can be accomplished by filling out and dropping the “B” portion of the permit off in check-out boxes found at major access areas.
Traditional areas are open and posted refuges are closed to all hunting. Please be aware that North part of Bullgate Refuge will once again be closed to all hunting. River Ranch, Windbreak and Gold Dike hunt areas are now filling. We are estimating that 60 percent of these areas will have water by the opening of waterfowl season. All other areas have excellent water and habitat conditions.
Maps are available in the Headquarters lobby area or online.
Non-toxic shot is required for all game bird hunting and posted refuges are closed to hunting. Please see gamebird regulations page 38 for detailed wildlife are regulations.
The weekly waterfowl survey on Oct. 6 found about 60,000 ducks and 9,000 snow geese on the area.
Summer Lake Wildlife Area harvest statistics and weekly bird counts can be found on the MyODFW website.
Please contact Summer Lake Wildlife Area at (541) 943-3152 for additional information.
Upland game bird season opens on Oct. 9. Chukar populations have recovered since the harsh winter of 2017 and have increased slightly since last year. Chukar hunting is expected to be good in both the northern and southern portions of the county. Quail are typically scarce on public lands in Harney County, however surveys on public lands suggested good quail production. Pheasant hunting opportunities are limited in Harney County and occur primarily on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Upland bird seasons on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge now follow state season dates and open on Oct. 9. Check out the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge website for pheasant and qual hunt areas open to the public.
Waterfowl season opens Oct. 9 as well. Due to extreme drought conditions waterfowl hunting in Harney County will be extremely limited this year. Both the North and South Malheur Lake Hunt Zones on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will be closed to waterfowl hunting due to low lake levels; however the Buena Vista Hunt Zone will be open, starting Oct. 9 this year. Check out the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge website for detailed maps.
The best waterfowl opportunity in the County will be for Canada geese on private lands, hunters are remined to get permission from the landowner before hunting private lands.
Mourning dove season opens Sept. 1 and continues through Oct. 30, though most mourning doves have now migrated to wintering areas.
Blue and ruffed grouse season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Jan. 31. Forest grouse can be found in the northern end of the County near the Malheur National Forest. Early in the season look for blue grouse along ridge tops in brushy areas near forested edges. Ruffed grouse prefer dense riparian habitats or aspen stands.
No recent report.
Mourning dove season opens Sept. 1 and continues through Oct. 30. Good numbers of doves can be found throughout the district in areas adjacent to intensive farmed ground. Remember to get permission to hunt private lands.
Blue and ruffed grouse season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2020. Most grouse hunting occurs on the Malheur National Forest portions of the district.
No recent report.
No recent report.
Columbia Basin Wildlife Areas (Willow Cr, Coyote Springs, Irrigon, Power City)
Water is starting to rise at Irrigon Wildlife Area and ducks are beginning to use the ponds. Quail and pheasant open on Oct. 9 and Duck season opens Oct. 16. Please review the Regulations for shot and weapon restrictions.
Ladd Marsh is open Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays Aug. 1 through Jan. 31.
Waterfowl: WATER… It’s drastically different than last year. We have major portions of the wildlife area that are completely dry! We are just starting to get a little bit of irrigation water moving our way but it will take a long time to charge the ground before we have anything resembling a marsh. Give us a call for updated water reports and directions to the few places still holding water.
Upland: Upland birds enjoyed the dry summer and actually had a great year of production. We are seeing large broods and an array of bird sizes around the area. Some are coloring up nicely but others are still very hard to distinguish. We are very hopeful for a banner year of pheasant hunting on Ladd Marsh this year!
Please call the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area with any questions 541-963-4954.
Mourning dove: Season opened on Sept. 1 and continues through Oct. 30.
Blue and ruffed grouse: Blue grouse numbers are similar to last year but down overall, so hunters can expect to search a little harder to find birds. Look to high ridges and dense timber. Ruffed grouse numbers are up since last year, but with drought conditions through the summer, hunting is expected to be fair to good, concentrated in riparian areas. A good dog will be an asset for ruffed grouse in thick cover.
Chukar: Chukar numbers are doing well, with brood surveys up compared to last year. Hunters should expect to do well chasing chukars.
Pheasant, quail, and partridge: Most hunting will occur on private land. Be sure to get permission before entering any private lands.
Turkey: Turkey populations are still doing well with a good number of birds and successful broods, similar to last season. Turkey can be found throughout the county except in high elevations. Some patience on the stand while calling will help to produce birds.
Waterfowl: Duck season in the county gets better as the season progresses. As temperatures cool and the north-country gets weather, more ducks and geese will move into the area.