Wallowa County Outdoors: Black bears move to valleys, canyons as fruit ripens

This visitor showed up the other day at the home of Jerry and Luby Uterhardt, who live six miles downriver from Imnaha. The bear cub roosted in a tree in their yard for several hours, even taking a nap after entertaining several spectators. The next morning, the cub was at Uterhardt's front door waiting for breakfast, and they had to chase him away to go find his own meal. Photo by Marge Siedelman

Labor Day weekend's hot, dry weather wasn't the ideal condition that hunters and anglers dream about, but there was some hunting success and fishing continued at a good late-summer pace.

Archery hunters were likely the least impressed with the weekend's weather conditions. Daily temperatures in the 80s and 90s and no precipitation made deer and elk difficult to locate. Elk certainly confined their activities to the coolest portion of the day between late evening and early morning and deer seem to be following a similar pattern, perhaps with a preference for the evening hours.

Black bears are following their typical activity pattern and moving into the valleys and canyons where an assortment of fruits are ripening. The bears may not be greatly more visible for hunters, because they conduct most of their foraging at night during hot weather, but indications of their presence are readily found.

A conspicuous benefit of this summer's hot weather and minimal frosty nights is the bumper crop of fruits in the forests and canyons, which will translate into healthy wildlife populations. Quail often raise three broods of chicks, but this season blue grouse seem to have two broods and chukars have at least two broods, thanks to ideal weather conditions giving them good survival and nutrition.

Grouse hunters can assist Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists monitor and evaluate local grouse populations by depositing a wing and tail feathers from each bird harvested in the collection barrels that are located around Wallowa County. Biologists ask that the specimens be places in a paper bag, not plastic, so they will dry out and not rot. Include date and location information with the specimens.

Seven collection barrels are located in Wallowa County. Specimens can be left at the ODFW office in Enterprise, at the junction of the Imnaha Highway and F.S. Road 39, at the junction of the Lewiston Highway and F.S. Road 46, at the Chico Barrel at the junction of F.S. Road 46 and Crow Creek Road, at the junction of Promise and Grossman roads, at the junction of Smith Mtn. and Bramlet roads and at the Hay Station at Minam.

Dove hunters should continue to find good numbers of birds in the Wallowa Valley while hot weather prevails.

Waterfowl hunters should note that canvasback and pintail duck hunting restrictions were eased for this season. Hunters may now include one canvasback and one pintail duck in their daily bag limit of seven ducks during a designated 60-day season.

Oregon regulation now allow the use of battery and self-powered decoys. "The new rules prohibit the use of spinning or flapping wing "robo ducks" and "wiggling" decoys for waterfowl hunting," announces the ODFW news release.


Stream levels have returned to the low summertime conditions of two weeks ago, following last week's spate. The brief flush of water encouraged bass back to the Snake River and coaxed a few steelhead upstream from the Snake River, but the bass were on their way anyway and the runoff lacks the conviction necessary to bring many steelhead upstream.

Trout fishing this week shows the expected improvement of early September. Cooler water, in spite of blazing days, is reviving the trout fishing in northeast Oregon streams. Early this week the afternoon temperature reached 108 at Boggan's Oasis along the Grande Ronde River. Although flows remain at summer lows, the cooler temperatures are enough to get trout interested in the hatching mayflies and caddis flies. October caddis will soon join the fall parade of emerging insects. Great numbers of the larvae are cemented to the undersides of submerged rocks and will begin emerging when water temperatures cool enough.

Recent water temperatures show the Wallowa River ranges from the mid 50s to the mid 60s, while the Grande Ronde River is holding in the 60s and 70s throughout the day.

The Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers are finally producing some respectable trout in areas that a couple weeks ago seems to only hold eight inch and smaller fish.

The Imnaha River shows the same results, but with an even more dramatic change from lots of six-inch fish to some trout measuring a foot and larger.

Wallowa Lake shows little change from the past few weeks - everyone is catching fish. The largest fish seen by Gina Barstad at Wallowa Lake Marina during the week was a 19-inch rainbow, but she says there were also several kokanee that were almost as large. She notes that the kokanee that were caught were red or beginning to turn red as they school up at the mouth of the Wallowa River which they will enter for spawning during the next month.

Note that the Wallowa River from Wallowa Lake upstream to the falls is now closed to angling to protect the spawning kokanee.

Barstad says the water level in the lake is stable and boaters should have no difficulty using boat ramps.

Wallowa Lake Marina closes Sept. 15.

No-limits fishing is available at Thief Valley Reservoir through Sept. 30. This temporary rule change follows a decision by the managing irrigation district to drain the reservoir this fall, stranding trout that were stocked in there this summer.

ODFW opened the reservoir last month to angling for all game species using hand, dip net or angling with no daily catch or possession limits.


ODFW has rescinded administrative rules that limit the possession of firearms during particular hunting seasons. Remaining in effect, however, are existing rules governing the type of weapon that may be used to hunt big game, game birds and furbearers.

The news release says, "As a result of the action, for example, bow hunters may choose to carry a firearm while deer or elk hunting. However, a firearm cannot be used to hunt deer or elk during the bow season."

Oregon Revised Statutes allow the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to regulate the manner in which wildlife can be taken by hunting and trapping.

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