As the fall hunting season gets under way the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has released their assessment of animal availability for the Northeast corner of the state.
Hunters should expect an average to below average year.
Walla Walla Unit: Scattered hunting opportunity with mule deer populations showing buck ratios somewhat below the management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does. Spring fawn ratios were slightly below average which will affect the number of young bucks in the population. Deer should be widely distributed throughout all elevations in the forest. Many hunters choose to hunt white-tailed deer in this unit with good success expected. White-tailed deer will be located in heavier cover in the low and mid-elevation foothills.
West Mt. Emily Unit: Deer numbers have been increasing and mule deer buck ratios are at management objective levels. Fawn ratios during the spring were better than average and should provide a surplus of young bucks in the harvest. White-tailed deer are also quite numerous throughout the mid-elevation areas in this hunt area. Hunters should always ask first when hunting on private lands.
Ukiah Unit: Buck ratios are near the management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does. This should result in some opportunity at taking a mature buck. There was a fair spring fawn ratio. Forest conditions are dry and deer will be concentrated in moist areas. The Tower fire area is expected to have higher deer numbers and hunter success this year.
Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Imnaha, Snake River units: Mule deer populations remain below management objectives in all units. Post season buck ratios are at or above management objectives in all but the Snake River and fawn survival was improved over last year. Hunters can expect to see more yearling bucks due to higher fawn recruitment.
Minam Units - Mule deer populations remain below the management objective as a result of reduced fawn recruitment. Post season buck ratios are below management objectives but hunter success is expected to be fair.
Heppner and Fossil units - Mule deer numbers continue to decline and populations are slightly below management objectives. The recorded spring fawn to adult ratios for last spring were the lowest on record and will lead to fewer yearling animals available for harvest this fall. Tag numbers for both buck and antlerless hunts have been reduced. Deer will be widely scattered throughout these units and may be found at all elevations during the fall hunting seasons. Continued dry conditions are predicted and may make hunting difficult.
Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily Units - Deer populations in the Starkey and East Mt. Emily units are above average. However, deer numbers in the Catherine Creek Unit were only about 40 percent of ODFW's management objective. Fair numbers of yearling bucks combined with post-season buck ratios of 16 for the Starkey and 27 for Catherine Creek Units should provide good opportunities for buck tag holders. The East Mt. Emily unit had 17 bucks per 100 does. The management objective is 15 per 100 does for these units. The long, dry summer should result in deer using cooler, wetter forested areas where forage quality is best. If September rains occur, deer will be found using any regrowth that results.
Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt. and Sumpter Units - Deer populations have leveled out and fawn survival for the district remains relatively low due to last summer's drought and the subsequent fairly bad winter. All units in the district are near or above the post-season management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does, however, the lower fawn survival will mean fewer tags in the Sumpter, Keating and Lookout Mountain units to maintain buck ratios. Expect to see fewer yearling bucks this fall. Below normal rainfall this spring caused drought conditions. Deer should be concentrated near wetter areas around agriculture or at high elevations.
Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, NW Beulah units - Fawn recruitment and the buck to doe ratio remained stable in the Murderers Creek Unit, however, the buck to doe ratio of 11 remains below the management objective of 15. Hunters should expect to see fewer yearling bucks this fall. Northside Unit deer are stable to increasing, with adequate fawn recruitment and a four year high buck to doe ratio of 17 bucks per 100 does. The management objective is 15. Dry summer weather has contributed to distribution of deer throughout all elevations in the Murderers Creek and Northside units. The Desolation Unit fawn recruitment is down from last year's 5 year high, but hunters will find many yearling and mature bucks. Hunters should expect harvest success to be very similar to the past 5 years in the Desolation Unit. Forage conditions are excellent in the higher elevations of the Desolation Unit. Deer numbers in Northwest Beulah Unit are stable to slightly increasing. Deer are found throughout the forested part of the unit, but occur at lower densities than the sagebrush deer. Hunters should be aware of several National Forest area closures in the Murderers Creek and NW Beulah units.
Hunters should expect an average year.
Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily Units - Low calf numbers last year resulted in elk densities being slightly below management goals for this year. The elk population in the Catherine Creek Unit is about 84 percent of management objective level. After several years of spike only regulations, the post season bull ratio for the Starkey Unit was 7 per 100 cows. Catherine Creek Unit post season bull ratio was 10 bulls per 100 cows observed. Survival of calves was poor for the second year at 22 and 29 per 100 cows for the Starkey and Catherine Creek Units respectively. This will result in fewer yearling bulls (spikes) for hunters this full. In the east portion of the Mt. Emily Unit, elk numbers remain low. With the hot, dry summer, elk may be concentrating on areas of quality forage. Depending on fall weather conditions, hunters should have a fair opportunity to harvest an elk in Union County.
Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, NW Beulah - Calf recruitment was down, but bull ratios are at or slightly above management objective for all three units. There are many bulls in all units with good representation of all age classes. Elk density is high in all three units. Northwest Beulah remains a quality elk hunt with elk numbers similar to the past three years. Hunters should be aware of National Forest area closures in the Murderers Creek and Northwest Beulah units.
Mt. Emily - A small jump in the calf ratio should offer more spike bulls in the population this fall. For branch bull hunters, bull age distribution continues to be good with a large percentage of bulls in the population being of the older age class.
Ukiah Unit - Good calf ratios and similar bull ratios to last year should offer improved opportunity this year. Hunter success is expected to be good throughout the forested areas. Elk have been recolonizing the southern part of the unit which they left after the Tower Fire in 1996. The dry summer weather will also concentrate elk through the fall if the dry weather pattern persists.
Walla Walla Unit - An increase in calf ratio will cause a jump in the total number of spike bulls for hunters in the unit. Hunter density is expected to be low through most seasons and success will be somewhat better than in the recent past.
Heppner and Fossil units - Elk in these units continue to be above management objectives. Another year of slightly lower calf ratios was recorded for both units, resulting in fewer spike bulls available for harvest this fall. Bull ratios remain near management objective levels and will provide for fair hunting opportunity this fall. The best hunting opportunities will be in the higher elevations early in the seasons and low open areas as the fall progresses, depending on the extent of the fall greenup.
Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt. and Sumpter Units - Elk numbers are similar to recent years. Because of the large areas of private land in the Lookout Mountain and South Sumpter areas, all elk hunts are limited entry and hunts are designed to reduce elk populations. First season hunts are limited entry with an any-bull bag limit. Other hunts will be general season spike-only in the second season. With post-season bull ratios in all units near or above the management objective of 10 bulls per 100 cows, success is expected to be good. Bull tags have been reduced slightly in the North Sumpter unit as the population has been reduced to meet management objectives. Cow tags are down slightly in the Lookout Mountain unit and Elkhorn. Below normal precipitation since this spring has caused drought conditions in some areas. Elk may be concentrated near wetter areas at high elevations, or near irrigated alfalfa at lower elevations. Hunters should have permission to hunt on private lands.
Wenaha, Imnaha, Minam, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus and Snake River Units - District-wide, elk populations are below management objectives as a result of low calf recruitment. Hunter success is expected to be low in the Wenaha and Snake River units, with few spikes available to harvest. Success should be fair in the rest of the units. Pack stock is recommended for the Snake River unit and for roadless areas in other units.
Northeast Bear & Cougar
Hunters should expect an above average year.
Bear and cougar hunters throughout the Blue Mountains have expanded opportunity through many of the other deer and elk seasons. The majority of opportunities will be in similar habitats with deer and elk. Look for foraging bears in areas of berry producing plants during the early morning or in north slope areas of drainages.
Bear numbers are good in the Sumpter, Pine Creek and Keating units. The Lookout Mountain Unit has fair numbers along the Snake River.
Bear hunters in the Starkey Unit and east portions of the Mt. Emily Unit should have excellent opportunities to harvest a bear. Numbers appear good and hunters should try areas with fruit crops such as huckleberry patches, hawthorne and elderberry shrubs or old orchards. Wild fruit crops appear plentiful this year.
The best opportunities to harvest a cougar in Union County will be in the Catherine Creek, Wenaha and eastern portions of the Mt. Emily and Starkey Units. Reported sightings of cougars continue to increase.
Cougars are plentiful in the northern part of the district in the Walla Walla and Mt. Emily units. Cougar numbers have been on the increase in the Ukiah Unit and should offer increased opportunity from previous seasons. Most hunters who take cougars will do so incidentally during deer and elk seasons. However, hunters can also find success waiting at kills that cougars have made or by using tree stands in areas of high cougar use. Hunters should remember to buy their cougar tags before the tag sale deadline of September 27, 2002. Bears will be most plentiful in the northern part of the district in the Walla Walla and Mt. Emily units. They will be spending most of their time in forested top areas eating berries or along riparian zones consuming spawned out fish or eating service berries or elderberries. Hunters should remember to send in teeth on all bears and reproductive tracts of female bears upon harvest.