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Oregon Spring Bear Hunting Forecast

April 1, 2008.

From the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The controlled spring bear season opens April 1 in parts of western Oregon and the west Blue Mountains, but wait until later in the season for the best hunting say wildlife biologists.

This year’s heavier snow pack means bears are likely to get active later in the season. “We usually see bears out foraging in mid-March, but not this year,” remarked Bill Kinyoun, assistant district wildlife biologist in Charleston. Snow will also make access to higher elevations difficult.

Once it does warm up, expect good hunting because Oregon’s black bear population continues to thrive.  Remember the deadline to purchase your tag is the day before your hunt begins, or March 31 for western Oregon hunts and the W. Blue Mountains hunt and April 14 for all other spring bear hunts. 

Hunting tips for spring bear hunters:

  • Look for open areas where bears will be moving through or foraging, including clear-cuts, meadows and open slopes that have cleared of snow.
  • Earlier in the season, focus on south-facing slopes with rapid spring growth and open canyon slopes, where bears can be seen feeding on grass and digging roots.
  • Predator calls are recommended later in the season when elk begin calving. Use calls near open meadows in forested areas.  
  • Find good vantage points and utilize optics to locate bears; early morning and late afternoon to evening are the best time to glass.
  • Know your target—remember it is unlawful to take cubs less than one year old or sows with cubs less than one year old.
  • See below for more information on conditions and locations to hunt. Information on the remaining eastside hunts will be made available closer to their April 15 opener.

Mandatory check-in of bears

New for this year, successful hunters will be required to check in their bears at ODFW offices within 10 days of harvest. See the link below to find out how the check in process works

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/big_game/Bear/faq.asp

The change is due to consistent low participation in the voluntary check-in program. The teeth are a critical part of the method used to determine bear populations. That method works like this: Tetracycline-laced baits are placed in the wild for bears to eat (tetracycline is an antibiotic that leaves a permanent stain on teeth that is visible under UV light). Population estimates are calculated from the ratio of marked to unmarked teeth obtained from harvested bears. 

ODFW also asks any hunter that takes a female bear to collect and turn in its reproductive tract for use in bear research.

Northwest Region Hunts

Wilson-Trask units (Hunt 712A, April 1 – May 31, weapon restrictions in the Cascade Head area of Trask)

Green-up is occurring later than usual, the higher elevations of the coast range still have snow, and the district has not received reports of bears out and about yet. Hunting could be good, but later in the season says Tillamook District Wildlife Biologist Herman Biederbeck. “Don’t be in a hurry to get out there April 1, especially in the higher elevations,” advises Biederbeck. Last year’s success rate for this hunt was 6 percent, with 270 hunters taking 16 bears.

Locations: Hunters can utilize state and federal lands in the units, including the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests and Siuslaw National Forest. Private forest and agriculture lands dominate the eastern side of the Trask unit; access is by permission only.  Due to the heavy snow this winter, there are road systems that have not been maintained since the fall of 2007. Bear hunters will find most mainline roads open for travel but secondary roads may still have downed trees, washouts or debris slides that could restrict travel. 

N. Cascades (Hunt 716A, April 1 – May 31, Santiam and McKenzie units excluding portions of Marion and Linn counties outside the Willamette National Forest)

Expect better hunting later in the season (late April/early May) due to the snow pack, which will make early season access to mid and upper elevations difficult. Watch weather forecasts to help predict snowmelt; warmer weather will be key for vegetation growth and increased bear activity. If you want to get out early, start along riparian corridors at lower elevations. Last year, success rate for this hunt was 4 percent, with 235 hunters taking 10 bears.

Locations: Hunters should find plenty of opportunity on the Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forests. Remember that the Marion and Linn County portions of the Santiam and McKenzie Units are open only on the Willamette National Forest; private and BLM lands within these two counties are not included in the hunt boundary. 

Alsea-Stott Mt.(Hunt 717A, April 1 – May 31, weapon restrictions in part of Stott Mt)

ODFW’s Newport office has already received reports of bear sightings; some bears in this area are out and about early. There is snow in the higher elevations and these areas will be slow to green up. Bears preferred food sources in the early spring are skunk cabbage and other riparian plants. Riparian corridors are often productive for hunters.

Location: Access is fair on mainline forest roads. In particular, Siuslaw National Forest lands on the central coast south of Waldport have well-maintained roads, making them good places to hunt. Last year, success rate was 14 percent, with 148 hunters taking 20 bears.

Southwest Region Hunts

SW Oregon (Hunt 722A, April 1 – May 31, 11 WMUs that comprise the entire Southwest Region. Remember lands within one mile of the Rogue River between Grave and Lobster creeks are closed.)

The bear hunting season always tends to get underway slowly, and this year even more so due to heavy snow pack. “We did our elk surveys in mid-March and we typically see bears out foraging, but not this year, and no damage complaints yet either,” said Assistant District Wildlife Biologist Bill Kinyoun based in Charleston. “Often times when we have snow pack in the mountains like we have now, there is little if any activity at the beginning of the season,” added District Wildlife Biologist Clayton Barber from Gold Beach. Hunting should be good when weather improves and snow melts. Bear numbers in the entire region have been stable for many years. In general, bear density is greatest closer to the coast. Good spots to check are skid roads and side roads that are un-traveled with lots of grassy margins and bear sign. The Biscuit fire area around the Kalmiopisis Wilderness Area in the Chetco unit continues to offer better visibility than other areas. Last year’s success rate in SW Oregon was 14 percent, with 1,891 hunters harvesting 256 bears.

Locations: There is lots of public land in the SW Oregon hunt, including national forest land (Siuslaw, Rogue-Siskiyou, Umpqua), BLM land and state land like Elliot State Forest. Hunters can also try calling private timberland companies as some offer access. Hunters can access public land and some private timberland through the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area (JACTMA). JACTMA restricts use of certain roads through April 30; for a map contact an ODFW office.

Northeast Region Hunts

W. Blue Mountains (Hunt 749A, April 1 – May 31, includes 4 WMUs Fossil, Heppner, Ukiah, Mt. Emily)

This area’s bears tend to get active later in April. Bear density is highest in the northern portion (north of Interstate 84) and lower as one goes south and west in the hunt area.  Bear activity early in the season is concentrated along the lower elevation fringes of national forest land. Bears follow the green-up elevation band; concentrate on timbered slopes with small openings with lush green moss, sedge, or grassy areas.  Last year, the success rate was 20 percent, the highest of all spring bear hunts, with 138 hunters taking 28 bears.

Locations: The hunt boundary contains a large amount of public land including the Umatilla National Forest.

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