IT'S TURKEY TIME!!
We are into the spring turkey season here in Oregon. This is the first major hunting season of the year in the state. Due to our HUGE numbers of turkeys in the state, participation in turkey hunting is rapidly growing. Of course here in Southwestern Oregon we are the epicenter of turkey hunting in Oregon with by far the highest numbers of them. Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine Counties likely have as many turkeys in them as the rest of the state combined. Turkeys just flourish here! They are the leading source of wildlife damage complaints to ODF&W.
Southwest Oregon continues to be the leading place to find turkeys. The Rogue Unit took the honor again for highest turkey harvest in 2017. The Melrose Unit followed in second place, although the lack of public land in the Melrose Unit can make hunting difficult (just 16 percent of Melrose is public land and some private land is tied up by leases). ODFW is working to increase accessible turkey hunting throughout Oregon. This winter, about 550 nuisance turkeys from private land were relocated to public lands or publicly accessible areas.
Those who want to hunt Southwest Oregon may have an easier time accessing land in the Rogue Unit, which is 57 percent public lands, or another leading unit like Applegate or Evans Creek. While a lot of turkey harvest in the Rogue is on private land, there is good turkey habitat in the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area and some US Forest Service land. See the Jackson County report below for more information. A quick not here about private lands. Many turkey hunters are taking to using archery gear to take turkeys. This is a legal method of harvest in Oregon. If you want to hunt turkeys on private land in this area, getting permission to hunt from land owners is going to be a LOT easier for those who are archery hunting them. Most land owners do not want conflicts with neighbors that booming shotguns can bring. But, archery hunters have no such issues. Another great reason to consider hunting with them with archery equipment.
ALWAYS be considerate of private property. If you do not have permission to be on it....then NEVER enter it! You may or may not see "No Trespassing" signs. But, sign or no sign, trespass laws always apply. If you do not have permission you can be charged criminally. And most land owners now have cameras out. You are not going to be very likely to be able to sneak in and sneak out You are far more likely to have video or pictures taken of you. And then, you get a visit from law enforcement.
Tags and regulations
All you need to spring turkey hunt is camo, a call, and a shotgun or bow. A hen or jake decoy can also improve your odds...especially for archery hunting. You can hunt for six weeks (April 15-May 31) anywhere in the state.
Spring turkey hunting is general season, and anyone can purchase a tag any time before going hunting. Turkey tags are $25.50 for residents, $10.50 for youth hunters (age 17 and under). Hunting licenses are $33.50 for residents.
The daily bag limit is one male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard (so hens with beards may be lawfully taken). The season limit is three legal turkeys; hunters must purchase a tag for each turkey. See page 19 of the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for more information. I keep lobbying for ODF&W to increast this to 8 turkeys for the spring season in Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine Counties. We certainly have more then enough of them to support this.
Finally, don’t forget to report results for each tag you purchased no later than Jan. 31, 2019. Report online or by phone (1-866-947-6339), even if you didn’t take a turkey or didn’t go hunting. Hunters need to know their hunter/angler ID number, hunting location (wildlife management unit), and days spent hunting to complete the report. Spring turkey hunters that report by Jan. 31, 2019 could win a special 2019 big game tag of their choice (deer, elk or pronghorn).
The sight and sound of a turkey’s mating display is enough to quicken the pulse of even the most experienced hunter—and makes calling in a spring tom as exciting as calling in a bull elk.
While turkeys are notoriously difficult to sneak up on due to their excellent eyesight, the urge to mate makes wary toms (males) a little less cautious when they hear the call of a hen in the spring.
The fairer sex in the turkey world, toms use their iridescent red, green, copper, bronze and gold feathers to their advantage when trying to attract a mate—fanning their tails and strutting out in the open to show off. Adding to the spectacle, their brightly colored heads can alternate between red, white and blue, often changing color in just a few seconds.
In general, turkeys will be moving higher in elevation in the spring, following the snow line. They do not favor areas with a lot of underbrush for mating displays, so look for openings in the forest (meadows, old roads, power line clearings, etc.). Don’t forget to visit recent burns or clear cuts when doing your pre-season scouting. Wild turkeys will vocalize most in the morning and evening, so go early and stay late to figure out where the birds are spending their time.
Toms can become harder to hunt and less vocal later in the hunting season as the mating season falls off the peak. A realistic jake or hen decoy which will draw the bird’s attention away from you and put him right where you want him.
The National Wild Turkey Federation’s website collects their best tips and tactics. Highlights:
Equipment needs: You need a shotgun no larger than 10 gauge or smaller than 20 gauge, camouflage clothing (because turkeys have excellent eyesight) and a turkey call to get started. Shot size must be no larger than No. 2 but there are no longer minimum shot size restrictions. Sizes 4, 5 and 6 tend to be best for turkey. Bows are also legal weapons for turkey hunting. A hen or jake decoy can help improve your odds.
Safety: Never wear red, white, blue or black when turkey hunting. You could be mistaken for a turkey. Use caution when calling turkeys where other hunters may be present—and realize that the calling you hear may be other hunters.
Where to find them?
This year’s turkey numbers remain strong, and hunting is expected to be above average. Turkeys will be feeding on green grasses and insects. Use locator calls before light or after dark to locate roosting trees; then set up in an area of their travel and begin calling as light approaches.
Turkey flocks continue to be found in a wide variety of places in Jackson County. While most turkeys will be found on private lands, plenty of public lands have turkey, including grassy/oak savannas on BLM lands and lower elevation timber/meadow lands of the Rogue National Forest. The best areas in the Rogue Unit to hunt would be all the roads along the Butte Fall-Prospect Hwy between Butte Falls and Prospect. Other spots are found in areas within the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area map.
Turkey numbers in Josephine County remain very strong. Hunting is expected to be good to above average. Turkeys can be tough to hunt in the county as most are found on private property. Don’t be afraid to ask landowners to hunt on their property; turkeys can be a problem for many landowners that grow crops and they may be willing to allow hunters to come and hunt turkeys to reduce damage. Most turkeys are found along the Applegate River and Evans Creek drainages, but turkeys can also be found on most BLM lands. Try areas off of Galice road.
The winter of 2017-18 was much milder that 2016-17. Survival for turkey populations in Coos County through the winter months appears to have been very high. If one considers conditions over the past four years, they have been conducive to good survival for turkeys resulting in increasing overall abundance. This has resulted in turkey populations expanding into new areas.
For the most part turkeys can, now, be found near all agricultural lands in the county. Hunters who are willing to knock on doors and ask for permission to hunt on private agriculture lands generally see fairly high success. Habitat on public lands managed for timber or private timber lands is generally less attractive for turkeys, unless those lands are adjacent to private agricultural lands. Scouting for turkeys before the hunt in key to finding them especially if hunting public land or private timber lands.
The turkey population has been low for several years. Reproduction along the coast is often slower than inland areas; survival is harder with the rains that occur here. Hunters will need to have scouted early to find turkey flocks and obtained permission to hunt on private property. Look in areas where oaks and grassy prairies and taller timber for roost sights are found.
Douglas County continues to have a strong turkey population due to an abundance of oak-savannah and oak woodland habitat in the low-mid elevation Umpqua Valley. ODFW has also supplemented prime habitat within the Umpqua National Forest with turkeys over the last several years. There is public hunting opportunity on the Umpqua National Forest, especially in the South Umpqua. Turkeys can be found in mixed oak woodlands in the Jackson Creek drainage and national forest lands along the highway south of Tiller. There are a few Roseburg BLM lands adjacent to private lands, like N. Bank Habitat Area, offering excellent opportunities for hunting in low elevation oak savannah habitat which is great for turkey.
If you are looking for a private lands hunt, asking for permission later in the season, after landowner’s friends, family and guides have hunted, sometimes gets results. It can be hard for a regular hunter to gain access on some private property on the valley floor because some landowners work with guides that have clients that hunt exclusively on their property.
This past winter, about 200 birds in Douglas County causing nuisance or damage were relocated to public lands within the county and in Lake County.
In Lake County, turkey numbers are low. However, the last couple of years the population has been supplemented with nuisance turkeys relocated from private lands to Fremont National Forest lands. Turkeys are restricted to the southern portion of the county on or near national forestland along the west side of the Goose Lake Valley in the Interstate Unit. Turkeys are expected to have had good over-winter survival due to the mild winter.
For Klamath County, turkeys are restricted to the Keno Unit. Hunting access is fair in the southern portions of the Keno Unit. Winter precipitation has made many 2-track roads and trails too muddy to be driven without causing damage to the road. As a result, cooperators involved in the Pokegema Winter Range Road Closure have elected to delay opening those gates one week (gates will open April 6).
This area is predominantly either open-to-hunt private timberland or BLM land. Areas to check for turkey activity are south of Hwy 66 and west of the Klamath River Canyon to Copco Road. Turkeys can also be found north of Hwy 66 around Johnson Prairie. Hunters who take a banded turkey are asked to please contact the local ODFW district office in Klamath Falls (541-883-5732).
HUNTING WITH DRONES IS ILLEGAL IN OREGON!!
With the exploding use of drones, comes abuses. I see a lot of "professional drone pilots" out there now who do not seem to know what the FAA laws are regarding drone use, and they are supposed to KNOW them. So, can you blame private citizens flying drones for fun if they don't? But, ignorance is NO defense in court. It is against the law to use drones while hunting in Oregon. It actually is a well established law now. That means you cannot get out of your truck at say the top of a logged unit in the Cascades and fly a drone down it to see if there is a buck or bull down there in the season. This article from the East Oregonian outlies it all very well......click here to see it.
ELK HOOF DISEASE
ODFW is asking the public for help as citizen scientists in documenting elk in Oregon with a contagious form of hoof disease that is spreading from herds north of the Columbia River in southwest Washington. Please use the online form below to report observations of live elk, hunter-harvested or dead elk showing signs of elk hoof disease that may include lame or limping elk or elk with damaged, injured, missing or deformed hooves.
It may be important for a biologist or veterinarian to contact you for additional information, so please provide a phone number or email address. You may also submit photos or video of lame/limping elk.
If you harvest an elk or locate a dead animal with suspected hoof disease, please take the following steps:
Elk hoof disease fact sheet (October 2017)
Wolves are present in Oregon
ODFW is monitoring about 20 areas of known wolf activity, mostly in northeast Oregon and several in southwest Oregon. Wolves may also occur in central Oregon and the Cascades. See the Wolf web page for the latest information.
Wolves remain on the federal ESA west of Hwys 395-78-95. In the rest of eastern Oregon, wolves remain protected under the state’s Wolf Management Plan and no take is allowed, except in defense of human life or by livestock producers in certain situations in the eastern third of Oregon.
Oregon has not seen any conflict or human safety problems between people and wolves, but there are some tips online on how to avoid problems. This flyer also has tips on recognizing wolf sign, differentiating between wolves vs coyotes and protecting dogs from wolves.
ODFW appreciates any information about wolf sightings or encounters from hunters. Use the online wolf reporting form to share this information with wildlife managers.
ODFW is closely watching both wolf and big game populations. ODFW has not seen negative impacts from wolves requiring big game hunting tags to be reduced.
Besides annual surveys of wolves and big game, OSU and ODFW are working together on a wolf-cougar research project looking at competitive interactions and prey selection between wolves and cougars in the Mt Emily unit.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Game has put together a quiz I encourage ALL of you to take. As Southern Oregon and Northern California are confirmed wolf territory, KNOWING the difference between a coyote and a wolf on sight can be very critical.....ESPECIALLY for hunters. You MUST know the differences between a wolf and a coyote in appearance.
I did get 100 percent on this test. I mean I would sure hope I would being the Chairman of the Jackson County Wolf Committee. Let's see how you do. Some of these are going to be easy. Real easy. But there are a couple pictures in here that will require a real good look.
Click here to take the test.
OPEN SEASONS: SPRING TURKEY, COUGAR, COYOTE.
There are just a few changes from last year:
Edible portions of game mammals is now defined and includes the meat from the front quarters, hind quarters, the loins (backstrap) and tenderloins. For elk, the meat of the neck is also included. See page 95 of the Big Game Regulations.
Hunters with a disabilities permit are reminded to check page 93 of the Big Game Regulations to see which units allow them to take any sex deer or elk. The bag limits are the same as they were last year.
JACKSON, JOSEPHINE, CURRY COUNTIES (Applegate, Chetco, Evans Creek, Rogue, portions of Dixon, and Sixes)
Spring Black Bear: season opened April 1 here in Southern Oregon. Bear numbers are very good here in Southern Oregon, especially in the Applegate and Rogue units which have some of the highest bear harvest numbers in the state. Typically the harvest improves as the season progresses; this may be especially true this year after our severe winter. Typically boars emerge from their dens earlier than sows and cubs. Remember that it is illegal to harvest a sow with cubs.
In general it is good to start off the season glassing open hillsides during sunny mornings and evenings. Bears will most likely be out at this time feeding on grasses and anything else they can fill their bellies with. As the season continues into May another useful method of hunting is using a fawn distress call. There are many newborn fawns this time of year so you are imitating a natural food source. Other predator calls can be successful as well.
Remember that within 10 days of harvest you are required to check your bear skull in at an ODFW office, the skull must be unfrozen and preferable have the mouth propped open. For more information refer to page 61 of the 2018 Oregon Big Game Hunting Regulations.
Turkey: The season is well underway now and so far hunter success has been good. The birds did become well scattered just before the season. But, it seems they are bunching together again creating opportunities for success for hunters. While turkeys are found everywhere in Jackson County, best success will be for those hunters on private property, especially in the western areas of Jackson County where numbers are highest. Those hunting turkeys with archery equipment will likely have more success getting access to private property.
Cougar season is open statewide year-round or until zone quotas are met (see zone quota page). With the upcoming elk and deer seasons remember to purchase your cougar tag since majority of the cougars are harvest while in pursuit of other species. There is a mandatory check in of all cougars harvested within 10 days of the after harvest; the unfrozen skull, hide, and proof of sex must be taken to an ODFW office during normal business hours. If a female cougar is harvested it is also mandatory to bring in the reproductive tract in order to gain valuable population data. For more information refer to page 64 of the 2018 Oregon Big Game Hunting Regulations.
Western gray squirrel: Open year-round. There is no bag limit or closed season in that part of the Rogue unit south of the Rogue River and S Fork Rogue River and north of Hwy 140. See page 65 of the 2018 Oregon Big Game Hunting Regulations for more information.
Coyotes are abundant in our area. Remember to ask for permission to hunt on private lands. Hunter can find coyotes around meadows and brush piles where mice and rabbits are found. Predator calls are very useful when used in conjunction to known prey base.
Eurasian Collared-Doves – These non-natives are found throughout Jackson County. These birds have no protections in Oregon, so there are no closed seasons for these invasives and no limits to their harvest. Target Eurasian collared-doves around agricultural areas and forest openings where food sources are abundant. Be sure of your identification before you hunt these abundant invasive birds. Identify this species and its habitat
DOUGLAS COUNTY (Dixon, S. Indigo, NW Evans Creek, Melrose, SW Siuslaw, E. Tioga and NE Powers Units)
Turkey: The season is well underway now and so far hunter success has been good. While turkeys are found everywhere in the lowwer elevations of Central and Western Douglas County, best success will be for those hunters on private property. Those hunting turkeys with archery equipment will likely have more success getting access to private property.
Cougar: The cougar season is currently open. With the recent resurgence of winter and lower elevation snow, hunters can now find these cats a bit easier by looking for fresh tracks in likely habitat. Look in areas adjacent to agriculture and within areas of higher concentrations of deer. When fresh tracks are found, set up and call with either mouth or electronic predator calls.
Cougars are abundant throughout with indicators pointing to stable or increasing numbers. Hunting cougar is a challenge because these animals are very secretive, but harvest success is greatest adjacent to private land with high deer populations using a predator call.
Coyote: Numbers are strong throughout Douglas County. Using predator calls to lure them in can be an effective method for harvesting coyotes. Try calling in early morning and late afternoon. Be sure to ask permission before hunting on private land.
Furbearers: Muskrat and mink harvest ended March 31. Remember to check your river otters in with ODFW for Ownership Tags. River otter trappers have five business days following the close of the season to check in otter pelts for Ownership Tags. The Roseburg ODFW office will check river otter pelts on Mondays by appointment only. Call 541-440-3353 to set up an appointment.
Furtakers, remember to complete your Furtaker Harvest Report, either online, or through the forms provided on our website.
Eurasian Collared-Doves – These non-natives are expanding throughout Douglas County. These birds have no protections in Oregon, so there are no closed seasons for these invasives and no limits to their harvest. Target Eurasian collared-doves around agricultural areas and forest openings where food sources are abundant. Be sure of your identification before you hunt these abundant invasive birds. Identify this species and its habitat
COOS COUNTY (west Tioga, west Powers, north Sixes, southwest Siuslaw)
Hunters need to be aware that ownership of several timber land parcels in Coos County has recently changed. In some cases the new owners have different access policies than their predecessors. Make sure you know what the policy is before accessing private land and don’t assume the policy is the same as prior years.
Turkey: The season is well underway now and so far hunter success has been good. While turkeys can be found in many parts of Coos County, the best success will be for those hunters on private property where birds will congregate in higher numbers. Those hunting turkeys with archery equipment will likely have more success getting access to private property.
Coyote: Numbers are strong throughout Coos County. Using predator calls to lure them in can be an effective method for harvesting coyotes. Try calling in early morning and late afternoon. Be sure to ask permission before hunting on private land.
Cougar: Hunters can expect an average year. Cougars are abundant throughout with indicators pointing to stable or increasing numbers. Hunting cougar is a challenge because these animals are very secretive, but harvest success is greatest adjacent to private land with high deer populations using a predator call.