Big Change in Store for Northeast Oregon Archery Hunters

Bow hunting season will begin as usual on the last Saturday in August, but this year is anything but ordinary in one respect.

For most of northeast Oregon, elk archery season is a controlled hunt for the first time.

In August 2021, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to change the archery hunt for elk in 13 units and parts of three others from a general hunt – meaning there is no There is no limit to the number of tags sold – to a controlled hunt, with a limited number of tags that hunters must apply for through the state lottery system.

The general hunting system had been in place in eastern Oregon since 1979 for elk and deer.

Since 1983, the archery season for both species lasts about a month, from late August to late September. This year, the season runs from August 27 to September 25.

But in 2020, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced a proposal to move bow hunts from general to controlled for deer and elk, starting in 2021.

Agency officials cited several reasons for the proposal, including an increasing number of bowhunters in recent decades and a higher success rate among hunters due to better bows and arrows that allow archers to make lethal shots at longer distances.

The ODFW said the number of archers hunting elk in eastern Oregon has increased from around 12,300 in 1995 to around 18,500 in 2019.

Because archery seasons have remained general hunts, with no limit on the number of tags sold, ODFW’s only tool for limiting hunting and keeping deer and elk herds at sustainable numbers has been to cut tags for rifle hunts, which are controlled hunts with limited tags assigned. through the lottery system.

In choosing which units to transition from a general archery season to a controlled season, ODFW officials considered the current moose populations in those units, as well as the density and movement of moose. hunters, which is based on a public survey of hunters conducted in 2020.

In some units, the bull-to-cow ratio is below state goals, and in other units, the bull elk harvest is close to what biologists consider the unit’s capacity. In some units, bowhunters took as many or more branch antler bulls than rifle hunters, according to the ODFW.

Although the agency originally planned to change the elk and deer hunts to controlled seasons in 2021, the commission ended up making the switch to deer hunting only beginning in the 2021 season.

The move to primarily controlled bow hunts for elk has been delayed until 2022.

The move to controlled bow hunts, for deer and elk, has been controversial.

Bob Reedy, a Baker City bowhunter who also owns an archery shop, said he thinks the changes will confuse hunters and may discourage some longtime hunters from continuing their pursuit. hobby.

Reedy argues that if the ODFW wants to increase the number of bull elk, then the agency should either temporarily ban hunters from killing bulls or change the bag limit for wood-limbing bulls only.

The bag limit for many northeast Oregon units for this year’s elk archery hunt is one bull elk. The traditional bag limit for archery hunting – all elk – remains in certain units.

Reedy said he also fears the changes could contribute to animosity between bowhunters and rifle hunters.

“We’re all hunters,” Reedy said.

More tags than candidates in many units

Although the move from general hunts to controlled hunts means that some hunters accustomed to being able to hunt every year might not draw a lottery tag, the ODFW has set tag allocations for most units at levels similar to the number of people who were actually hunting during last general seasons.

However, in some popular units, the number of controlled hunting tags is much lower than the number of hunters in recent years.

For this year’s archery deer season – the bag limit is one buck with visible antlers – the number of tags in most units is well above the number of first choice applications for 2021 , the first year with controlled bow hunts.

Examples include:

• Imnaha Unit — 308 beacons in 2022, 77 first choice candidates in 2021

• Sled Springs Unit — 193 and 87

• Cooking unit — 275 and 99

• Starkey Unit — 770 and 107

• Catherine Creek Unit — 495 and 101

Earnest A. Martinez