By Jim Akenson, OHA Sr. Conservation Director
and Al Elkins, OHA Lobbyist
Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted on Sept. 13 to adopt the large package of regulation changes proposed by ODFW. Most of these changes will go into effect beginning in 2020. The three biggest issues presented by OHA representatives were about the new bag limits for black-tailed deer, the situation with mule deer populations in eastern Oregon, and the scale and process of the proposed general cow elk hunts.
Black-tailed Deer: The Western Oregon deer bag limit will soon allow for spike harvest with the new bag limit of “one buck with a visible antler.” Spike bucks will be illegal to harvest during controlled antlerless hunts.
Cow Elk Damage Tags: This is for areas of the state with high elk damage and will replace 19 controlled hunts and the need to provide damage tags to landowners. Hunters taking advantage of this new opportunity would still need permission to hunt on private land to use the tag and it would be their only elk hunting opportunity.
Work Group Development: The Commission also directed staff to form a work group to continue the big game hunting season and regulations review, specifically focusing on blacktail and mule deer issues. OHA will play a key role in this process as it develops.
What served as the impetus for forming this work group was the testimony OHA staff and a State Board member gave before the Commission at the September meeting in Gold Beach. Here are some of the highlights of that testimony:
OHA, the largest hunting group based in Oregon, had detailed conversations with ODFW staff on their proposals. As a respected stakeholder, OHA spent hundreds of hours evaluating each proposal with consideration of the biological resource as the first element. During our meetings with ODFW staff, we shared our concerns. All of our time, effort and solid science-based recommendations fell on deaf ears – and had no influence on their proposal to the Commission.
The proposals adopted by the Commission illustrate a significant change in the way Oregonians hunt. For such a huge change, the process of discussion and interaction between stakeholder groups and Department personnel was just the opposite of the wolf plan process: there was not a great deal of time for anyone to read and respond to these significant changes.