SALEM – With the opening of the rifle deer season this Saturday, officials are warning hunters they may find more private forestlands closed this year due to the high fire danger.

“This year, it’s more important than ever that hunters check for closures before heading afield and follow fire restrictions,” said Tom Thornton, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife game program manager.

Mike Dykzeul with the Oregon Forest Industries Council estimates that 50 percent more private lands are closed this year than at the same time last year.

Forestland managers say forest vegetation is extremely dry. Although light rainfall fell in some areas last weekend, moisture content in vegetation in western Oregon ranges from 10-20 percent, while east of the Cascades it is in single digits.

“Under these parched conditions, any fire started could spread rapidly,” said Dan Postrel, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) spokesman.

ODF keeps a list of landowner closures on its website. It changes frequently and lands could be opened if Oregon gets some significant wet weather, though current forecasts aren’t predicting rain next week.

Hunters should check before the season opener or the day they plan to hunt for the latest information.

Hunters that don’t see their local landowner listed should call them directly. ODF also is hosting several hunter information booths in central and eastern Oregon this week to provide the latest information on restrictions and closures for hunters.

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