The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will host a big game regulation meeting from 5:30-7 p.m. July 9 at the Grant County Extension office, 116 NW Bridge St., Suite 1, John Day.

Attendees can hear about changes proposed for the 2020 seasons, comment on those changes and ask questions of district wildlife biologists.

As part of a multi-year process to review, simplify and improve the Big Game Hunting Regulations, ODFW is proposing some major changes for 2020.

A major change proposed for Eastern Oregon would be a general season antlerless elk damage tag pilot program to address higher populations of elk on private land, which increase economic damage and can reduce hunting opportunities. These general season tags would replace the need for some landowner damage tags and controlled hunts. They would be valid in specific chronic elk damage areas mapped annually by ODFW, including the John Day Valley, from Aug. 1 to Nov. 30. Hunters considering this new opportunity would still need to think ahead about permission to hunt on private land for this tag, and the tag would be their only elk hunting opportunity. Other proposed changes would consolidate hunts, expand hunt areas, adjust bag limits and extend seasons to be simpler or consistent with other hunts. A complete list of proposals is available at myodfw.com under “Big Game Hunting.”

Proposals that impact Grant County hunting include:

• The Murderers Creek Unit is the only unit in the state that has a split weapon restriction in a portion of the unit during general archery season. Staff propose the entire Murderers Creek Unit be open to all legal archery equipment during general archery elk season.

• A new, controlled traditional archery-only hunt would be added for Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, with a proposed bag limit of “one elk” and a hunt boundary of the North Fork John Day Wilderness (all units). This tag would also be valid during the general archery elk season using any archery equipment.

• Five elk hunts in Grant County require hunters to be on a landowner permission form before applying for the controlled hunt. These hunts and associated requirements were put in place decades ago prior to most private land antlerless elk hunts. These hunts are now an outlier as there are numerous other private land elk hunts in the state without this requirement. Staff propose to eliminate the landowner permission form requirement.

ODFW staff will also discuss conditions for Grant County’s big game herds at the July 9 meeting. Annual big game survey flights were conducted in March. Due to the harsh conditions experienced in late winter, ODFW observed a lower-than-expected mule deer fawn ratio in the Murderers Creek, Northside and Desolation units. Elk appeared to have wintered well as calf ratios remained within the normal range in all three units. Bighorn sheep numbers in the McClellan and Aldrich herds remain stable with normal lamb production. ODFW will conduct their annual pronghorn and mountain goat surveys later this summer.

Public comment about the proposals and other issues related to big game regulations will be taken at these meetings, or comments can be emailed to odfw.commission@state.or.us. Final 2019 Big Game Hunting Regulations will be adopted at the Sept. 13 commission meeting in Gold Beach.

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