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Bountiful black bears

Black bear season can be slow in early August, but as the season progresses the action will start to pick up. (Jim Ward photo)
Black bear season can be slow in early August, but as the season progresses the action will start to pick up. (Jim Ward photo)

Another strong fall black bear season is expected in N.E. Oregon 

With the arrival of August, comes the arrival of fall hunting season. The fall black bear season started Thursday and runs through Nov. 31 in Eastern Oregon units. Units in Western Oregon and Southwest Oregon go until Dec. 31.

And once again black bear numbers throughout Northeast Oregon are looking strong.

“I think the outlook is looking pretty good,” said Pat Matthews, Enterprise District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There are pretty good numbers in all units.”

Matthews said the ODFW doesn’t keep population estimates on black bears, but he added that the population always remains healthy.

But if hunters want to increase their chances of bagging a bear, they should wait for later in the season, according to Matthews.

“Usually in early August, there’s not much success,” Matthews said. “Later in the season, when archery season starts, we start to see more success. But that’s also when there are more hunters out there.”

Late August is when general archery season starts, and that is when hunters tend to see an abundance of black bear signs.

“We see more concentrated numbers toward the end of September when bears are looking for berry patches,” Matthews said.

Matthews advised that if hunters do go out, they should do their homework beforehand.

“It’s important to scout and find fresh bear signs,” he said. “Try and get a good vantage point where you can glass and find bears coming into an area.”

Bears are known for their poor eyesight, but they make up for it with a keen sense of smell and good hearing.

Matthews said hunters should pay attention to wind direction when hunting and scouting, always trying to remain downwind from a black bear so it doesn’t catch a whiff of your scent.

“Keep in mind all of those various hunting techniques,” Matthews said.

One tip Matthews said to consider is where there are berries, there are likely to be bears.

Locating berry patches in the late summer months will likely increase the chances of seeing bear activity.

“I’d encourage hunters to look at riparian areas, where there are berries near creek bottoms. Old orchard areas are also very popular with bears,” Matthews said.

The limit for black bears is one per season, although it is illegal to shoot a cub of less than 1 year old and sows with cubs less than 1 year old.

ODFW has initiated a mandatory check for all harvested bears. Specifically, the skull of any bear taken must be presented to an ODFW office or designated collection site within 10 days of the kill to be checked and marked. 

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