FORECAST FAVORABLE FOR BUCK OPENER
Hunters will not find an abundance of lush green vegetation this weekend in Northeast Oregon's dry forests.
What will be found, in some places, is an abundance of mule deer bucks.
The outlook is fair to excellent for hunters in Union and Wallowa counties on the eve of the opening of the buck deer rifle season. The controlled hunt begins Saturday and runs through Oct. 12.
In Union County hunters will probably experience the most success in the East Mount Emily Unit where there are 28 bucks per 100 does.
"Prospects are excellent in the East Mount Emily Unit,'' said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Jim Cadwell.
Buck numbers are good in the unit because fewer tags are usually issued for it. In addition much of the unit is harder for hunters to reach because it has few roads open to motorized vehicles.
Prospects are rated as good for hunters in Union County's Catherine Creek and Starkey units, which have 13 and 15 bucks per 100 does respectively. Union County hunters will see plenty of yearling bucks because all of its units had excellent fawn survival due to the mild 2004-05 winter.
The East Mount Emily Unit had 100 percent survival, the Starkey Unit had an 86 percent fawn survival and the Catherine Creek Unit had 84 percent fawn survival.
Fawn survival in Wallowa County was also very good, said Enterprise ODFW biologist Pat Matthews. There are 59 fawns per 100 does, the highest figure in several years. In 2004 there were 41 fawns per 100 does. Wallowa County has about 21,000 mule deer.
Because of dry conditions, deer throughout Northeast Oregon are concentrated in places where there is green vegetation.
"Hunters may not find deer in traditional places because of dry conditions,'' Matthews said.
Green forage will be easiest to find in riparian areas near streams, in forests, in places where there have been burns, and on north-facing slopes. More vegetation is on north-facing slopes because they receive less direct sunlight and more shade.
Wallowa County hunters will be wise to stay away from remote areas.
"Don't expect to find a lot of deer in high elevation wilderness areas,'' Matthews said.
Fewer deer are in these areas because of predators. Cougars are believed to be the main culprit, Matthews said. Northeast Oregon's cougar population has grown significantly since 1994, when hunters were prohibited from using dogs to hunt cougars.
Cougars are shy and evasive around people. Still the odds of seeing one is perhaps greatest during deer and elk seasons because so many people are in the forest, Cadwell said. A hunter may walk by a hidden cougar and disturb it, causing it to move and be seen in the process by another person.
Hunters can take cougars throughout the year in Oregon except June and July. Many of the cougars killed by hunters are ones they encountered incidentally while hunting for deer and elk. Cougar tags can be purchased for $11.50 from the ODFW and license vendors.