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HUNTERS: BE READY TO SUBMIT INFO ABOUT YOUR HUNT

 (Photo/JIM WARD).
(Photo/JIM WARD).

- Dick Mason

- The Observer

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has no interest in playing the role of big brother.

But it does want to know where big game hunters are hunting and what they are harvesting.

As a result, big game hunters will be required to report their success to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife beginning in 2007.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission recently approved a mandatory hunting information reporting requirement. It mandates that all big game hunters report to the ODFW regardless of whether they were successful.

The commission's move is welcome news to the Oregon Hunters Association, which has pushed for this requirement for several years. Duane Dungannon, OHA state coordinator, said that the requirement will make it easier for ODFW biologists to monitor the populations of deer, elk and other big game.

"We felt it was important to have accurate information on the harvest of big game herds,'' Dungannon said.

The OHA made a strong push for mandatory reporting in part because of its concern about declining elk harvests in Northeast Oregon.

"It was a major catalyst,'' Dungannon said.

Elk harvests in Northeast Oregon have declined significantly since 1994 when Oregon voters approved a measure prohibiting hunters from using dogs to hunt cougars. Biologists suspect that cougar predation is taking an increased toll on elk herds. The declining numbers are reflected in a drastic decline in cow tags issued for Rocky Mountain elk since the mid-1990s.

The new mandatory reporting system will require hunters to go online to fill out surveys. Or hunters can call the ODFW and use an interactive voice response system, said Tom Thornton, ODFW game program manager. Hunters must answer between six and 12 questions. The reporting system will be in place by June.

The mandatory reporting requirement will enable the ODFW to discard the telephone survey system it now uses. Through this system, a percentage of hunters are called each year and asked about their success. This program cost a significant amount of money.

The new system will cost less money while allowing the ODFW to get information from more hunters, said Thornton, based in Salem.

Reporting will initially be required for bears, cougars, deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and wild turkeys. Wild turkey hunters will have to begin reporting in the 2007 fall season. Spring turkey hunters will not have to report until the 2008 season.

Bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats are not included because hunters of these species face mandatory reporting rules.

Hunters will not be penalized for failing to participate during the first year of the program. However, penalties may be imposed in future years.

Enterprise ODFW Biologist Vic Coggins endorses the new reporting requirement. Coggins said it will be particularly helpful for monitoring general season hunts. The ODFW will have a much better idea of the success people taking part in limited entry controlled hunts are experiencing, Coggins said.

Thornton noted that with many more hunters reporting it will be much easier for biologists to determine success rates.

Dungannon says the new system will be a good way of getting detailed information about such topics as the age composition of herds that previously was not available. Few are better qualified to report than hunters who have just returned from the field.

"Cougars are not going to report to us what their take is,'' Dungannon said.

The OHA official believes the system will not be an imposition on hunters.

"We are not trying to provide an obstacle for hunters. However, hunters who are participating (in hunts) have a responsibility to provide information.'

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