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Hunters gobble up fall turkey opportunities

Rio Grande turkeys will see something historic in Wallowa County this fall — hunters stalking them.

The first fall turkey season in Wallowa County is set to begin in about six weeks. The controlled season, recently approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, will run from Oct. 11 to Nov. 30.

The commission approved the hunt because of rising turkey populations in Wallowa County. The fall season will be in addition to the spring turkey hunt conducted annually in all of Northeast Oregon from April 15 to May 31.

Enterprise ODFW Biologist Pat Matthews said the new fall hunt will help disperse turkeys in the county, preventing them from congregating too intensely. Turkeys can cause significant property damage when large numbers occupy areas.

Earlier this month the commission also approved a fall turkey hunt for a portion of Union County. Named the Grande Ronde hunt, it will also run from Oct. 11 to Nov. 30.

This will be the second year in a row there will be fall turkey hunting in Union County. The first fall turkey hunt in Union County’s history was conducted last fall.

One hundred-fifty tags will be issued for this year’s hunt, 75 for Grande Ronde and 75 for Wallowa. The application deadline for the tags is Sept. 15.

Hunters will be able to take a bird of either sex during the fall hunts. The season limit will be one bird.

Hunters should check page 15 of the 2008-09 Oregon Game Bird Regulations for information on which portions of Union and Wallowa counties will be open for fall turkey hunting.

Hunters are often surprised to learn that they can take either sex during the fall, Cadwell said. They are accustomed to spring regulations, which limit hunters to only toms. Males can only be taken in the spring because that is when hens are nesting.

Hunters often ask the ODFW if there will be a general fall season in the future in Union County. Cadwell does not believe this will happen soon because the population level is not yet high enough.

“We do not have enough birds.’’

The fall seasons being added in Northeast Oregon is a testament to the success of the ODFW’s turkey transplant program. Rio Grandes were first released in Union and Wallowa counties about 25 years ago.

There were no Rio Grande turkeys here before that.

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