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Meadow Muncher: Ground squirrels are out in full force on ag lands throughout Northeast Oregon. In high numbers, these rodents can cause considerable damage to crops, so hunters can often get access from ranchers and farmers suffering losses. Studies have shown that squirrel carcasses left by hunters often contain lead fragments which can be devastating to raptors like golden eagles when they find and feed on these. Fortunately, most rifle cartridges now come in lead-free choices. Young hunters should be observant of their background when shooting rifles in open country. A small .22-caliber bullet can travel up to one mile and larger calibers even farther. JIM WARD photo
Squirrel hunters find active targets
GROUND SQUIRRELS: Squirrels are now up and active. The best hunting is often on warm days after the rain and cold weather. Remember, always ask first to hunt on private land.
SPRING BEAR: Controlled spring bear season is now open. Successful hunters commonly find bears by glassing new “spring green-up” areas below snowline. Bear numbers and hunter access should increase throughout the season, translating to hunter success. Remember, it is now mandatory to check in any harvested bear within 10 days of harvest.
TURKEY: Spring turkey season is now open. Many birds will be found in lower elevations on both public and private lands. Locating birds in their roost before daylight will greatly increase success. Setting up near a known roost with a decoy and call can bring in that wary tom. Turkeys rely on their sight for survival, making camouflage and as little movement as possible essential to hunter success. Remember, always ask first to hunt on private land.
COUGARS: Cougars are common in Union County. Due to the mild winter, deer and elk can be found at higher elevations. Focus on game rich areas with long ridgelines or saddles that cats typically travel. Setting up downwind of a deer or elk killed by a cougar can be productive. A cougar kill is often covered with material that has been scraped up in about a 10-foot diameter circle around the carcass. Cougars will often drag their kill to the nearest cover next to the kill site. Pay attention to drag marks. You need to be extremely patient and wear camo when calling cougars as they come in slowly and use every bit of cover as they approach. Using remote calls will focus the cat’s attention away from your blind.
COYOTE: Coyote numbers are good throughout the district. Try calling in early morning and late afternoon. Pup-in-distress as well as prey-in-distress sounds can be productive. Remember to ask for permission before hunting on private properties.
TURKEY: Good numbers of birds are available throughout the district. Access is good in the Sled Springs and Chesnimnus units. However, hunters are still having difficulty accessing higher elevations in the Wenaha, Minam, Imnaha and Snake River units.
BLACK BEAR: Spring bear activity continues to improve with warmer temperatures. Hunter access remains difficult at higher elevations in the Wenaha, Minam, Imnaha, and Snake River units due to roads blocked by snow. Hunters should focus in canyon areas below snow line that have good green grass growth.
COYOTE: Good numbers of coyotes can be found throughout Wallowa County. Calling coyotes with rabbit distress-type calls has been effective for hunters. It is important to choose areas with abundant coyote sign and little human activity.
COUGAR: Cougar numbers are strong throughout Wallowa County. Most lions are taken incidental to other hunting; however, calling with faw