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Lingering snow will challenge hunters

Remnants of Old Man Winter’s icy grip are looming large as the start of turkey hunting season nears.

Many hunting sites at mid and upper elevations in Union and Wallowa counties will be inaccessible because of snow when turkey season opens throughout the state on Wednesday. Hunters are being advised by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists to stay in lower elevation areas early in the season before the snow melts.

Hunters who try to drive to higher sites to hunt run the risk of getting stuck.

“Spring snow is wet and heavy. It’s hard to get through,’’ said La Grande ODFW biologist Leonard Erickson, who is encouraging hunters to stay at lower levels.

Enterprise ODFW biologist Vic Coggins has similar advice for those hunting in Wallowa County. Coggins said that many forest roads are still clogged with snow. Anyone driving along Highway 3 to Flora will quickly see this. All of the roads off Highway 3 have about 2 feet of snow unless they were cleared  earlier for logging, he said.

Despite the snow, hunters should not despair, according to Phil Gillette, a La Grande hunting guide.

“People will be surprised at how many birds are still out there at low elevations,’’ said Gillette, the owner of Phil’s Outdoor Surplus. 

Many of these birds are staying on private land. Hunters are advised to get permission to hunt on private land, Coggins said.

Gillette said he has noticed in recent years that more turkeys are staying year-round on private property where many are fed by landowners during the winter.

The opening of the general season will again be preceded by a spring youth hunt that will be conducted Saturday and Sunday. The hunt is open to youths age 17 and under. Each youth hunter this weekend must be accompanied by an adult who is at least 21.

More information on the youth hunt is available on Page 15 of the ODFW’s 2008-09 Game Bird Regulations.


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