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The Observer Paper 09/29/14

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SPRING BEAR HUNTING SUCCESS COULD COME EARLY

Dick Mason

Staff Writer

Spring bear season is often a waiting game for hunters.

A game hunters may want to avoid this spring.

The Eastern Oregon season traditionally opens around April 15, but hunters often wait until May to pursue bears. The strategy is logical since bears are more active in May and much of the snow that impedes hunters is gone.

Patience, however, may not be a virtue this spring.

The mild winter Northeast Oregon experienced will mean that bear hunting opportunities in mid-April may be better than normal.

"If ever there was a year it might be good to put your effort into the front end of the spring bear season, this might be it,'' said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Leonard Erickson.

The biologist explained far less snow than normal will be on the ground in mid-April, making it much easier for hunters to stalk bears.

"Access is excellent,'' Erickson said.

Enterprise ODFW Biologist Vic Coggins agrees. He noted that high areas in Wallowa County are much easier to reach now than they usually are this time of year.

One advantage early spring hunters enjoy is that they see mainly the bears they want — boars. Males come out of hibernation earlier than sows. Hunters out in mid-April have better odds of seeing only males.

"You may not have to sort through as many bears,'' Erickson said.

Hunters also do not have to worry as much about accidentally shooting a sow or her cubs illegally. Sows with cubs, and cubs less than a year old, are off limits under Oregon regulations.

Spring bear hunters are again being advised to watch for bruins on open hillsides. Bears often forage for onions and fresh grass on hillsides in the spring. Hunters are advised to bring binoculars because they are a great tool for spotting these bears, Coggins said.

Elk calf and deer fawn calls are another useful tool. Bears are particularly interested in calves and fawns later in the season when they are ready to eat meat. Immediately following hibernation bears are more interesting in foraging than eating meat.

Still, hunters who call beginning April 15 may have some luck because elk begin giving birth to calves very close to this time, said La Grande's Dan Kloer, the owner of Big Timber Sounds, a company that makes big-game calls.

Kloer advises hunters to call in a variety of areas, including places near where calves and fawns are being born.

Successful hunters are again being asked to remove teeth from the bears they take and send them in to the ODFW. Teeth allow biologists to determine the age of the bears killed. This information is used to make population estimates. Bear hunters receive tooth envelopes with instructions when they purchase bear tags.

All spring bear hunts are controlled, which means that the hunters allowed is limited. Hunters had to apply for tags.

Northeast Oregon units in which hunts will be conducted include the

following:

• Starkey

• Wenaha

• Sled Springs

• Chesnimnus

• Snake River

• Minam

• Imnaha

• Pine Creek

• Keating

• Catherine Creek

• Lookout Mountain

Bear hunting is allowed in only in a portion of many of these units. Hunters need to check the ODFW's 2005 Oregon Big Game Regulations synopsis to determine which portions of the units are open to black bear hunting.

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