November 04, 2004 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Staff Writer

Snow is beginning to fly at higher elevations in Northeast Oregon.

But this has yet to cause elk to move to new areas.

"No major migrations have occurred yet, but local movement from higher elevations where snow is accumulating may have occurred,'' said Leonard Erickson, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Elk hunters are taking note of such information as they prepare for the opening of the second elk rifle season, which begins Saturday and runs through

Nov. 14.

In Union County between 2,700 and 3,000 hunters are expected. Most hunters will be limited to spikes, which are yearling bulls. Area units in which a few hunters will be able to take a bull of any type include the Mount Emily, Walla Walla and Wenaha units.

Sixty-one any-bull tags have been issued for the Mount Emily Unit, 20 for Walla Walla and 10 for Wenaha.

Of the Union County hunters, the highest number will be in the Starkey Unit, where between 2,000 and 2,500 hunters are expected.

The second season is a general hunt; the first season was a controlled hunt. In a general hunt the number of tags sold per unit is not limited. Tags can be purchased up to the day before the hunt.

ODFW staff members will survey hunters to determine their success rates during the second season.

What's more, samples will be taken from some harvested elk for a chronic wasting disease study the ODFW is conducting.

The neurological disease is found in deer and elk. The disease has not been found in Oregon, but it has spread to 10 states and two Canadian provinces in recent years.

Hunters who do not have their elk sampled can bring their elk into the La Grande ODFW office. Hunters must call the ODFW at 963-2138 to set up a time. Hunters are asked to not freeze their elk but to keep it cool. Only animals taken within the past 48 hours should be brought in.

Head samples are particularly needed for elk taken in the Catherine Creek, Mount Emily and Wenaha units, Erickson said.

First Season SUCCESS

Following is a summary of the success rates elk hunters had in Union and Wallowa counties during the first season, Oct. 27-31. The results are based on hunters checked during the first two days of the season.

Starkey Unit

Success rate: 4 percent for hunters with spike-only tags, up from 3 percent a year ago. Hunters with an any-elk tag had a 23 percent success rate, up from 16 percent a year ago.

Wenaha Unit

Union County portion

Success rate: 3 percent. A spike-only limit was in effect.

Wallowa County portion

Success rate: 2 percent. A spike-only limit was in place.

Catherine Creek Unit

Success rate: Hunters had a 15 percent success rate. There was an any-bull bag limit.

Imnaha Unit

Success rate: 26 percent. An any-bull bag limit was in place.

Sled Springs Unit

Success rate: 10 percent. There was an any-bull bag limit.

Snake River Unit

Success rate: 12 percent. A spike-only bag limit was in effect.