Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

State biologists don’t plan to impose an early end to the hunting season for chukars and Hungarian partridges despite this being the snowiest December in more than a decade in parts of Northeastern Oregon.

Deep snow can prompt the upland game birds to congregate along low-elevation roads, where they’re much more vulnerable to hunters.

The hunting season usually continues through Jan. 31.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) closed the season in mid-January of 2004 and 1993, both times citing deep snow and prolonged cold as the reasons.

Biologists also worried that the presence of bird hunters would harass deer and elk that were struggling to survive.

Although ODFW doesn’t intend to curtail hunting this winter, the agency is working with the Oregon State Police to increase patrols in popular hunting areas, said Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at ODFW’s Baker City office.

Ratliff said his office has had reports of hunters acting unethically — shooting at coveys of birds on the ground near roads — or illegally, by shooting from roads, since the weather turned wintry three weeks ago.

Biologists said this fall that deer and elk should be in good condition entering the winter, thanks largely to the abundance of new grass that sprouted in October and November.

Both months were warmer than average, and October was much wetter than usual, ideal conditions for a fall green up.