Mountain goat hunt

Rocky Mountain goats in the Elkhorn Mountains.

The relative handful of hunters fortunate enough to draw a tag for a mountain goat will have more time to track down one of the cliff-dwelling animals in 2020.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has lengthened the season for several mountain goat hunts in the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains, and in Hells Canyon, for this year’s seasons.

ODFW also created two new goat hunts in the Wallowas, each offering a single tag.

• Southern Wallowas — all of the Catherine Creek, Keating and Pine Creek units, and the southern part of the Minam unit. The hunt will run from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31.

• Copper Creek — parts of the Minam unit in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The hunt will run from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31.

Both of the new hunts are much longer than has been typical for mountain goat hunts in Northeastern Oregon. Most of the existing hunts will run for one to two months in 2020.

In 2019 the majority of those hunts ran for eight to 15 days.

A goat tag is the rarest of big-game hunting opportunities in Oregon. And as with bighorn sheep tags, hunters can draw only one in a lifetime (bighorn hunts have also been extended to about one month for 2020).

ODFW officials decided to lengthen the goat seasons in part because the previous seasons were so short that unavoidable factors such as wildfires or early snowstorms could disrupt goat hunters’ chances, said Nick Myatt, the ODFW official who lives in Baker City and has been leading the agency’s multi-year effort to streamline and, where possible, to simplify hunting regulations statewide.

“These are once-in-a-lifetime hunts, and we wanted to make sure our season structure really reflected that,” Myatt said. “We felt that giving people the maximum flexibility is the right thing to do.”

Heavy snow is a particular issue, Myatt said, since mountain goats spend most of their time at the highest elevations where blizzards aren’t uncommon during September and October.

The addition of the Southern Wallowas and Copper Creek hunts brings the total goat tags for 2020 to 27, all in Northeastern Oregon. Two of those tags — one in the Elkhorns and on at Hat Point — are for hunters who don’t live in Oregon.

In 2019, about 12,500 people applied for one of the 25 mountain goat tags available.

Oregon’s biggest mountain goat herds live in the Elkhorns and the Wallowas.

There are smaller herds in the Strawberry Mountains south of Prairie City, in parts of Hells Canyon, and in the Wenaha River area north of Elgin.

ODFW trapped goats in the Elkhorns and moved the animals to each of those areas over the past two decades to either create herds or supplement existing populations.

Following are changes in the lengths of mountain goat hunts, along with the number of tags, and the number of applicants for each hunt in 2019.

Elkhorn Mountains

• No. 1 has 3 tags — 2020 hunt will run from Aug. 1-31. The 2019 season was Sept. 7-15. Applications totaled 2,600.

• No. 2 has 2 tags (one nonresident) — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1-30. The 2019 season was Sept. 16-24. Applications totaled 774.

• No. 3 has 3 tags — 2020 hunt will run from Oct. 1-31. The 2019 season was Oct. 12-20. Applications totaled 1,488.

Wallowa Mountains

• E. Hurricane Creek has 1 tag — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31. The 2019 hunt was Sept. 7-22. Applications totaled 484.

• W. Hurricane Creek has 1 tag — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31. The 2019 hunt was Sept. 7-22. Applications totaled 316.

• Goat Mtn. No. 1 has 2 tags — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1-30. The 2019 hunt was Sept. 7-22. Applications totaled 760.

• Goat Mt. No. 2 has 2 tags — 2020 hunt will run from Oct. 1-31. The 2019 hunt was Oct. 12-22. Applications totaled 321.

• Cusick Mtn. has 1 tag — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1-Oct. 31. The 2019 hunt was from Sept. 7-22. Applications totaled 529.

Hells Canyon

• Hat Point No. 1 has 2 tags (one nonresident) — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1-30. The 2019 hunt was from Sept. 7-22. Applications totaled 655.

• Hat Point No. 2 has 3 tags — 2020 hunt will run from Oct. 1-31. The 2019 hunt was from Oct. 12-22. Applications totaled 683.

• S. Snake River No. 1 has 2 tags — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1-30. The 2019 hunt was from Sept. 7-22. Applications totaled 939.

• S. Snake River No. 2 has 1 tag — 2020 hunt will run from Oct. 1-31. The 2019 hunt ran from Oct. 12-22. Applications totaled 378.

Other areas

• N. Wenaha has 1 tag — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31. The 2019 hunt was from Sept. 7-22. Applications totaled 601.

• Strawberry Mountains has 1 tag — 2020 hunt will run from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, the same period as for 2019. Applications totaled 1,936.

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