Triple-digit temperatures. Single-digit humidity. Smoke from forest fires in the air. And the forest floor crunching like Rice Crispies under your boots.
Bow season must be right around the corner.
Oregonians will start packing their bows into the woods Saturday for the start of the general archery season, the first such general season on the state's top two hunted species — deer and elk.
Hunters on both sides of the cascades will start ignoring their three-dimensional targets and the virtual-hunting leagues at local archery stores to start stalking the real things Saturday.
"The first weekend is almost obligatory," says Mark Vargas, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District wildlife biologist. "Hey, it's opening weekend.
"But most people like to hunt the second and third weeks, when the elk are more active," Vargas says.
Deer and elk bow tags, which have been available for purchase at sporting goods stores and over the Internet since December, will be sold through Friday evening.
Hunters who miss the deadline can still get a tag through a program initiated last year by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Hunters who pay a $17 fee and sign a waiver stating they had not yet been hunting can get a deer or elk tag mid-season.
The first part of the season runs through Sept. 26 in western Oregon and most of eastern Oregon. In the Rogue and Evans Creek units, bow hunters can return to the woods Nov. 13 for a deer-only hunt that lasts through Dec. 5.
As usual, hunters' biggest early-season obstacle is the weather.
After 100-plus degree days this week, the National Weather Service has forecast high temperatures to drop to the high 70s for Shady Cove beginning today and running through the weekend.
Vargas says hunters should remember that the region's Roosevelt elk tend to be more active heading into September, and chances are the herds hunters have scouted in recent weeks won't be there.
That elk-fact has been at the root of a decades-old conspiracy theory among some hunters who believe ODFW biologists actively attempt to keep hunters away from area bulls.
"A lot of people say we go out there and move them," Vargas says. "But if I had that much power, I wouldn't be in this job."
Bow season brings the beginning of one of Oregon's fastest-growing forms of sport-hunting. Last year, the Rogue Unit of eastern Jackson County sported 2,593 bowhunters who logged more than 18,000 days in the field, according to ODFW statistics. Both represent significant increases over 2008.
Their successes, though didn't match their numbers.
Last season's Rogue Unit bowhunters shot 171 deer — down more than 100 from the previous year — for an overall success rate of 10 percent. That's two percentage points lower than 2008.
And of those 171 dead deer, only 12 were killed during the first part of the season. The first-season success rates for deer are generally low because hunters usually target elk during this period and use their deer tag to get back in the woods for the second part of the season.
And that strategy appears to have worked.
Rogue Unit archers had a great 2009 season, with 816 hunters logging 6,107 days in the field while killing 90 elk for an 11 percent success rates. In 2009, hunters shot 44 bulls during the archery season for a 6-percent success rate.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.