• T-shirt weather comes at imperfect time for elk hunt

  • Elk hunters heading to the High Cascades for Saturday's start of the general rifle season might need to pack more sunscreen than heavy coats and snow boots, much to their chagrin.
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  • Elk hunters heading to the High Cascades for Saturday's start of the general rifle season might need to pack more sunscreen than heavy coats and snow boots, much to their chagrin.
    Blue-bird weather forecasted for high elevations likely won't help thousands of Southern Oregon hunters graduate from elk hunter to bull-shooter during the upcoming one-week season, which marks the apex of fall big-game hunts here.
    "It looks like T-shirt weather at least for the first half of the week, and that's not good," says Mark Vargas, Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "I don't think there will be any favorable hunting until at the end of the week, if at all."
    But that won't deter thousands of hunters from plunking down their $42.50 to hunt bulls in Jackson County's Rogue Unit, despite a string of poor seasons.
    A record low 2 percent of hunters bagged bulls in the Rogue Unit last year, and even tanning weather won't keep Vargas from believing last year's dismal showing represents a bottoming out of the success rate here.
    "I have to be optimistic," Vargas says. "I think it's going to be better."
    Hunters get their first crack at it Saturday, Oct. 16, and the hunt runs through Friday, Oct. 22.
    General-season tags will be on sale at Point of Sale license outlets through Friday night.
    This year, the Rogue Unit has an estimated 16 bulls per 100 cows. That's equal to last year, and it represents levels higher than hunters encountered during half of the seasons in the past decade.
    But last year's hunt was abysmal, with just 42 bulls shot in the Rogue Unit during the season.
    Hunters typically look for fresh tracking snow to find their bulls, but this year's forecast looks like anything but that.
    Oregon's would-be powerboaters looking to get their requisite Boater Safety Card now have a free online course approved to get themselves behind the wheel.
    The Oregon State Marine Board recently approved an online course offered by the BoatUS Foundation as qualifications for the card, which is required for all boaters operating a boat engine greater than 10 horsepower.
    The state of Oregon requires boaters operating a motorized watercraft having greater than 10 horsepower to carry a Boater Safety Card issued by the Oregon State Marine Board.
    The catch is to get the card a boater must complete an approved boating safety course but those courses aren't always available in every town and can be expensive.
    The course and exam are free and were also approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and recognized by the US Coast Guard as exceeding the minimum requirements for the National Recreational Boating Safety Program.
    Find the course at www.boatus.org.
    The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday closed the Rogue River search and rescue detachment until the start of the 2011 boating season next Memorial Day.
    The detachment opens during the summer and fall as boating traffic increases during a period that often brings hazardous bar conditions for boaters leaving the Rogue River for the ocean.
    Boaters that traverse the bar now are advised that there will be no immediate emergency response from Coast Guard crews during boating emergencies until the detachment returns.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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