State grants temporary approval to hunting practices

State wildlife managers Friday adopted temporary rules to legalize some customary training practices of dog handlers and falconers that ran afoul of wildlife protections.

Now representatives of the groups will meet to hash out long-term rules.

The changes adopted by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission include the lifting of an April through August ban against dogs running free in game-bird nesting habitat in certain circumstances.

The practice will be allowed only when dogs are being trained on private land and in identified dog-training areas such as those at the state-owned Denman Wildlife Area in White City.

The new rules create a free permit for dog trainers who release pen-raised pheasants or quail and shoot them when training retrievers, provided the birds are marked properly and the shooter has all hunting licenses and necessary tags and validations.

Many dog trainers historically have bought pen-raised birds that they release and shoot to train retrievers. Locations such as Denman have been popular for that training.

The new rules allow most traditional training practices to continue despite their conflict with some state wildlife laws while the advisory group works up permanent rules, said Kevin Blakely, ODFW's interim deputy director.

"We wanted to make sure we put it in black and white — what they can do — so some training can go on," Blakely said.

Representatives on the new advisory group include hunting-dog trainers, game-bird propagators, shooting-preserve operators, falconers, hunters, bird conservationists and the Oregon State Police.

Their first meeting is scheduled for Feb. 24, and plans are to hold three meetings before drafting rules to be brought before the commission at its June 3 meeting in Salem.

Under previous law, no one could legally release a pen-raised bird without a permit — even on private land. And pen-raised birds released could not be shot legally outside of regular hunting seasons or special events, because the law did not differentiate between wild and pen-raised birds upon release.

The temporary rules do not apply to non-hunting dogs. Also, wild birds remain illegal for use in training.

Hunters who obtain the new release permit are urged to send a copy to ODFW so biologists can begin to understand how many dog-trainers are in Oregon's fields and where they go.

The permits are available at the ODFW website, www.dfw.state.or.us.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.


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