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  • Get in line for tags, blacktail hunters, rain is on the way

  • Oregonians will line up at point-of-sale license outlets statewide to take part in that annual rite of hunting called buying your license and tags at the 11th hour.
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  • Oregonians will line up at point-of-sale license outlets statewide to take part in that annual rite of hunting called buying your license and tags at the 11th hour.
    The tag-sale deadline is tonight for deer hunts that open Saturday across the state, and procrastinating would-be buck shooters will find themselves joined by others in long lines.
    Even though general-season tags have been available for purchase since December and controlled-hunt tags have been ready to buy since mid June, as many as 30,000 Oregonians will wait until tonight to make that purchase.
    Last year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife sold 88,969 Western Oregon deer tags. As of midnight Wednesday, just 54,111 were sold, agency statistics show.
    Last year, the agency sold 33,289 tags on the last two days, says Michelle Dennehy, ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.
    Those who do plunk down the dough for a tag likely will find a rare opening-weekend treat — rain.
    A chance of rain is forecast for the woods in Jackson County Saturday and Sunday, with more rain likely early next week, according to the National Weather Service. That should help take the crackle out of the tinder-dry forest floor and make stalking of blacktail bucks a bit more viable.
    "It might not come during the weekend when the majority of hunters need it," says Mark Vargas, ODFW's Rogue District wildlife biologist. "But next week looks good and next weekend looks even better.
    "So get a raincoat and get out there," Vargas says. "Don't sit in your pickup looking through the windshield wipers. You have to beat the brush for bucks."
    The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has set up two new ways for ocean anglers to weigh in on proposed changes to next year's Pacific halibut and bottomfishing seasons without leaving their homes.
    Agency biologists have posted background information on the fisheries and set up online survey opportunities for anglers who missed this past week's public meetings held at coastal ports.
    The presentations pitched at those meetings can be found at ODFW's Marine Resources Program website at www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP. Click on the quick link for sport halibut or sport groundfish.
    The survey for the 2012 halibut fisheries can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SFFVJ2Q.
    The survey on proposed changes for the 2012 bottomfish fishery can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/S3KP9DJ .
    Both surveys will be open through Tuesday, Oct. 4.
    Up for discussion is how anglers want the Pacific halibut quotas meted out, how many open days to string together at a time and how to manage the Southern Oregon season currently run without a quota.
    Also up for debate is whether to change the cabezon size limit and whether to adjust the depth restrictions on bottomfishing to protect more yelloweye rockfish from incidental catch.
    Those possibilities range from keeping the current 40-fathom rule in effect April through September, or cutting that back to 30 fathoms or even 25 fathoms as the fishing boundary.
    Oregon has four new designated scenic bikeways mapped and designed for pedalers to enjoy.
    The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission recently adopted the bikeways, making Oregon the first and only state to do so.
    The new routes are: Sisters to Smith Rock State Park, a pedal of 35 miles on rural roads; a series of loops covering 38 miles on Highway 242 in and around Camp Sherman and the Metolius River; the Old West Scenic Bikeway, a 108-mile loop around Heppner; and the Blue Mountain Century Scenic Bikeway, a 176-mile loop around John Day.
    The routes range from difficult to what organizers label as "family friendly" and include rides for a single day to as long as a week.
    Detailed maps, route descriptions and itineraries can be found at www.oregonscenicbikeways.org.
    The relatively new bikeway program is a partnership between Cycle Oregon, Travel Oregon, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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