Oregon deer and elk hunters have until Thursday evening to report their success, or lack thereof, in the forests and fields last fall.
Those who miss the deadline will have to pay a $25 fine under the state's new mandatory reporting program.
The penalty will be levied against deer and elk hunters who fail to meet the Jan. 31 deadline for reporting how they fared during deer and elk hunts — either controlled or general season — that ended by Dec. 31.
Those who fail to report will have to pay the penalty before they can receive a hunting license in 2014.
"We don't want to be dinging people the $25," says Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Wildlife Division. "We just want everyone to report."
Last week, ODFW mailed reminder postcards to Western Oregon hunters about the looming deadline, and they apparently took notice.
Hunters last weekend reported on about 30,000 tags through the agency's website, boosting overall returns to 62 percent, Dennehy says.
ODFW officials expect a similar surge this weekend after an earlier postcard mailing to Eastern Oregon hunters.
Hunters can comply with the reporting rules online at https://or.outdoorcentral.us/or/hunterreport/. Or they can do it over the phone at 1-866-947-6339, but they should expect long wait times because of the anticipated number of procrastinators who will be calling at the last minute.
Hunters should have their hunter/angler ID handy when they call or go online to report. The number can be found on their Oregon hunting or angling license.
ODFW last year sold 175,235 deer tags and 114,452 elk tags, Dennehy says. The owner of each tag must report their success, even if they didn't hunt.
The agency also sold 26,673 bear tags, 20,986 cougar tags, 1,808 pronghorn tags and 25,722 turkey tags. ODFW is taking information on those hunts also, but they are not part of the penalty pool, Dennehy says.
ODFW enacted the mandatory reporting program in 2008 to help it garner enough data on hunting impacts on big-game species to improve computer models used to estimate animal population trends and set tag numbers. They found that successful hunters were more likely to report than unsuccessful ones, skewing estimates of the numbers of big-game animals killed by hunters annually.
Like other states in the West, Oregon initially imposed no penalties for failing to report and even used incentives to gain compliance. But last year, only about half of all tag holders reported hunt information.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in October adopted the penalty, matching the maximum allowed under a law passed in 2011 by the Oregon Legislature.
ODFW officials recommended a $10 penalty. But the seven-member commission opted for $25 because they believed hunters skirting the current system would be more likely to take notice of the higher fine.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The original version of this story contained incorrect numbers of deer and elk tags sold in Oregon in 2012.