Bighorn tag sets Oregon record

A Bakersfield, Calif., man paid a record $135,000 for an Oregon bighorn sheep tag auctioned Saturday to raise money for bighorn sheep management in the state.

Kevin Small's winning bid was $5,000 higher than the previous record, which was set in 2005 and matched in 2011.

The tag was auctioned by the Foundation for North American Sheep at its annual Sheep Show, which culminated Saturday in Reno, Nev.

Small did not return telephone calls seeking comment. He has previously not purchased a hunting tag or license in Oregon, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife records.

The agency offers the sheep tag in the auctions, and 90 percent of proceeds from the auction go to bighorn sheep management and research, says Michelle Dennehy, ODFW Wildlife Division spokeswoman.

The tag allows Small to hunt for any species of bighorn sheep anywhere there is an authorized bighorn hunt from mid-August through late November. It's one of 11 tags auctioned annually to raise money for wildlife management.

ODFW also provides 11 identical tags, along with a Western Oregon elk tag, via an annual raffle.


Spring chinook season canceled on Deschutes River, agency says

The popular spring chinook salmon season on the Deschutes River will be canceled this year because poor returns of wild fish are anticipated.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist are predicting that fewer than 650 wild spring chinook will return to spawn in the Warm Springs River, a major Deschutes tributary.

Under the agency's Lower Deschutes River management plan, the predicted run must contain at least 1,000 wild fish before ODFW can open a sport fishery on returning hatchery fish. With returns of fewer than 1,000 adults, the wild stock cannot withstand even incidental losses due to catch-and-release fishing by anglers targeting hatchery returns, according to the plan.

Also, the return of hatchery fish to the two Deschutes River hatcheries is expected to be low enough to threaten the facilities' spawning needs, according to ODFW.

The exact reasons for depressed chinook runs on the Deschutes are unknown, but biologists hope a year without angling will help boost future returns.

Past spring chinook seasons have typically opened in April. The fishery below Sherars Falls is extremely popular because high catch rates create a good chance to catch a Columbia River spring chinook from the bank.

Unlike the wild spring chinook population, the Deschutes' wild fall chinook run is one of the healthiest stocks in the Columbia basin, and the anticipated return should be well above management goals. The fall chinook season on the river is proposed to open in August.


Tag numbers corrected

In a Feb. 2 article about mandatory reporting of deer and elk hunting results in Oregon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided incorrect numbers of deer and elk tags sold in Oregon in 2012. The state sold 175,235 deer tags and 114,452 elk tags last year.


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