State wildlife biologists seeking to reverse declines in Oregon hunter numbers have launched a contest to encourage hunters to pass on their passions — and possibly win from a passel of more than $1,000 dollars in prizes for doing it.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's new Take a Friend Hunting contest creates quite a large carrot to entice veteran hunters to mentor a new or lapsed adult hunter this year.

Those who do, and can prove it, will be in line to register for a drawing for prizes that include a Leupold rifle scope valued at $690, an Eberlestock M5 Team Elk Pack valued at $329, and a 2018 statewide deer tag if the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approves it.

To be eligible, both the veteran and inexperienced hunter must have valid 2017 Oregon hunting licenses and be at least 18 years old. The inexperienced hunter must have never held an Oregon hunting license, purchased their first license last year or have not been a licensed hunter since 2012.

Each person must hunt on their own licenses and tags. All types of hunting qualify as long as they are legal, ethical and safe, according to the agency.

For instance, both the mentor and newbie could each buy general season black-tailed buck deer tags or get upland game-bird validations. The new hunter could also accompany a mentor, or vice-versa, on a controlled hunt as long as only the person with the valid tag carries and uses a legal weapon for that particular hunt.

Unlike the agency's Youth Mentor Program, this is designed for adults.

Participants have until the end of December to register at www.oregonhunter.info/, and prizes will be awarded in January.

Free Fishing Weekend April 22-23

Anglers and would-be anglers can usher in Earth Day on Oregon's waterways whether they have fishing licenses or not.

April 22 and 23 represent another bonus Free Fishing Weekend, an event that allows anyone in the state to fish, crab or dig clams without a license or tag.

That includes spring chinook salmon or winter steelhead fishing on the Rogue River.

This will be the third new Free Fishing Weekend — in addition to the traditional one on the first weekend in June — since the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission added the six extra days last year. The commission was able to do so thanks to a law passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2015.

The other days are around Thanksgiving and New Years Eve annually. This year, those dates are Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1, 2018.

While licenses are waived during free fishing days, all other regulations, including bag limits, gear restrictions and regular closures, still apply.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.