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Bear hunters jump all over new tag system

Tags to hunt black bears this spring in southwest Oregon have sold out in the state's inaugural first-come, first-served sale of spring bear tags.

The last of the 3,750 spring bear tags available for this year's SW Oregon hunt sold late Thursday, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency put the tags up for sale on a first-come basis to save hunters the $4.50 application fee charged for the regular spring controlled-hunt drawing, and it seemed to spark interest, says Mark Vargas, the ODFW's Rogue District wildlife biologist who spearheaded the change.

Vargas says some hunters in the past used the southwest Oregon hunt as a fall-back hunt because hundreds of tags were left over after the drawing and offered for sale in March.

But this year, with tag sales running briskly, hunters likely did not want to gamble with their spring season, Vargas says.

"The gamble was that those who didn't draw a tag elsewhere would be out of luck if (the first-come tags) were sold out by then," Vargas says. "I think a lot of people didn't want to take that chance and just bought it."

The tags cost $11.50. The SW Oregon spring hunt opens April 1 and runs through May 31. Other controlled seasons open April 1 or April 15, depending upon the location.

Another 3,885 bear tags were offered in 14 adult and three youth controlled hunts this spring through the controlled-hunt drawing. Those results are now available on the ODFW's Web site, www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/big_game/controlled_hunts/.

Hunters successful in the draw can buy their tag online or at Point Of Sale agents beginning Friday.

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