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Hunters gain access to new areas in state

Oregon hunters now have access to two private ranches in northeast Oregon, and more land will be opened up this fall as the state rolls out its new Oregon Open Fields program, which is aimed at expanding access in the Columbia Basin and Willamette Valley.

The Daly Ranch Access Area in Morrow County and the Dutch Flat Ranch Area in Wheeler County are the inaugural ranches, with access funded through a federal grant authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.

"There are more places than we have listed so far where people can hunt," says Matthew Keenan, coordinator of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Access and Habitat Program, which manages the Oregon Open Fields program. "There are more opportunities out there that we'll have coming."

The owners are paid $1.44 per acre per year, and access is gained through a reservation system managed by ODFW coordinators, Keenan says.

Interested hunters can call Travis Schultz in the ODFW's Heppner office at 541-224-3182 for a reservation. They will be given an access code to hunt a particular area on a particular day, Keenan says. Hunters then report on their successes, he says.

The Daly Ranch Access Area in the Columbia Basin Unit opens 3,500 acres through Dec. 31.

The area offers hunting opportunities for mule deer, pheasant, chukar, gray partridge, valley quail and predators.

The Dutch Flat Ranch Access Area is in the Fossil Unit and encompasses 9,246 acres for up to four parties per day. The land is open through Jan. 31 for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, wild turkey, chukar, pheasant, mountain quail and predators.

This agreement also opens access to another 2,500 acres of public lands previously landlocked by private property.

To learn more about the program, call Schultz or check the program's new website at www.oregonopenfields.com.

Oregon earned $2.3 million over three years for the program, Keenan says. So far the state has received about $1.5 million of it, and Keenan says he expects to get a one-year extension because it was slow to get rolling. The remaining money is contingent on federal availability, he says.

These private lands are opening as Oregon's Access and Habitat Program unveils the opening of four other Eastern Oregon ranches under its Welcome to Hunt program, which doesn't require reservations or access codes for hunters to enter.

"These are more open opportunities," Keenan says. "It makes it easier for guys to just show up and hunt."

The deals were swung using part of the $4 surcharges on hunting licenses to fund projects that improve wildlife habitat and afford better access for hunters.

The ranches collectively will provide new public hunting opportunities for deer, elk, pronghorn, upland game birds and predators. Maps of the open areas can be found at oregonhuntingmap.com.

The Fox Valley Access Area in the Northside Unit of Grant County opens 1,355 acres. That land is open Aug. 1 through Jan. 31 through 2014. It contains mule deer, elk, pronghorn, wild turkey, upland game birds and predators.

For information, call ODFW's John Day Field Office at 541-575-1167.

The Iron Mountain Access Area in the Lookout Mountain Unit of Baker County opens 3,342 acres for deer, elk, pronghorn, upland game birds and predator hunting. It is open each Aug. 1 through Jan. 31 through 2015.

The program also opens 4,215 acres of previously landlocked public property.

The M.R. King Ranches are found in the Lookout Mountain and Sumpter units of Baker County, encompassing 3,835 acres. Open Aug. 1 through Jan. 31 from now until 2013, it sports hunting opportunities for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bear, upland game birds and predators.

For information on the Iron Mountain or M.R, King lands, call ODFW's Baker City Field Office at 541-523-5832.

The Pine Creek Ranch in the Malheur River Unit of Harney County opens 12,105 acres each Aug. 1 to March 1 until 2015. It sports deer, elk, pronghorn, predators, sage grouse and other upland game birds.

For information, call ODFW's Hines District Office at 541-573-6852.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.