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Hunters who report get shot at big-game tag

Most Oregon hunters have until Tuesday night to report their big-game and turkey hunting prowess of last year to comply with the state's mandatory reporting rules and win a chance for a hunt of a lifetime.

Those who file hunt reports by the required deadline will be entered into a contest to win one of three special big-game tags that will allow them to hunt deer, elk or pronghorn on extended seasons statewide — a big carrot used to increase hunter participation in the program used to gather data that helps biologists set hunt seasons and tag numbers.

So far, just 37 percent of hunters have filled out the required reports, and this likely will be one of the last times they can skip the program without feeling a pinch in the wallet.

After four years of no penalty for non-participation, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will ask the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in October to approve fines of up to $25 for deer and elk hunters who eschew the reporting program beginning with the 2013 season.

Under the rules, hunters are required to fill out a report for every deer, elk, bear, cougar, pronghorn and turkey tag they bought in 2011 — even if they didn't kill anything or go hunting during those seasons.

The Jan. 31 deadline is for reporting hunts that ended between April 1 and Dec. 31. Hunts that don't end before the end of March have a reporting date of April 15.

Hunters can report online at www.dfw.state.or.us or by calling 1-866-947-6339.

Hunters must provide the hunter/angler identification numbers from their licenses and tags. Hunters must also note the number of days they hunted for each tag, whether they mentored a youth during the hunt and what wildlife management unit they hunted. Those who killed a buck deer or bull elk will be asked to provide the number of points on their animal's antlers.

Oregon is one of the last states to not have punishments for hunters who fail to report their results. And participation is far less than the amount needed to make the data relevant for population modeling used to help set tag numbers.

Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill last fall authorizing the commission to fine non-participants up to $25, but no fine amount has been set.

Rogue River anglers can begin keeping one wild winter steelhead per day beginning Wednesday, when the river's unique 24-inch rule goes into effect riverwide.

Anglers have been able to keep one wild winter steelhead that is at least 24 inches long, and up to five per year, downstream from the Hog Creek boat ramp near Merlin since Jan. 1.

Enacted in the 1990s, the 24-inch rule is designed to give anglers the option of keeping a wild winter steelhead but steering anglers clear of keeping any wild summer steelhead also present in the Rogue. More than 90 percent of wild summer steelhead are smaller than 24 inches.

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