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Hunter-ed courses taken now will get kids afield this fall

Young guns who hope to hit the field for their first hunting experiences have opportunities now to get their hunter-education requirements handled or they will miss the upcoming seasons.

Hunter-education classes are taking registrations, and would-be hunters can also sign up for the required range days scheduled across Oregon in August and early September.

Too often would-be hunters wait until too close to the fall hunting seasons to seek out the hunter-education courses required for kids younger than 18, says James Reed, the hunter-education coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"We don't really offer a lot of classes when it gets close to hunting season because our instructors are all volunteers and often they're out hunting," Reed says.

More kids are turning to online classes to take care of the class portion of the requirements, Reed says. They still, however, need to complete the field day, which includes hands-on gun safety.

The online courses were used sparingly when they were first offered in Oregon in 2007, but now about half of the 6,500 Oregonians who complete hunter education do so on one of the three approved online courses, Reed says.

"The delivery of hunter education has radically changed in Oregon and across the country," Reed says. "The students today are digital learners and they have higher test scores."

Either way, the classes take about 12 hours to complete.

Registration for a course or a field day costs $10. To view a list of classroom courses, visit ODFW's license sales site at www.dfw.state.or.us

Online courses cost anywhere from $13 to $24.50, and they include mobile-friendly options. Others can get a free workbook by emailing odfw.info@state.or.us.

Lost Creek Lake levels dropping

Stewart State Park visitors likely have about another week of launching boats into Lost Creek Lake as water levels continue to drop.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warns boaters that water levels at the park's ramp will likely drop below the end of the concrete about Aug. 7.

The ramp generally becomes unusable when the lake's surface level drops below 1,812 feet above sea level. That's generally the low point hit in September, and the lake level usually stays at that height, because the Corps releases to the Rogue River match inflows to the reservoir.

But the drought and plans to release about 50,000 acre-feet of extra water to help Rogue salmon and steelhead means the reservoir will be drawn down more than 30 feet lower than normal this fall, according to the Corps.

Boaters, however, will still have access to the Takelma boat ramp near the dam's north side. To get there from Medford, take Highway 62 north past Trail and turn left on Takelma Drive near Casey State Park.

Blue-green algae hits Klamath, Agency lakes

Southern Oregonians looking to beat the heat by canoeing on upper Klamath or Agency lakes are urged to avoid water contact there due to the presence of blue-green algae toxins above safe levels.

The Oregon Health Authority this week issued the public-health advisory against contact at the two lakes except in Pelican Bay, where the spring-fed waters are cooler.

The advisory, however, does include upper Klamath River waters from the lake downstream to Keno Dam.

Routine water-quality monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey turned up the high toxin levels from cyanobacteria that are considered unsafe to people and animals.

Water contact is not advised and anglers should practice catch-and-release fishing there until the toxin levels dissipate, according to the OHA.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.