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Bowhunters hit woods with extreme fire danger, private land closures

Deer-hunting season opens Saturday for bowhunters, and tinder-dry forests have triggered extreme fire-season conditions in Southern Oregon's public forests as well as closures on large swaths of industrial forests.

While Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands remain accessible to hunters, extreme fire-danger restrictions mean no driving off improved roads and no smoking outside of vehicles, as well as the standard no open fires of any kind.

Many of the larger industrial-forest owners in Jackson and Josephine counties have barred even walk-in access to their lands because of the threat of wildfire, according to the Oregon Forest Industries Council.

Regardless of the fire restrictions, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has no plans to suspend hunting, says Michelle Dennehy, ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.

"I haven't heard any talk about closures," Dennehy says. "Think of how much drier it was last year, and we didn't close hunting."

The OFIC regularly publishes a map and listings of which of its members have open lands for hunters and the rest of the public and those that are closed.

Those closed to all public access without a permit include Lone Rock Timber Co. and its other holdings, Hancock Forest Management, Indian Hill LCC and Murphy Investments, according to OFIC.

No-public-access rules will be enforced on C&D Lumber and Silver Butte Timber lands, according to OFIC.

Green Diamond Resource Co. lands were listed earlier this week as offering limited walk-in access but not motorized, according to OFIC. Some Senaca lands in Southern Oregon were open earlier this week for walk-in access, but an OFIC map update Wednesday listed those lands as closed.

To view all the OFIC's up-to-date listings, visit www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Documents/CorporateClosures.pdf.

Archers are used to extreme fire restrictions in Southern Oregon, and in recent years industrial land closures have become the rule after decades as an exception.

The archery season in the Rogue and Evans Creek units runs from Saturday through Sept. 27, then it takes its normal hiatus for rifle hunters in their deer and elk general seasons. Bowhunters return to the woods from Nov. 12 through Dec. 4.

The first season is for buck deer and any elk, as long as hunters have the requisite tags.

The Applegate Unit's bowhunting season opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 25.

Also new this year are some bag-limit changes to several elk-hunting units during the early bow season, according to ODFW.

Bowhunters in the early general bow season can no longer take an antlerless elk in Saddle Mountain, Wilson and Scappoose units. The bag limit is one bull in Scappoose and Wilson and one 3-point or better bull in Saddle Mountain.

In the Minam and Desolation units, general-season bow elk hunters have a bag limit of one elk this year. Those units in recent years had been reduced to one-bull bag limits.

As a reminder, lighted arrow nocks are now allowed for bowhunters in Oregon. Lighted nocks increase visibility of an arrow and make it easier to follow an arrow’s flight and retrieve it.

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