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ODFW proposes to add bear, muzzleloader hunts

A new spring bear hunt meant to draw hunters to southwest Oregon, and a new late-season muzzleloader hunt for blacktail bucks in the Chetco Unit are among proposed changes to the hunting landscape in 2015.

The new "Siskiyou Plus" bear hunt and the muzzleloader addition are part of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's proposals now out for public comment.

The packet includes tag proposals for this year's upcoming hunts and hunt changes for 2015.

ODFW biologists will present the proposals and take comment on them in Medford at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, during the regular meeting of the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association, at the Eagles Club, 2000 Table Rock Road.

The Southwest Spring Bear Hunt this year had 4,400 tags sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and it is intended to spread hunters across numerous southwest hunting units. The lion's share of effort, and success, occurs in the Siuslaw Unit, likely because it's the closest unit to Willamette Valley hunters, says Mark Vargas, ODFW's Rogue District wildlife biologist.

The proposed 250-tag Siskiyou Plus hunt would be for all the Southwest units except the Siuslaw and Indigo units, Vargas says.

"It's to get more people to look down here for bear hunting opportunities," Vargas says. "We just can't get people to come down here in any numbers, even though we have some of the highest (bear) densities in the state.

"We'll see if it works," he says. "It's an experiment."

The tag could also be an attractive second choice for hunters applying for controlled-hunt tags in other units in northern and Eastern Oregon, Vargas says.

Vargas proposed the new Chetco muzzleloader hunt, similar to the current Applegate Unit muzzleloader hunt, and it would run from mid-November to early December in conjunction with late-season archery hunts in the Rogue and Evans Creek units.

The proposal is for a buck-only hunt with 35 tags, Vargas says.

"We've had a lot of interest in that Chetco Unit," Vargas says. "There are plenty of bucks to harvest, and there will be another opportunity for muzzleloaders."

A half-million dollars will go to the Port of Brookings-Harbor to rebuild its boat basin parking lot so it can handle more traffic and keep it moving more efficiently.

The Oregon State Marine Board last week approved a $550,000 grant to improve traffic flow, update bathroom facilities and expand capacity at the boat launch at the base of the Chetco River.

The parking area, which has long been considered substandard, will get new asphalt, sidewalks, curbs and a stormwater treatment area, according to the Marine Board. The 64 existing parking spaces will be removed and the new lot will contain 80 spaces for trailers and vehicles, including ADA-accessible spaces.

The port plans to do the construction at the end of summer, but no definitive date has been set, Marine Board spokeswoman Ashley Massey says.

To round out the project, the port is kicking in $25,000 cash and $54,480 in in-kind work. The total project cost is $588,480.

The Marine Board grant comes from boater registration fees and fuel taxes paid by boaters. The Marine Board does not receive any state general fund money.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is teaming with the Crater Bass Club to hold a free family fishing event Saturday at Reinhart Volunteer Park Pond in Grants Pass.

The event, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., is designed to make learning how to catch fish as easy as possible. The agency will provide loaner rods, reels, tackle and bait. Volunteers will offer help with everything from baiting hooks and casting to catching and cleaning rainbow trout.

Kids ages 14 to 17 need a youth angling license to participate. Kids 13 and younger don't need a license to fish for trout.

To get there, take the Grants Pass Parkway from Interstate 5 to S.E. M Street, which turns into Bridge Street. Go left onto Lincoln Road and then turn left onto Webster Road to enter the park.

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