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Southern Oregon rifle season starts for blacktail bucks

By Mark Freeman

Mail Tribune

Rifle hunters will take to the woods Saturday for the start of a black-tailed buck deer season that holds both promise and pitfalls.

The Cascade general rifle season opens with excellent buck ratios in Southern Oregon, but extreme fire danger will leave most private lands closed to hunters, and forests are so dry that traditional deer-stalking will be tough.

“The ground’s going to be dry and snappy,” says Steve Niemela, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Rogue District wildlife biologist. “It’s going to be difficult, especially if you spot and stalk like a lot of hunters do here.

“It might work well to sit down, be still and let the animals come to you,” Niemela says.

This year’s season is the last Cascade rifle season that will be interrupted in midseason by the Cascade general rifle season for Rocky Mountain elk.

Deer season runs through Oct. 16, then takes a one-week hiatus before resuming Oct. 24 and running through Nov. 7.

Heading into Saturday, buck ratios are solid in the Rogue and Applegate management units, which are the two most prominent ones for hunters taking part in the general rifle season for buck here.

The Rogue Unit, which sports a unique and highly migratory herd of blacktails, has 25 bucks per 100 does, which is right in the normal range, according to ODFW field surveys.

Overall in Southern Oregon, the buck ratio is about 31 bucks per 100 does, data shows.

Overall deer numbers are also holding steady and are similar to those 20 years ago, Niemela says. These deer generally winter in areas ripe with oak savannas and ceanothus plots that provide good feed for deer, he says.

Last year’s Rogue Unit hunters had a 16% success rate, which is within the normal range, records show. But hunters fared well in the Evans Creek Unit, where 28% of hunters stuck their tags on a buck tine.

Ditto on the Applegate Unit, where 21% of hunters were successful last year.

Teen basser to compete

A 14-year-old Medford bass angler is headed to Idaho to compete for a $35,000 bass boat in a one-day tourney meant to give teenagers a taste of big-time bass fishing.

Austin Glass will represent Oregon Saturday in the second annual Bassmaster Big Bass Zone Junior Championship tournament on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille.

The BBZ is for kids ages 14 to 19 who preregister and fish January through August in their home state, with the largest bass per state earning an all-expenses paid trip to the national tournament.

Competitors will fish all day in the tournament, vying for the top prize of the bass boat as well as scholarships and other prizes.

Austin will fish in a boat operated by his father, local bass aficionado Travis Bass. He will fish with one other anglers, and each will have four hours in the front and running the trolling motor.

Austin qualified by catching a largemouth bass of nearly 8 pounds May 31 at Dorena Lake.

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

Southern Oregon is known for big black-tailed bucks, and numbers look good this fall, but size appears to be down. [Mail Tribune / file photo]