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Deer season changes could bring boon

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]

Western Oregon blacktail deer hunters this weekend are stepping into their second straight uninterrupted buck season in more than three decades, but some of the same midseason dilemmas still loom.

Hot, dry weather forecast this weekend in and around the Rogue Valley will make Saturday’s start of the rifle-hunting season for bucks much like most others.

“For the weekend, it’s going to be warm, but that’s temporary,” said Dan Ethridge, a wildlife biologist for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Central Point. “It’ll be in the 90s, but that’s nothing extreme like we’ve seen before.”

But the comparisons to years gone by stop there for buck-shooters.

The general season for Roosevelt bull elk here last year moved out of mid-October and won’t start until the end of the blacktail buck season, which runs this year from Oct. 1 straight through Nov. 4.

Sales of Western Oregon general season buck deer tags as well as bear and cougar tags ends Friday night, Sept. 30.

The season change has far more implications than it sounds.

Not only is the midseason hiatus for deer hunting off the calendar in mid-October, so are the travel management area restrictions that historically closed vehicle access for 10 days to improve bull elk movements.

Also, game-trail cameras show that blacktail deer migration in southwest Oregon often is at its peak in the same mid-October week that heretofore was relegated to elk hunting.

Now that elk season and travel-management restrictions are pushed back to November, mid-October buck hunting locally could be a long-term boon not seen since the early 1990s.

“People really do like having that extra week in October,” Ethridge said. “There were a lot of deer moving at that time, and people took advantage of it.”

Last year, one in four buck hunters became buck-shooters, and the 25% success rate was a few ticks higher than past years, records show.

This year, Southern Oregon deer herds are rocking buck ratios of 23 bucks per 100 does, down a smidge from the past two years, records show.

But the Rogue Unit, which is the most hunted unit in the region, sports a hefty 30 bucks per 100 does, records show. A lighter than normal showing in the Applegate Unit likely dropped the gains from the Rogue Unit in the regional tally, Ethridge said.

“I think that was a little bit oddball,” Ethridge said.

The buck-to-doe ratios are not considered hard data and are used more as an index to compare years, as the census routes are the same each year.

Mark Freeman covers the outdoors for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470 or email him at mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com.