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Southern Oregon deer, salmon rules change

GOLD BEACH — General season black-tailed deer hunters will be allowed to shoot single-point spike bucks in Western Oregon beginning in 2020 under new hunting rules adopted by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The change will increase the chance of success for about 60,000 hunters who take part in the Western Oregon season. Rifle hunters generally average about a 20-percent success rate.

Under the previous rule, hunters could shoot only forked-horn deer. The change is not expected to have much impact on the overall blacktail population because spikes have a high mortality rate on their own, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife statistics.

Also adopted for 2020 are new general season antlerless elk “damage tags” in chronic elk-damage areas like Sams Valley and the foothills east of Medford where most damage tags currently are issued, biologist said.

These low-elevation elk generally are not migratory, so culling their numbers won’t impact the migratory herds, says Steve Nimela, ODFW’s Rogue District wildlife biologist.

Hunters who buy the tags will be able to hunt Aug. 1 through Nov. 30 but only on private lands, and landowners experiencing damage can either buy tags themselves or direct hunters to damage-causing cow elk on their properties.

Hunters who buy the tags will not be able to buy any other elk tag in Oregon that year.

The new rules were adopted Sept. 13 by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Also, the commission enacted temporary rules for angling cutbacks in some Southern Oregon coastal streams where poor fall chinook salmon returns are expected this year.

The changes do not include the Rogue River, which is in the midst of what was forecast as an above-average fall chinook run for this year.

The commission set temporary, one-year restrictions that begin Oct. 1 on the Chetco, Elk and Sixes rivers, which are forecast for returns well under average this year.

The temporary, one-year reductions were crafted to reduce the number of chinook anglers keep and to increase the number that spawn in these rivers this fall, according to ODFW.

The Chetco’s preseason forecast is fewer than 1,300 wild spawning chinook to reach the river, and that’s lower than the bare-bones minimum needed to ensure the population does not decline.

The Chetco will be closed upstream of river mile 2.2 at least until November, and this year’s chinook limit was slashed from one per day and up to five per year to one a day and no more than two per year.

The closed portion of the Chetco would open after rains allow fall chinook to move throughout the mainstem river, making them less likely to be over-fished when stuck in deep holes waiting to migrate.

Also closed is the Elk River from Swamp Creek near the top of tidewater up to the Highway 101 bridge, leaving the river mouth open. Also, the chinook limit was dropped this year from one a day and 10 a year to one a day and five per year in aggregate for the Elk, Sixes, Coos and Coquille rivers.

ODFW earlier canceled the fall “bubble” fishery this year off the mouths of the Chetco and Elk rivers, which target adult fish heading to those rivers to spawn. Those fisheries open only if there are excess chinook for anglers to catch.

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