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'Premium hunts' offer expanded opportunities

While in line to buy into this year's controlled-hunt lottery, the guy behind me asked if I was going to put in for any of the new premium hunts. I hadn't heard anything about them, but they sounded kind of interesting, at least the way he was talking about them. I didn't want to bug the teller, because the other guys behind me wouldn't want me taking up their time. Instead, I'll take up your time. What are they?

— M.M., Medford

Premium hunts are a new offering this year by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to give hunters a chance to draw an extra deer, elk or pronghorn tag with a months-long season instead of just a few weeks.

The hunts are similar to the yearly auction tags that often sell for several thousand dollars, but the winners of the premium tags will pay the regular price, according to ODFW.

The premium hunts are in addition to the regular hunts, so hunters can apply for the same deer and elk tags they normally do. However, the premium hunts are solo tags and are not sold to full hunt parties.

Since applications for the premium hunt series began in December, they have been popular among Oregon's hunters, says Michelle Dennehy, ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.

As of Wednesday, more than 36,000 premium hunt applications have been sold. The deadline for purchasing them and regular controlled-hunt applications is Sunday.

The premium deer and elk hunts will run Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, while the pronghorn hunt will run Aug. 1 through Sept. 30.

The hunts were set last year, and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will set the tag numbers at its June 9-10 meeting in Salem.

The applications cost $8, and the new opportunity already has raised close to $300,000, Dennehy says.

Agency officials said they plan to set aside the money raised in this new hunt to fund special projects that help improve big-game populations and, in turn, perhaps increase hunting opportunities. Another idea tossed around is to use some of the money for targeted law-enforcement on key mule deer winter ranges where poaching has posed problems for the herds, according to ODFW.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.