Tag numbers for some deer and elk hunts this fall have been reduced from the numbers shown in the 2020 Big Game Regulations. The reduction of a total of 3,953 buck tags and 287 antlerless deer tags affects deer hunts in Desolation, Fort Rock, Hood, Metolius, Mt Emily, Northside, Paulina, Silver Lake, Sprague, Ukiah, Walla Walla, and White River Units. A total of 670 elk tags are being reduced in Imnaha, Maury, and Zumwalt Prairie hunts.
The deer tag reductions are due to fewer mule deer being observed during fall surveys. ODFW wildlife biologists believe ongoing disease outbreaks in central and eastern Oregon are the main cause of the decline. A large outbreak of EHD was documented this year, which led to a die-off of white-tailed deer in the Walla Walla, Mt Emily and Ukiah Units and also impacted some mule deer. In addition to EHD, an uptick of cases of adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD) has been observed throughout the state.
The disease is usually fatal to deer and death can occur in three to five days from the time the deer was exposed to the virus. AHD is transmitted primarily from “nose-to-nose” contact between infected animals and usually occurs in summer through fall, particularly during drier weather that congregates deer near water.
“While not as severe as the EHD outbreak that caused a significant die-off of white-tails, we have continued to see AHD-caused mortalities of mule deer in central and south central Oregon for the last several years,” said Kevin Blakely, ODFW assistant wildlife division administrator. “Fewer mule deer were observed during population surveys in these units so we need to reduce tags. While cutting buck tags will not result in a population increase, as populations decline fewer bucks are available, so tags need to be reduced to maintain buck ratios.”
Earlier this year ODFW announced hunt cancellations for white-tailed deer hunts in Walla Walla, Mt Emily and Ukiah Units due to the outbreak of EHD. Tag numbers for some elk hunts are also being reduced, though not due to disease. While Rocky Mountain elk are doing well throughout eastern Oregon, antlerless elk tags are being reduced in the Imnaha and Chesnimnus units. The elk populations in these two units are now at or close to the population MOs (management objectives) so tags are being reduced to numbers intended to maintain populations near MO.
Elk tags are also being reduced in the Maury unit where fewer elk were in the unit the last several hunting seasons and hunter success has been very low. The controlled hunt deadline remains May 15, 2020. Hunters who have already applied may change their hunt choices free of charge until June 1, 2020. Hunters can adjust their application through their online account (under Recreational Portfolio/Controlled Hunts; see how-to online). If you need assistance, contact ODFW Licensing at email@example.com, (503) 947-6101. Note that fewer licensing staff are currently working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so please be patient when calling or emailing.