IT’S CERTAINLY NOT the first time we’ve had hunting interrupted by fire, but the imminent threat of wildfires in Oregon has grown to unimaginable proportions. The threat of fire is so real that land managers across the state have started to button down thousands of private timber land that would otherwise be open to hunting. As of late August over a millions of acres in Oregon were closed to public access, which, for all intents and purposes, prematurely ended the archery season in the affected areas.
As it stands Willamette Industries closed all of its 610,000 acres from Clatsop to Douglas counties. Weyerhaeuser closed 400,000 acres in Lane, Linn, Benton and east Douglas counties, and Seneca Jones Timber Company closed 167,000 acres in western Oregon. Stimson’s land, nearly 100,000 acres in Tillamook, Washington, Yamhill and Polk counties are open by permit only. Longview Fibre closed 300,000 acres in Marion, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Linn and Multnomah counties. And in eastern Oregon, Boise Cascade is allowing only walk in traffic, plus there’s a long list of restrictions in place. In western Oregon Boise Cascade closed all its land to public access. That may seem like a lot, but it’s just beginning to scratch the surface of what will come if this hot, dry weather continues. Those companies were just the first to error on the side of caution. You can almost guarantee others will follow suit.
Currently, public lands in Oregon remain open, however state and federal agencies will consider closing land if conditions warrant. You should be aware, however, that certain areas have specific restrictions such as prohibited or limited campfire use, travel off developed roads and ATVs.
Right now archery elk and deer hunters are the ones feeling the pinch, but rifle hunters should take this as a sign of what’s to come when the deer season opens Sept. 30. There are roughly 64,000 archery hunters, and over 220,000 rifle hunters (elk, deer). That translates into a lot of displaced hunters, me included.
How long closures continue is hard to determine, but considering what’s happening in Montana and other western states it’s alarming to think of the ramifications. There are currently nine major fires burning in the state, most of which are located in eastern Oregon. That does not bode well for big game hunters this year.
There isn’t a lot you can do at this point but sit by the phone and computer and wait. You can keep abreast of what’s open and what’s closed. Do that by making phone calls or by monitoring the Department of Forestry’s Web site. It will list the latest information on what is open and what is closed. We can only hope that the warming trend ends and we get rain. Long term forecasters are not optimistic.
FIVE TIMES UNLUCKY: On a more pleasant note, Sam Waller at Jot’s Resort witnessed a phenomenal month of salmon fishing on Rogue Bay. It included the eventual net job of a salmon that had the fishermen of Gold Beach talking. Fishing the Rogue Bay a pair of uneducated Rogue Bay anglers got an education on how big and mean this river’s fall Chinook can be. After putting two fish in the box one of the fishermen hooked up with what turned out to be a hog. A big, mean one at that.
“They hooked this fish and we watched them fight it for 25 minutes,” explained Waller. “They got it up close to the boat once and they saw three other riggings hanging out of its mouth.” The salmon then broke off and swam away with a fourth rigging in its jaw.
The next day Blue Box Tommy, a Gold Beach local (we didn’t name him) landed what was believed to the same fish. He had four sets of tackle in his jaw. “He had all kinds of gear in his mouth,” says Waller. “He was a biter. Just a brute.”
The salmon weighed in at a cool 42 pounds. Chew on that while you’re waiting to hear the woods crackle with fire.