My letter to ODFW.

Banger

New Member
Nov 19, 2012
10
8
April 15, 2020

Curt Melcher
Director, ODFW


Director Melcher,

I was pleased to see that ODFW is reducing tags for some elk and deer hunts in Eastern Oregon. However, as I went through the list I was again disappointed to see that nothing is being done in regards to the deer and elk herds in the Minam unit. There are other herds that are clearly not meeting population and/or bull/cow ratio objectives. Starkey deer and Snake River elk are just a few examples I noticed.

I have written letters to ODFW, the Commission, attended meetings, etc. for years, trying to bring light to the issue with the herds in the Minam unit. I doubt you remember, but you even responded with a few questions to my concerns at a public meeting at the Clackamas office some years ago. To be clear, this is nothing personal with you, but you’re the leader of ODFW now, so these type of letters go with the job.

So, assuming you are not aware of the numbers occurring in the Minam unit since you have a lot of responsibilities, here they are. The population management objective for deer in the Minam is 7,000 deer. At last count in 2019 the population has now dropped to 1,700. The buck/doe objective is 25/100. That objective has not been achieved since 2003. That is 17 years. For 17 years ODFW has made no effort to meet that objective. No tag reductions, no temporary antler point restriction, shortened seasons, nothing.

The Minam unit elk herd has not achieved the bull/cow ratio objective of 20 bulls per 100 cows for at least five years according to ODFW data recently published. I did not bother looking into past years. The last two years have bull ratios of 9 and 10 bulls per 100 cows. That is half the objective. Again, there has been no management effort to achieve the objective through tag reductions, temporary antler point restrictions, etc.

I would appreciate a response to my simple question. Why? Why is nothing being done? Why are we spending state resources to count animals and gather data, when nothing is done with the data? Even more, I would appreciate that the Minam herds were managed to attempt to achieve the objectives the citizens of Oregon have established in the Management Plans for each species.

I really do not expect a response, nor do I have any hope that anything will be done. I recognize that I am likely in the minority of Oregon hunters who are concerned about these things. I used to have a small bit of hope that things could be improved despite my frustrations. This latest move, that once again ignores the publics wildlife in the Minam unit has honestly crushed any glimmer of hope I once had. After 17 years I give up.
For 22 years I have been hunting other states for deer and elk. The differences in management are stark. I will no longer compete for tags in Eastern Oregon with other Oregon hunters. I will use my limited time and funds to take trips to other states with my two children, both aspiring hunters.

Best of luck with the difficulty of managing Oregon’s wildlife. I believe the citizens of Oregon deserve a better effort. Perhaps something positive will come out of the ideas thrown about on the recent Big Game Forum.

Sincerely,


Tony Pranger
 

Banger

New Member
Nov 19, 2012
10
8
Sort of. He replied right away saying he’d try to take a look at it. But that was it. No response once again to what I feel are legitimate concerns. In a weird way, the lack of response actually made me feel a little better about the bitter decision to quit mule deer hunting in my home state.
 

ore hunter

Very Active Member
Jul 25, 2014
663
50
there is without a doubt a stark difference between oregon and a managed rocky mtn state,i have hunted out of state in several states and its sad but my home state of oregon is really only a camping trip in comparison to others,,i agree with your letter for most of the s e corner of oregon as being similar to the minam unit.
 

Extrapale

Active Member
Mar 18, 2014
467
12
Oregon
We hunt the Minam every.couple years for rifle elk. The deer herd is in bad shape. I would have liked to see the deer herd in there 30 years ago. The amount of elk we saw this year during spring bear was pathetic also. We ususlly see hundreds migrating back up. This year we saw 10s.
 

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Zim

Very Active Member
Feb 28, 2011
719
24
LaPorte, IN
Was foolish enough to buy into the Oregon system as a NR years ago in the hopes of a Big 3 elk hunt. That finally happened last year after a 22 year wait. This year I am making a major play to burn both my deer & lope points in an effort to exit their system permanently. Very little competition in the high point pools, but only one NR tag in each hunt I picked. Even at 22 years waiting the hunts don't sound great, but I drew nothing elsewhere this year, so this would be a good time to use the points, save $172/year donation and escape. Tired of funding outfitter welfare, among other things.
 
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Timber Stalker

New Member
May 22, 2020
23
33
I’ve narrowed my hunting in oregon to a select few square miles in general season areas. I do apply for controlled deer and elk tags but really don’t get to excited if I draw.
 

idcwby

Active Member
Jun 23, 2015
355
710
Idaho
Nice letter, to bad it won’t help. I’m one of those lovely NR playing the point system and trying to get out of it now, but doesn’t look like it’s possible. Since I do a lot of bird hunting over there I’ll keep buying points and hopefully be able to utilize them at some point.
 

Banger

New Member
Nov 19, 2012
10
8
So just some follow up to be fair to ODFW. I did receive a lengthy email from Tom Thornton, Big Game Director, yesterday. He explained that the published Buck/Bull ratios are just observed numbers. They apparently don't publish their modeled ratios. So the Minam has in fact been meeting or exceeding ratios pretty much this whole time. OK, fine. If that is the case ODFW is doing a horrible job of marketing their product to out of state hunters who look at such things when deciding where to apply. I can only assume that just about every unit in Oregon must be meeting ratio objectives if that is their policy?? Who knew things were so rosy.

They are going to propose dropping buck tags by 150 tags in 2021. The rest of the email I won't relay, other than I was told several times dropping bull/buck tags will do nothing to increase populations.

So I will give them credit for finally doing "something", but it is too little to late in my opinion. I'm done. Thankful to be headed to Wyoming and Montana this fall!
 

Timber Stalker

New Member
May 22, 2020
23
33
Responses like that are why I started buying points in other states several years ago. I used to write letters and go to meetings and my confidence level in how Oregon management works faded very quickly. It’s sad that with so much potential it’s has gone in the toilet and will never get better.