New Hunts for Oregon’s Blackpowder Bulls

By Gary Lewis

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This fall, a few of Oregon's muzzleloader hunters will grab their long-barreled rifles and sling their ‘possibles' bags in pursuit of Columbia whitetails in the North Bank Habitat Area and for elk along the south coast. Both hunts represent a unique opportunity.

New Muzzleloader Elk Hunt

According to District Wildlife Biologist Stuart Love, the Tioga Unit elk herd is managed for bull escapement and for a specific herd population count. The population numbers are on track, but the number of bulls is above management objective. For this reason, the muzzleloader hunt, which otherwise would be for an antlerless elk, allows a hunter the opportunity to take either a cow elk or a three-point or bigger bull.

The Tioga Unit is divided into three parts for specific antlerless hunts that are divided among rifle hunters, bowhunters and muzzleloaders. Each year, the weapons restrictions rotates. What was last year a rifle hunt, will next year be an archery hunt and the year after that, a muzzleloader hunt. This year's muzzleloader hunt No. 224M takes place in the Sitkum section.

"The Tioga Unit has been over the bull management objective." Love said. "We're leaving a little opportunity on the table. To take advantage of that, we change the bag limit during the muzzleloader season to allow a bull in the bag limit. That means we take a few more bulls out of the area. Next year we take a few more bulls out of Lake Creek."

"The opportunity to take a bull will be pretty good," Love said. "Scouting is going to be very important. These are Roosevelt elk and Roosevelt elk don't have very big home ranges. If you find larger bulls in an area, the chances are, they'll still be there during the season."

This area is comprised of 35% public lands. It is important to get maps that show public and private boundaries and check with private timber companies to make sure that they allow public access.

To start, Love recommends the Oregon State Forestry Coos Forest Protection District map, available through the Oregon Department of Forestry. These maps don't show topographic information, so the best bet is to narrow down the hunt area then get the USGS topographic maps that show the detail.

An estimated 75 tags were available this year. Love, who works out of the Charleston ODFW office, expects that this muzzleloader hunt rotation will become more popular over the next few years.

If you didn't draw an elk tag this year, you've got one more preference point to help in next year's drawing. And plenty of time to scout.

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