Bear & Cougar Outlook - Eastern Oregon
BAKER DISTRICT (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt.)Bear and cougar hunting should be good this year. Huckleberry production was average this year but seemed to be about a month ahead of schedule. Hunt for bears in high elevation open areas with the most berries. Fall bear hunters have best success in higher elevation areas of the Keating and Pine Creek Units on the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. The fall season started of good with the office checking in several bears during the first week of the season. Find cougars just about anywhere; remember to carry a tag.
CROOK DISTRICT (Maury, Ochoco, Grizzly)Bear and cougar populations appear to be stable, with low population density and harvest reported for bear, and better opportunities for cougar. Good quality bear habitat is limited, with the better habitat present in the northern portions of the Ochoco unit, and on the Lookout Mountain and Paulina Ranger Districts of the Ochoco National Forest. Cougars are more widely dispersed throughout all three units and generally will be associated with deer, elk, or pronghorn. Using calls during the winter, when big game are concentrated on winter range, has been effective for some hunters. Areas to consider scouting include: Maury Mountains, Salt Creek and S.F. Crooked River (Maury unit); Lookout Mountain, upper Bridge Creek and South Fork John Day River (Ochoco); and Mill Creek and Green Mountain (Grizzly).
DESCHUTES DISTRICT (Upper Deschutes, Paulina, north Wagontire, north Fort Rock, Metolious)Bear populations are stable in the district but due to limited suitable habitat, bear numbers are lower here than in other portions of the state. Highest bear densities are west of Highway 97 at the higher elevations and we are getting reports of good berry crops and abundant food at these higher elevations. Cougar populations are healthy due to relatively abundant prey and low mortality. Cougars can be found throughout the district, but will be easier to locate once there is snow on the ground and tracking conditions improve. In particular, cougar numbers appear to be increasing at a faster rate in the Paulina unit than in adjacent units.
GRANT DISTRICT (Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation, southeast Heppner, northwest Beulah)Bear populations appear to be stable and hunting should be similar to past years. Look for bears around huckleberry patches in mid-August and our old orchards in mid-September. The berry crop may be lower than past year due to dry conditions. Cougar populations appear to be increasing slightly and hunters are encouraged to have a tag while out hunting other big game species, as that is where most harvest occurs. Cougar harvest was down last year mostly due to a very mild winter and lack of snow for tracking. If using calls, remember cougars respond slower than coyotes and be prepared to spend more time.
HARNEY DISTRICT (Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mt, Juniper, portions of Beatys Butte and Wagontire)Harvest rates for both bear and cougar have been stable over the past five years. Always carry a tag, even for bear, just in case you come across one. For cougar, focus on concentrations of prey species which usually attracts predators.
HEPPNER DISTRICT (Morrow, Gilliam and Wheeler counties /Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin)Hunters are still seeing plenty of cougars in the Heppner district so there is opportunity for hunters to harvest an animal. The District has low densities of bears throughout the entire forested portion of the District, but they can be encountered by deer and elk hunters so carry a tag.
KLAMATH DISTRICT (Keno, Klamath Falls, Sprague, SW portion of Ft Rock, West portion of Silver Lake, West Interstate)The Cascade Mountains region of the Klamath District has traditionally provided the most opportunity for bear hunters in the area, though an increasing trend in harvest in the Interstate Unit has been observed in recent years. Hunters are reminded to purchase bear and cougar tags prior to opening day of buck season.Though cougar populations appear stable, harvest in the units is generally low. Harvest of cougars is generally incidental to deer and elk hunting and is evenly distributed throughout the District. Focused cougar hunting efforts are most successful later in the year after low elevation snow events hen tracks can be observed.
LAKE DISTRICT (Warner, Interstate, Silver Lake, southern portions of Beatys Butte, Fort Rock and Wagontire)Both bear and cougar are taken incidentally when hunters are looking for something else. Bear numbers are up throughout the forested units; but still generally lower than other areas of the state. People focusing on bear generally have the best success finding an area with fresh sign then calling. The berry crop is very spotty. Some ridges have abundant berries and on others there are none. With the spring rains it appears grass and shrubs have had good growth through the summer.Cougar numbers are low but harvest has been stable the past few years. Remember to carry a tag.
MALHEUR DISTRICT (Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah Units) Bear habitat is very limited in this district. Cougar populations are healthy and distributed throughout the district in any area with a big game prey base. Cougar hunting is best following low elevation snow events when cougar tracks can be observed.
MID-COLUMBIA DISTRICT (Hood, White River, Maupin, West Biggs)Both bear and cougar populations are abundant in the White River and Hood Units. Cougars are often observed moving throughout the canyons of the Deschutes and John Day River systems. Predator calling and locating a fresh kill are great strategies. Bear hunters should focus on clearcuts or natural openings in the forest, especially those with good berry or acorn crops.
UMATILLA DISTRICT (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin)Getting a spring bear tag in Umatilla is not easy so fall is your chance to hunt here under a general season. Bears are high up early in the season and will pull down slowly. Look in hawthorn and elderberry concentrations to find them; early on they will be on edges of clearings and clearcuts near berry crops in high country. The best bear hunting is north of I-84 in Mt Emily and Walla Walla units. Cougar populations are healthy; carry a tag while hunting deer or elk as you may get the chance to take a cougar while you’re at it. The best cougar hunting will be north of I-84 as well.
UNION DISTRICT (Starkey, Ukiah, Catherine Creek)Bear and cougar numbers are strong in all units. Cat harvest was down last year, possibly due to lack of snow for tracking and concentration of deer and elk herds. Look for cougar sign on ridge tops in areas of high elk use.Bear harvest has been consistent over the past several years. Hawthorns are heavy with fruit heading into September. With drought conditions look for bears in the creek bottoms and valleys, feeding on Hawthorn berries.
WALLOWA DISTRICT (Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, parts of Minam and Imnaha)Cougar and bear numbers are good throughout the district. Fall bear hunters should concentrate efforts around fruit orchards, and in draw and stream bottoms as bears will be using these areas feeding on berries. The huckleberry crop is spotty and generally not good this year. This will cause bears to focus more in stream bottoms where they can find a variety of berries. Cougar hunting is best sitting on a fresh cougar kill carcass, or calling with lots of patience.