On September 14, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted new regulations for Oregon hunting, including muzzleloader rules, pronghorn and bear hunting opportunities, and CWD. Most of the changes are designed to “simplify” the hunting rules in Oregon, removing unnecessary language or making regulations consistent, but the changes mentioned above will affect hunters in a positive way.
Several of the changes deal with muzzleloader regulations. Oregon has had some rather specific regulations for muzzleloaders, including prohibitions on scopes or fiber optic sights, restrictions prohibiting sabots, a requirement for an exposed hammer (in-lines may qualify if the cap is exposed, but modern inline muzzleloaders with encased caps do not) and a requirement to use only loose powder. The new regulation changes allow pelleted powder substitutes and clarify allowable projectiles (saboted bullets are still illegal). Keeping your powder dry while hunting blacktails or Roosevelt elk on the west side of the state may be easier with pelleted powder.
Rules affecting archery equipment also changed dropping the minimum draw weight to 40 lbs. for all species and allowing mechanical broadheads. Both regulations will be welcomed by those who can take advantage of modern bow and broadhead technology.
Another change affects the nonresident cap on pronghorn and controlled bear tags. Prior to this change, nonresidents were limited to no more than 3% of the pronghorn and controlled (draw) bear tags while they could draw up to 5% of the deer and elk tags and no more than 10% of the sheep tags. The new regulations allow up to 5% for pronghorn and controlled bear tags to go to nonresidents. In practice, the number of pronghorn tags is small, and the change will do little to increase odds (probably the worst in the country). But the change in bear tags will increase the tag opportunities for the best spring hunts on the east side of the state.
On a similar note, spring bear tags in the Southwest unit have been on a first-come, first serve basis for nonresidents with a cap on permit numbers. That was changed to make the SW spring hunt a controlled hunt, so there will be a nonresident draw in that unit for the first time. Since the allowable number of tags has increased from 3% to 5%, it should not affect anyone except those who miss the draw deadline (not yet announced).
One very important change for anyone living in Oregon or traveling through the state between hunts and home is that there are new regulations for importing a big game carcass, regardless of where the animal was taken. In an effort to reduce the risk of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the old regulation prohibited the import of brain and spinal tissue from animals taken in areas known to have CWD. Since the map of CWD is changing every year, Oregon has applied standard restrictions to any game animal taken out of state and imported into the state. The restrictions require that meat be deboned, commercially processed or quartered without spinal tissue, and antlers and skullcaps must be without any brain tissue or meat. Elk ivories cleaned of meat may be imported and any finished taxidermy (including bleached skulls) is not covered by the regulation.
If you haven’t hunted Oregon lately, these changes may not mean much to you. If you’re planning on hunting there in the future, the 2019 big game regulations will contain a lot of other, small changes that you will need to be familiar with as you plan your hunt.