ODF, ODFW offers some advice for archery hunting in Aug., Sept.

From the first crunching step, bowhunters will know just how dry conditions are in Oregon's forests.

This summer, nearly 70,000 acres have burned in wildfires – six times the average at this point in the year. For this reason, the Oregon Department of Forestry is asking early-season hunters to exercise extreme caution as they head afield this month.

This summer the largest wildfires have been caused by lightning, not people. But firefighting resources throughout Oregon and the West are stretched as tight as a bowstring. Any additional fires, regardless of cause, could place added strain on ODF and its sister fire protection agencies.

When the forest is so very dry, a wildfire can do long-term damage, actually sterilizing the soil. As a result, wildlife habitat is devastated, and game populations may take years to recover.

Fire safety restrictions are tight on public and private lands. Activities that could cause wildfires - campfires and warming fires, off-road motorized vehicle use and smoking - are restricted or prohibited, depending on the location.

Hunters are advised to check the current rules right before heading afield, since fire restrictions are subject to change on short notice under such volatile conditions. Oregon's hunters are traditionally among the most conscientious users of the forests. In this severe fire season, ODF asks them to take extra care to ensure that the 2013 hunt leaves the habitat on which game animals depend intact.

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Before going into the outdoors in pursuit of big game mammals, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) and Oregon State Police (OSP) remind hunters to review the 2013 Oregon Big Game Regulations for important information including:

• Significant changes in bag limits for elk hunters have eliminated the harvest of antlerless elk on National Forest lands of the Cascade's west slope units including Dixon, Evans Creek, Indigo, McKenzie, Rogue and Santiam. Archery hunters should also pay close attention because in past years they were allowed to harvest antlerless elk in most of these units. These changes are in response to concerns about overall elk populations and calf recruitment, so hunters going to these areas are urged to study the regulations closely to learn about legal bag limits for their hunting season.

• Hunters with Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permits should closely review the regulations for bag limit changes during elk seasons. The harvest of antlerless elk on National Forest lands was eliminated for persons holding those permits (check page 88).

• Hunters who possess controlled elk hunt tags should closely review both controlled hunt bag limits and hunt area boundaries.

Also, due to high fire danger this year many private landowners will either limit or not allow access to hunters, especially during early seasons. It is the responsibility of every hunter to know the access policies for any private land they intend to hunt. There is never an excuse to not have received permission to hunt on anyone's private land. Questions about access to private lands for hunting should be directed to the respective landowner.

Copies of the 2013 Oregon Big Game hunting regulations may be obtained from any point of sale license agent, at any ODFW office or online.

Questions about the hunting regulations can be directed to any local ODFW or OSP office.

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