As rifle hunting season for deer opens this weekend, visitors in the woods are encouraged to remember that moisture levels are low and fire danger is high

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Larry Sprague, a volunteer for the Crook County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, grills up tri-tip for sandwiches at the Hunter’s Safety Booth Thursday morning. The sandwich fundraiser is the biggest for the SAR for the year, and goes through Saturday evening until the meat is gone.

With fire danger high and sportsmen heading into the woods this weekend, hunters are cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and be prepared.
   Fire season remains in effect on all Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands. Closures exist on many federal-managed lands and several large, private forest land owners have also closed access to their lands.
   Oregon Department of Forestry Public Affairs Officer Kevin Weeks said that if hunters see suspicious fire activity, they should call as soon as possible.
   “The best thing to do is call the fire number for that particular area,” said Weeks.
   He gave the example of a violation on state or forest land.
   “You would call the local ODF fire number, and they would be able to take that information and be able to send a unit out to investigate. Obviously if you were on U.S. Forest Service or BLM land, (you would call) the local district office for those forests.”
   According to the ODF, another important message to hunters and recreationists is to call ahead to the area they are visiting and find out the current fire use restrictions, which can change quickly and vary from place to place. ODF keeps a list of landowner closures on its website.
   Weeks said that with fire danger and fire restrictions extraordinarily high at this time, it is ill-advised to have campfires — even on private land where this may be allowed.
   Casey Kump, Crook County Fire Rescue Fire Marshal, said that there is currently no open burning in the County, and burn barrels are allowed until noon, and no burn piles.
   “Anyone who borders other agency lands, needs to contact them to know what their restrictions are, which they are all in total closure right now,” said Kump.
   Kump said that many areas in Oregon haven’t received the moisture that they usually receive for this time of year. Bob Brooks, a hydro meteorological technician for the National Weather Service in the Pendleton, Ore. office, said the trend for precipitation in the area of the Central Oregon Wildlife Management units has been dropping off in late July, August, and September. Brooks noted that most of Central Oregon had an average of ½ inch of moisture in August and September.
   The Central Oregon Wildlife Unit includes a perimeter of the areas between Shaniko, south to Warm Springs, Sisters, La Pine, and Fort Rock. It then goes north to Brothers, Paulina, Dayville, Mitchell and back to Shaniko. Brooks said that the areas that he looked at were close to these boundaries.
   He said that the overall area had got an average of less than 1/10 inch of precipitation in both August and September. He added that temperatures have been near to normal, and the temperature tends to rise on the higher ridges and be lower on flat ground.
   Kump commented that the fires around the state — especially in Central Oregon, have brought about poor air quality in some areas.
   The air quality index (AQI) is a color-coded tool used by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and shows air pollution levels. The levels go from green, which is good, to yellow, which is moderate, to orange, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups, to red, which is unhealthy for all groups. When levels get above yellow, the DEQ issues Air Pollution Advisories.
   “With as hazy at it is and with the fires around us, it has put us in the low/moderate,” said Kump of the levels on Tuesday.
   That changed from Tuesday to Wednesday, which put Prineville in the green zone, which seemed surprising since the smoke from the Pole Creek Fire has been hanging over the valley.
   Sisters was in the red zone Wednesday, which is something that hunters should take into consideration. As far as other areas in the state, Lakeview was in the yellow zone as of Wednesday.
   Being prepared for the woods during hunting season
   Kump said that there are burn regulations and fire safety information handouts at the Hunter safety booths in town during hunting season. The Central Oregon Fire Prevention Cooperative agencies are staffing several information booths this week in locations throughout Central Oregon to provide hunters and recreational forest users with localized forest safety and fire safety information.
   Current fire restriction information will be provided at the booths regarding open fires, off-road driving, chainsaw use, smoking in the forest, and more. Maps will be available for sale and road closure information will also be available. Coffee will also be available at most locations. A booth opened on Wednesday and remained open through today at Ray’s Eastside in Prineville for hunters heading out Highway 26.
   Lou Haehnlen, the Sergeant At Arms for the Crook County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (CCSR), helps staff the booth each year. He said that one of the most important things before going into the woods is notifying someone of your planned route.
   “Let people know where you are at,” said Haehnlen.
   He explained that a survival booklet was put together by CCSR volunteers Jim Burge and Jerry Beard. It contains information vital to survival and an outing plan to leave with a family member or to leave in the window of their vehicle.
   He said that they place the booklet at campgrounds, various agencies in town, and it will also be available at the hunter’s safety booth. There will also be staff from the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, Oregon Forestry, CCFR, and CCSR at the booths with information for hunters, including maps of the surrounding private and public lands.
   Freelance outdoor writer Scott Staats said there are 10 essential items that anyone hiking or hunting in the outdoors should carry. The list was developed in the 1930s by the climbing club The Mountaineers, and it can all fit inside a backpack.
   The 10 Essentials includes navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid supplies, something to start a fire, repair kit, nutrition, hydration, and emergency shelter. More information on these items can be found on Staats last outdoor article in the Central Oregonian on being prepared.
   A hunter safety booth will be open at Ray's, on the east side of Prineville, off Highway 26, from 5:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
   Hunters should check back before the day they plan to hunt for the latest information.
   Fire restriction/fire use information for private lands in the Central Oregon area. The Oregon Department of Forestry: Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties - Prineville Unit: 541-447-5658
   Public lands in Central Oregon –
   USDA Forest Service
   Deschutes National Forest 541-383-5300
   Ochoco National Forest 541-416-6500
   Malheur National Forest 541-575-1321
   USDI Bureau of Land Management
   Prineville District 541-416-6700
   O D F W issued this news release with good information for hunters —
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