ODFW Meets with La Grande Community on Proposed Big Game Hunting Regulations

LA GRANDE – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are currently hosting various meetings around the state to garner feedback on proposed 2023-24 hunting regulations. While the majority of the official meetings have moved to an online format, some local ODFW offices are still reaching out to the community in person. Staff from the La Grande office specifically held an unofficial public meeting on July 12, recording feedback to be sent to ODFW’s primary office in Salem. For those that may have missed, here are a few highlights from the proposed regulations and other topics of discussion.

The proposed big game season dates are only slightly changed and are as follows:

Pronghorn (1st centerfire season):                   August 17-25

Archery Deer and Elk:                                    August 31-September 29

Western Buck Deer and Antlerless Deer:       October 5-November 8

Controlled Buck Deer:                                    October 5-October 16

Eastern Oregon Antlerless Deer:                    October 19-27

Cascade Bull:                                                  November 9-15

General Coast 1st Season:                               November 16-19

General Coast 2nd Season:                              November 23-29

Rocky Mountain Bull Elk 1st Season:             October 30-November 3

Rocky Mountain Bull Elk 2nd Season:            November 9-17

Rocky Mountain Antlerless Elk:                    November 23-December 1

Several changes are also being proposed for the amount of big game tags along with specific hunts. For Deer:

  • Propose 1% tag decrease.
  • New late season-controlled archery whitetail buck deer hunt in portions of the Northside and Desolation units.
  • New Youth buck hunts.


  • 1 % tag decrease.
  • New muzzleloader bull hunt in Sixes unit.
  • Delete three antlerless elk hunts:
    • 2435A and 258A are no longer needed to address damage.
    • 257A is covered by general season antlerless elk damage tag.


  • Delete hunt 473B.


  • 24% tag increase
  • Delete hunt in Heppner Unit

Mountain Goat:

  • 9% tag decrease.
  • Delete Hat point 1 and 2 and Goat Mountain 1 and 2 hunts.

Black Bear:

  • 1% tag increase
  • Slight increases in the south central (731A) and pine creek–Keating-Catherine Creek (762A) hunts.

On the subject of bears, one attendee asked if there are any plans to increase spring bear tags. According to District Wildlife Biologist Matt Keenan, who led the presentation, ODFW are interested in increasing the bear tag limit due to the strong and relatively stable bear population, but previous efforts have faced pushback. The primary concerns stem from causing an oversaturation of hunts within specific regions, and the fear of accidentally killing or orphaning young cubs in the spring.

Keenan also gave some clarification on local archery hunts and the draw system. As many archery hunters likely know, 2022 was the first year that drawing a controlled hunt tag was required for archery hunting. Now, all local units require tag drawing, with the exception of grizzly. The following data was given to demonstrate draw odds:

  • 100 percent draw odds if applying for first choice.
  • Starkey 58 chance as 2nd choice.
  • Eagle caps 77 percent chance as 2nd choice.
  • Eagle cap 100 percent chance 5th choice.

According to Keenan, most archery hunters are still able to get their preferred hunt without using preference points. That said, most hunters are not able to earn both Eastern and Western Oregon tags without resorting to preference points under the current system. As for how local archery hunts are performing, ODFW data states:

  • Starkey hunter success rate increased from the previous 3-year rate at 14% to 19% in 2022. 
  • Catherine creek success rate increased from the previous 3-year rate at 18% to 24% in 2022.

Local population stability, particularly in the Starkey and Catherine Creek districts, was another topic of discussion. Some highlights from these sections include:

Starkey Elk:

  • Slightly below the bull ratio (number of males vs females) management objective.
  • Over 7000 elk in Starkey (goal of 5000).

Catherine Creek Elk

  • Bull ratio is triple the target amount.
  • Population 2,585 (goal of 1000)
  • ODFW are proposing to extend the muzzleloader cow hunt from 90 days to two months.
  • There are concerns that the general season elk damage tag isn’t serving its full purpose.

Starkey Mule Deer:

  • Buck ratio is on target.
  • Population of 1,342 (goal of 3000)
  • Winter fawn survival rate is 57%

Keenan clarified that, though the low population is concerning, there are no intentions to shorten the season or cut tags due to the high buck ratio. However, ODFW is currently going through a mule deer plan revision due to concerns of overall population decline. Five chapters of this new plan have been released so far.

Catherine Creek Mule Deer:

  • Population is 3,055 (goal of 4,300)
  • Buck ratio is 20 (goal of 15)
  • Winter fawn Survival rate is 54%

East Mt. Emily Mule Deer:

  • Population is 3,268 (goal of 5,000)
  • Buck ratio is 14 (goal of 15)
  • Winter fawn Survival rate is 56%

Catherine Creek Bears:

  • Bear population and harvest have been steadily increasing.
  • No management objectives have been listed at this time.

One final point of discussion involved the increase of cow and both sex tags, particularly within the Starkey district. Again, according to Keenan, ODFW have explored the idea but are hesitant due to concerns that most hunters would just use them for bulls anyways and that the number of bull tags would need to be lowered to maintain the total number of tags.

For anyone that is interested in giving feedback for the 2023-24 regulations, comments must be submitted to ODFW by September 15 before the final regulations are decided on. A public webinar will be held July 24 for the Northeast Oregon district to further discuss regulations and allow for feedback. More information at https://elkhornmediagroup.com/odfw-hosting-public-meeting-to-discuss-2024-big-game-hunting-regulations/