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Letter: Elk seasons are too long, animals are on private land

Published on March 8, 2018 4:50PM

Your editorial “Solve persistent Northwest elk problems” hopscotches around the Northwest from Gearhart to Challis, Idaho, to Skagit County in Washington while skipping over finding any local, Eastern Oregon conflicts that might add some local connection to your local readers.

I’m guessing that the circumstances around the “elk problems” in these three locations are different. One fix will not fix them all. Feeding stations like the ones you mention can help, although will not solve all problems. Also hunting elk on the golf courses and streets of Gearhart aren’t likely to be accepted either.

Here in Eastern Oregon, we start harassing deer and elk by archery hunting them in August and September, then continue to harass them by rifle hunting them in October through Thanksgiving. Is it any wonder that elk pour off the National Forest in search of some sanctuary on private lands?

Adding to that is that all summer long feed on most areas of the national forests has been gobbled up by cattle allowed through century-old grazing permits (not picking on cattle grazing, it’s all part of multiple use). From my experience, by late August and September there is very little quality feed left on the national forests. Then when the first rains come and the warmer lower elevation private lands “green up” a bit then elk are also rewarded for their migration to private lower elevation lands.

We used to have a system where a land owner who had elk and deer problems asked ODFW for assistance and special hunts on their property were arranged. Now it seems we offer land owner preference tags. They can use them, give them to family and friends, or sell them and the hunting rights for extra income. Those tags have closed lots of private lands that were formally open to the public to hunt.

Your suggestion of longer seasons does nothing because if the hunters can’t access the elk, they can’t harvest the elk. And why suggest trapping and killing elk when there are thousands of hunters with empty freezers and unfilled elk tags who have already paid for the opportunity to harvest an elk?

Nothing is more discouraging than after spending hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to hunt elk on the Umatilla National Forest and not see a legal bull elk to shoot, then to be driving home and have elk including legal bulls cross in front of my pickup on Highway 395 going from non-huntable private land to more non-huntable private land.

Rich Zita



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