Written by Carey Goss, Malheur NWR Operations Specialist

Continuing the Department of the Interior’s efforts to increase recreational access on public lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced new or expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities for game species across 2.1 million acres at 90 National Wildlife Refuges and on the lands of one National Fish Hatchery.

“We are committed to ensuring Americans of all backgrounds have access to hunting and fishing and other recreational activities on our public lands,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Hunters and anglers are some of our most ardent conservationists and they play an important role in ensuring the future of diverse and healthy wildlife populations. Our lands have also provided a much-needed outlet to thousands during the pandemic and we hope these additional opportunities will provide a further connection with nature, recreation and enjoyment.”

Increasing access to public lands and waters is a central component of the Biden-Harris administration’s approach to conservation, including the efforts to conserve 30% of U.S lands and waters by 2030. This new rule opened or expanded more than 900 opportunities for hunting or sport fishing. The expansion is the largest in recent history.

The effort in this new rule revised refuge hunting and fishing regulations so that they more closely match state regulations where the refuge is located. The rule revisions also ensured whenever refuge regulations depart from state regulations, for safety or conservation compatibility reasons, these extra regulations are consistent across all refuges in the given state. The Service worked closely with the states in preparing the new rule.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge new and expanded hunting opportunities are:

Migratory and Upland Game Birds

The Refuge expanded hunting on 40,895 acres that are currently open to hunting by extending the hunting seasons for migratory and upland game birds on the Buena Vista and South Malheur Lake Units to align with State of Oregon seasons. The expanded season will start for migratory and upland game birds in the Buena Vista Unit. The South Malheur Lake Unit is closed this year to waterfowl hunting due to drought conditions to protect habitat for waterfowl and other waterbirds on the lake. Upland game bird hunting is not permitted in South Malheur Lake Unit.

For the upcoming 2021-2022 hunting season, huntable species on the Buena Vista Unit are coot, dark geese, dove, duck, light geese, partridge, pheasant, quail, and snipe. Huntable species on the North Malheur Lake Unit are partridge, pheasant, quail. State of Oregon seasons and limits apply. Use and possession of nontoxic shot is required.

Mule Deer

Starting in the 2022-2023 hunting season, the Refuge will open 36,244 acres in the Buena Vista Unit to mule deer hunting through a lottery application system. The number of permits issued annually will be determined in consultation with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but will not exceed four tags. Applicants must possess a 169A Controlled 100 Series Buck Deer Tag for the Steens Mountain Wildlife Management Unit issued by the State of Oregon. Permit holders are restricted to the use of short-range weapons (archery, shotgun, and muzzle-loader). The use of rifles is prohibited. The season will start on the opening day of the 169A Controlled 100 Series Buck Deer Tag for the Steens Mountain Wildlife Management Unit and will close the Friday before the opening day of the State of Oregon statewide rooster pheasant hunt. This tag is not an addition to the 169A Controlled 100 Series Buck Deer Tag for the Steens Mountain Wildlife Management Unit. Hunters may only harvest one animal.

Hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge manages hunting programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands. The Refuge asks all hunters to follow regulations, and to recreate safely and ethically.

Please contact the Refuge for more information about hunting opportunities at 541-493-2612