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Pronghorn bucks overcome drought

Tyler Dungannon,, antelope, habitat, Pronghorn bucks overcome drought

Article and photos by Tyler Dungannon
06/29/13 -- Antelope in southeast Oregon suffered from the effects of drought and fire last year, but pronghorn numbers still remain steady according to Rod Klus, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife District Biologist in Hines.

“The herds in the area have been surprisingly stable over the past 10 years, so that’s a positive,” he said.

Klus acknowledged a possible slight decline in antelope numbers due to drought conditions in desert units such as Juniper and Beatys Butte.

“Drought is a negative thing for antelope, Klus said, noting Beatys Butte struggled in terms of fawn recruitment. “East Beaty had terrible fawn production, but they’re still hanging in there.”

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Hunters may have to pass up smaller bucks to earn a shot at a true trophy.
Massive fires in southeast Oregon last year burned more than one million acres of prime antelope habitat and could have an impact on the antelope population this year. Although tag numbers held steady, many hunters may be worried about their hunting spot that was charred in the burns.

The dry conditions may pose another reason to worry. Water plays a big part in development of horn size, and southeast Oregon didn’t get much of it. Whether archery or rifle hunting, it will be important to hunt near water sources, but don’t camp next to them, because camps situated next to waterholes may deter all wildlife from coming to get critical life-sustaining water.

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Pronghorn buck ratios are looking good in Southern Oregon.

“Buck ratios are looking good with about 25 bucks per 100 does,” Klus said. Mature bucks abound and should present trophy opportunities for hunters. Pronghorn are different than other species in that a trophy buck may only be a few years old.

A little farther west, District Biologist Corey Heath of Bend, said the grass is a little greener on his side of the fence.

“In this area we had typical weather conditions,” Heath said. “Buck ratios were in the low 20s per 100 does and that’s what we manage for.” Antelope numbers look average in the Paulina and Wagontire units, but mature bucks are abundant. “We’ve seen a good number of mature bucks but a limited amount of young bucks.”

No matter what the weatherman says, it’s never a bad year to draw an antelope tag.

“It’s always a good hunt,” Heath said. “We try to adjust the tags accordingly to ensure a good hunt for those who get the opportunity to draw it.” For those who waited many years to hunt pronghorn antelope, this will indeed be a good hunt.

Klus reassured anxious hunters. “There are some concerns out there, but antelope have proven over the years that they will be just fine.”

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