Next chukar season should end Jan. 31, 2006

March 03, 2005 11:00 pm

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission made a mistake when it moved the end of the next chukar season up from Jan. 31, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2005.

The rationale: that blasts from bird hunters' rifles pose a threat of harassment to deer herds fighting for survival in harsh winter weather.

Maybe. But any more than target shooters, or snowmobilers, or other things that go bump in the winter?

This change was not needed. Even before the commission made its ruling. local wildlife biologists possessed the tools they needed to aid deer in a harsh winter. Twice in the past decade — in 1993 and 2004 — the chukar season was closed two weeks early to spare deer the potential harassment as a wicked winter raged.

But had this year's season ended Dec. 31, 2004, instead of Jan. 31, 2005, what justifiable winter peril would deer have been facing? This winter has been warm and dry.

Baker County is mounting an effort to get the decision reversed, and members of the commission appear willing to listen.

That effort will require not just registering concerns with the commission but potentially crossing the state to testify this August.

Some may be discouraged, and perhaps justifiably so, by the results ranchers got when they made the trek across the state to oppose adoption of the state's wolf plan.

The two are different situations, however. And absent an organized effort to retain the abbreviated chukar season, we think Baker County, Panhandle businesses and chukar hunters may very well prevail.

They ought to. It makes more sense to wait until January to judge its relative peril to deer, especially when early closure has only been warranted twice in 12 years.