APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: Oregon Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat
OREGON'S 2019 BIGHORN SHEEP AND MOUNTAIN GOAT APPLICATION STRATEGY
This is not a state for a hunter who is looking to dabble in the application game. The odds are brutal and the required hunting license for adults is rather expensive. Yet, if you are looking for equal odds because you are not interested in getting started behind a point curve, then Oregon just might be a good fit. Equal odds along with one of the best youth discounts in the country are why a serious application warrior should consider the Beaver State. Oregon sets aside a minimum of 5% and a maximum of 10% of their bighorn sheep and mountain goat tags for nonresidents each year. The units where these tags are available and the number that will be issued is predetermined each year. What this means is do not simply apply for any unit you are interested in as there are six different bighorn sheep selections for nonresidents—and two different selections for mountain goat.
Note: The application deadline in Oregon for all species is May 15, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PST and all applications must be submitted online.
Why Oregon for bighorn sheep and mountain goat
- Equal odds of drawing even if it is your first time applying.
- Great trophy potential in many units.
- The youth license and application fee is very affordable.
- Nonresident military members, which include the National Guard and Reserves, can purchase their hunting license for the resident fee og $33.50. Learn more here.
New for 2019
- Mechanical broadheads are now allowed for archery hunting. Broadheads must be unbarbed and at least 7/8" wide. Broadheads with moveable blades that fold/collapse when withdrawn are not considered barbed.
- The minimum archery draw weight was reduced to 40 lbs for all big game.
- A hunter cannot hunt within eight hours of having been transported by, communicating with or having received information on the location of a game mammal from an aircraft.
- It is now unlawful to hunt locate, or scout for the purpose of hunting any wildlife with infrared or other night vision sight or equipment except trail cameras.
- It is now unlawful to hunt with or have in possession while hunting sabots or bullets with plastic or synthetic parts. Cloth, paper or felt patches are allowed.
- The limitations on controlled hunt party size have been removed.
- Youth must obtain the controlled hunt tag before the hunt begins.
- There are new regulations related to transporting cervid carcasses into Oregon.
- Hunters who turn in poachers can now receive preference points as a reward.
- There is a new electronic licensing system and ability to tag your animal with your smartphone. Verify your account at MyODFW.com. See page 4 of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) big game regulation.
- Starting in 2019, leftover tags will only be sold online.
- There are now two options for tagging game mammals for which a tag is issued: paper tags and electronic tags. Hunters must choose one option at the time of purchase.
To view more important information, including a state overview of Oregon’s rules/regulations, the draw system, Draw Odds and license fee, go to the Oregon state profile. It also includes an interactive map where you can research unit boundaries and data on a unit by unit basis.
Important dates and information
- You can apply online here.
- The deadline to apply is May 15, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PST for online applications.
- Results will be made available on or before June 20, 2019.
- Tags must be purchased (or picked up as part of a SportsPac) no later than the day before the hunt begins.
Drought and snowpack in Oregon
What a bounce back! With over 30% of the state with a moderate drought rating in 2018, things have definitely taken a turn for the better when looking at moisture levels for 2019. Currently, the state has only 23.3% of its ground posting as abnormally dry and only the northern portion of the Harney Basin under a moderate drought rating last year at this time.
Like many states in the West, Oregon has had its fair share of moisture this winter and early spring. As these maps show you, there is substantially more snow in the mountains this year in the majority of the state in a number of areas. Because of this, the antler growth should be exceptional this year and if it continues to get warm as we push through the spring, it should be fantastic in all areas of the state.
Wolves in Oregon
The most exciting news concerning wolves in Oregon is that there has now been a proposed wolf management plan that is being considered by the state. This plan will be voted on this year on June 7. The specifics about this plan do include the use of hunting under controlled hunts by licensed hunters to help in managing populations in regions as necessary.
Overall, there has been an increase of over two dozen more wolves documented in Oregon, bringing the total of observed wolves in the state to 137. As there is no math equation used to determine this number, and for this number to show an increase a confirmed new wolf has to be observed, it is commonly believed that this number documented is actually much lower than the actual number of wolves inhabiting the state.
The Oregon draw system
The draw system for bighorn sheep and mountain goats in Oregon is as different as it can be from the deer, elk and antelope system. Instead of a preference point system, these two applications are 100% random draw and there is no preference regardless of how many years you have been applying. What this means is you are not behind a point curve for these two species and have just as good a chance at drawing the first year you apply as any other applicant. It truly is a bucket of raffle tickets and who knows? Maybe they will pull your ticket! You will be able to list up to five different selections on your application, but only your first choice will be considered until everyone’s first choice has been considered. What this means is that there is almost a 0% chance of drawing a tag on a second choice as all of the tags have been allocated before anyone’s second choice would be considered. Choose your first choice carefully as it really is the only one that will matter.
Note: Party or group applications are not allowed for either bighorn sheep or mountain goat applications.
Oregon's 2019 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown
There are seven different selections to choose from when looking to hunt Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Oregon across four different hunt areas. One of those seven has a tag set aside for nonresident applicants. This tag is located in Unit 64 -Lookout Mountain in the northeast portion of the state, bordering the famous Hells Canyon of Idaho and producing a similar caliber of rams. If you are looking to take a Boone & Crockett (B&C) ram in Oregon, then this is hands down the unit you need to be applying for. There are two new hunts offered for residents this year. They are Unit 56 – Wenaha and Unit 59 – Snake River.
How to locate a hidden gem
There really aren’t any hidden gems in Oregon for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep as there are so few units to choose from. Often, a hidden gem in a situation like this, comes down to finding a unit that tends to be more physical or has the lowest bighorn sheep density as units like this tend to deter a number of applicants looking for a more quality experience on the day they finally see their name on a bighorn sheep permit.
Top hit list units to consider for 170" or better Rocky bighorn sheep
|58 - Chesnimnus||180"+||NA||100%||49%|
|59 - Snake River||180"+||33:100||100%||94%|
|64 - Lookout Mt||180"+||44:100||100%||38%|
|60 - Minam||170"+||34:100||100%||74%|
|61 - Imnaha||170"+||NA||50%||75%|
|62 - Pine Creek||170"+||NA||50%||76%|
|63 - Keating||170"+||NA||50%||57%|
|56-Wenaha||NA||NA||New for 2019||73%|
|59 - Sluice Creek||180"+||NA||New for 2019||94%|
B&C entry trends for Oregon Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Oregon's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
|Units found within county|
|Baker||13||62, 63, 64|
|Wallowa||3||59. 60, 62|
Managing expectations for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Odds are for the weak and equal odds are good odds when it comes to drawing a bighorn sheep permit. You can’t win if you don’t play and, with the quality of rams coming out of Oregon, these are difficult hunts to draw, but truly are some of the best in the county if you happen to have the stars align. Without a points system in place you have the same odds as any other applicant even in the first year. This style of draw allows you to come and go in this application on years when it doesn’t make sense. If you are a resident, you have a couple options to consider. Studying Filtering 2.0 and Draw Odds features will help you locate some of the trends and details that you will need when making your final decision. Don’t forget that there are now two more options to consider for residents starting in 2019: one in the Wenaha and the other in Sluice Creek. Time will tell how popular these units are going to be as far as the number of applications submitted, but one thing is for sure: more options mean that the applicants get spread out more. Although minimal, it will have a small positive effect on the draw odds across the board.
Oregon's 2019 California bighorn sheep breakdown
There are only five selections offered to nonresident hunters in Oregon looking to hunt a California bighorn sheep. There are a total of 31 hunt options for residents to consider. There are 12 selections listed as limited access areas in the state regulations and two of them have nonresident tags available. They are East John Day River No. 2 as well as the West John Day River No. 2. However, if you know that you are going to be securing an outfitter for this hunt regardless of where you draw, then this should be of little concern as you will simply need to find the outfitter that has access after the tag is drawn. That shouldn’t be too hard as more than likely they will be contacting you.
Nonresident California bighorn sheep options in Oregon
|# of applicants|
E John Day R No. 2
|175"+||Oct. 28 to Nov. 5||63:100||12%||572|
W John Day R No. 2
|175"+||Oct. 29 to Nov. 6||63:100||12%||422|
Hart Mt. Refuge
|165"+||Spet. 3 to Sept. 16||19:100||83%||360|
E Beatys Butte/
Alvord Peak No. 2
|165"+||Sept. 3 to Sept 16||19:100||83%||375|
S Central No. 1
|170"+||Aug. 18 to Aug. 31||46:100||56%||407|
Current herd condition
The last bighorn sheep population survey that was published by ODFW was in 2016. The bad news is the count was incomplete as they only surveyed 20 different areas of the state, leaving six of them uncounted. The good news is this is the most complete count they have done since 2011 when all areas were counted.
When looking at the survey in 2015 versus 2016, only 10 areas were counted in both years. The population in these 10 areas increased by 3.1% with only one herd—the Coleman River herd—showing a decrease in sheep, decreasing from 44 sheep in 2015 to only 30 sheep in 2016. In an effort to get an idea of what the total California bighorn sheep population looks like in Oregon, we added up last year’s count with the last reported number out of all of the units—most of them from 2015—and came up with a total population of 3,162 sheep. Considering there was an increase of 3.1% in the units surveyed in both 2015 and 2016, it’s safe to say that this is a close estimate. The 2016 survey showed a ram:ewe ratio of 62.9 rams for every 100 ewes and was slightly down from 2015’s 71.9; however, it was close to average over the five previous years. The lamb:ewe ratio was at 38 lambs for every 100 ewes and was as high as it has been in many years. Overall, the California bighorn sheep population in Oregon in one word is stable.
Hidden gems for California bighorn sheep
With so few options and high demand, it is unlikely that a hunter will locate an under the radar hunt when looking at bighorn sheep options. However, you can often find better odds when looking at how physical a particular unit may be or if the bighorn sheep herd happens to be struggling. This will deter a large number of applicants and, therefore, create better odds. Using Filtering 2.0, you can click into each of these units and learn more about the unit and what to expect. Look for a unit that is a rollercoaster in the number of applicants that choose to apply there. Chances are that the year after the odds are at their best, there will be a large number of applicants the following year; however, if you get consistent in applying for that unit, chances are that the odds will dip again at some point and your name will be in the hat when it does. Overall, in Oregon, this won’t affect your odds of drawing by much, but every little bit counts.
B&C entry trends for Oregon California bighorn sheep
B&C classifies California bighorn sheep as Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. So the B&C table is the same as the one above in the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep section.
Top hit list units to consider for 165" or better California bighorn sheep
|43 - Biggs||175"+||63:100||12%|
|46 - Murderers Creek||170"+||47:100||67%|
|48 - Heppner||170"+||75:100||36%|
|69 - Steens Mt||170"+||42:100||64%|
|71 - Juniper||170"+||46:100||89%|
|73 - Wagontire||170"+||46:100||84%|
|74 - Warner||170"+||53:100||70%|
|75 - Interstate||170"+||46:100||56%|
|68 - Whitehorse||165"+||52:100||90%|
|70 - Beatys Butte||165"+||19:100||83%|
|51 - Sumpter||160"+||61:100||46%|
Managing expectations for California bighorn sheep
Given that the adult hunting license is $167 and you will likely have nothing to show for it at the conclusion of the draw, it would be easy to talk yourself out of this application if the only reason you are looking at Oregon is for another chance to draw a bighorn sheep permit. However, equal odds are good odds these days and, at a minimum, you know you have the same chance as every other applicant even your first year. Secondly, to not have your youth hunter in this draw is a real shame since it costs only $10 plus the $8 application fee. This is an application that you should be taking advantage of even if you decide to pull off when they are no longer eligible for the youth discount. On average, you can expect to have about a 0.2% to 0.3% odds in drawing, but when you take a look at your odds after 20 years in states like Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, as crazy as it sounds, you will find that these are better odds and you get them on the first year you submit the application.
Oregon's 2019 mountain goat breakdown
Listen, this is not an application for the weak. The odds of drawing are similar to walking in your house and finding Rumpelstiltskin hard at work in your living room, but for only $8 plus the hunting license, your name is in the hat and you have just as good a chance at drawing as any other applicant—even on your first year. It is a real tragedy to not have your youth hunter in this draw, too, because for less than a half a tank of gas, you can give them another chance at a truly elite hunt in the country. There are a total of 24 mountain goats permits available in 2019 and two of these are set aside for nonresidents in two different units. There were 1,487 applicants between the two nonresident selections and your odds were less than 0.2% last year in both units.
Current herd condition
There has not been a formal count of the mountain goat population in Oregon since 2012; however, the population across the state is considered stable.
B&C entry trends for Oregon mountain goat
While Oregon may not be home to the biggest mountain goats in the West, it does offer many great hunts that can occasionally produce record book animals. Below is a list of the top record book producing counties found in the state.
Oregon's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for mountain goat
|Units found within county|
|Wallowa||6||56, 59, 60|
|Union||1||52, 53, 54, 60|
Managing expectations for mountain goats
There are 14 different hunt selections for resident hunters. They are spread out with different season dates across nine different hunt areas. Two of these hunt areas also have a nonresident permit available in Unit 50-51 Elkhorn No. 2 and Unit 59 – Hat Point No. 1.
Resident mountain goat hunts offered in Oregon
|Unit||2018 # of|
|Unit 46 - Murderers Creek|
Elkhorn No. 1
Elkhorn No. 2
Elkhorn No. 3
|Unit 56 - Wenaha|
|Unit 59 - Snake River|
Hat Point No. 1
|Unit 59 - Snake River|
Hat Point No. 2
|Unit 59 - Snake River|
South Snake River No. 1
|Unit 59 - Snake River|
South Snake River No. 2
|Unit 60 - Minam|
East Hurricane Creek
|Unit 60 - Minam|
West Hurricane Creek
|Unit 60 - Minam|
Goat Mountain No. 1
|Unit 60 - Minam|
Goat Mountain No. 2
|Unit 61 - Imnaha|
Purchasing a hunting license to only apply for mountain goat in Oregon doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially for a nonresident, but if you have purchased your hunting license in Oregon for any other reason and you are not throwing your name in the hat for an extra $8 that would be unfortunate because equal odds are good odds no matter what they are, especially when it comes to species like bighorn sheep and mountain goats. It’s a long shot, but someone is going to draw.
- Unit 51-Sumpter listed as Elkhorn No. 2 in the state regulation. This is the second hunt of the year in this hunt area and the season date is set for Sept. 16 to 24. There were 834 applicants for this hunt in 2018.
- Unit 59-Snake River listed as Hat Point No. 1 in the state regulations. This hunt is the first hunt of the year in this hunt area and the season date is set for Sept. 7 to 22. There were 653 applicants for this hunt in 2018.