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Coombs Canyon offers great upland game bird hunting

PENDLETON — State wildlife officials today said upland game bird hunters looking for late season opportunities are encouraged to consider The Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists counted more upland game birds in the Pendleton area during surveys earlier this year than in the past eight or nine years. Although upland game bird hunting seasons are well underway, hunters can still find upland game bird hunting opportunities.

Much of the prime upland game bird habitat in the Pendleton area is privately owned and hunting access can be hard to find. But ODFW Assistant District Wildlife Biologist Greg Rimbach said the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area is one of the few private land, “welcome to hunt” areas around with both public access and huntable populations of pheasant and Hungarian partridge.

Located just southwest of Pendleton, the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area was created by ODFW in 1999 through a cooperative agreement with rancher Steve Wolfe, who allows open bird hunting access to his 12,500-property in return for an annual per acre payment and additional Oregon State Police law enforcement.

The ODFW Access and Habitat Program provided the funding to create the Regulated Hunt Area and continues to support it through regular grants. Earlier this year, the A&H Program provided a $13,664 grant to allow continued public use of the area.

The A&H Program is funded by a $2 surcharge on hunting licenses. Funds raised by the program are distributed through grants to individual and corporate landowners, conservation organizations and others for cooperative wildlife habitat improvement and hunter access projects throughout the state.

Coombs Canyon sees heavy use during the first three weeks of the pheasant season, especially on weekends. As the season wears on, hunting pressure drops off considerably, although there are still birds to be had.

During the first part of the season, pheasants are concentrated within the brushy Coombs Canyon corridor where most hunting is focused. But as the season goes on the birds begin to scatter. Beginning around Nov. 1, Rimbach advises hunters to hunt the draws and open grasslands where many pheasant go seeking refuge from hunters working the canyon bottom.

The Regulated Hunt Area also has good numbers of Hungarian partridge. These challenging game birds are found in the open grassland areas and are not heavily targeted by hunters. There is also a small population of California quail concentrated within Coombs Canyon .

Pheasant season on the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area ends Dec. 11. Hungarian partridge and California quail season end on Dec. 31.

Maps showing open roads and welcome to hunt areas are available at the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area in a map box posted in the parking area on Ranch Road, at the ODFW John Day Watershed District Office, 73471 Mytinger Lane, Pendleton and at ODFW headquarters, 3406 Cherry Ave. NE, Salem.

For more information about hunting the Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area contact the ODFW John Day Watershed District Office at (541) 276-2344 . For information on the A&H Program call program coordinator Nick Myatt, 503-947-6087 or visit the Web site at www.dfw.state.or.us/AH/.