The NWTF Oregon State Chapter recently helped the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife increase public turkey hunting access on about 1,800 private acres in the western part of the state, near Corvallis.
(Land recently enrolled into ODFW's Hunt by Reservation Program. Photo Credit: ODFW)
One of the reasons new hunters say they give up hunting is they do not have enough places to go afield. Increasing public hunting access is therefore integral to the NWTF’s mission to conserve the wild turkey and preserve our hunting heritage.
From a national level, to a local and state chapter level, the NWTF works with agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private landowners and policy makers to increase available land for public hunting. Access projects can range from buying land, leasing land annually from private landowners, advocating for policy that increases opportunities for the sporting community or delivering needed conservation so a landscape can support hunting.
In a state where a current petition exists to outlaw all hunting, it has become more important than ever to increase hunting access and retain hunters.
The recent access project near Corvallis is part of the ODFW’s Hunt by Reservation Program. The program incentivizes private landowners to enroll their properties into the program, which opens them up to public hunting access, through reservation. To hunt a property enrolled in the program, hunters use an online scheduling platform that reserves a date and time for them to hunt.
"There’s a type of landowner who is willing to provide hunting access, but doesn’t have the time or tools to manage schedules, create maps, give property tours and so on," said Brandon Dyches, Hunt by Reservation coordinator. "Hunt by Reservation gives landowners an easy button. We make running hunts easy for landowners, and in turn, they are willing to provide public access that fits their schedule and lifestyle."
The program recently saw two large cattle ranch properties enrolled into the program that will provide new turkey hunting opportunities. Turkeys use these properties all year, and the population is estimated at over 1,000 birds, at times, on the two tracts.
“We are thrilled to be able to help extend hunting access in the state and provide people with opportunities where they didn’t exist,” said Chris Henry, Oregon NWTF State Chapter president.
(Turkey hunters utilizing ODFW's Hunt by Reservation. Photo Credit ODFW)
To get the newly enrolled hunting areas ready for the 2022 spring season, the Oregon State Chapter provided money from its Superfund, which assisted with fencing, gate maintenance and signage on the newly enrolled cattle ranches.
With their proximity to many metro areas, these two new areas will also provide many urban-dwelling Oregonians access to hunting opportunities.
Though only in its second year, the Hunt by Reservation Project is seeing great participation by both hunters and landowners. Since the last fall season, the program had 7,816 acres enrolled, 293 hunters who made reservations and 481 hunter days afield.
(A successful day, thanks to ODFW's Hunt by Reservation. Photo Credit: ODFW)
Additional partners in ODFW’s Hunt by Reservation include Pheasants Forever and Oregon State University.
Opening access to public hunting is one of the main components of NWTF’s Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative, a 10-year goal to increase conserved or enhanced wildlife habitat acres, open access to more public hunting and improve hunting participation. All goals were surpassed in 2020, with two years of the initiative remaining. As the initiative finishes its final year, the NWTF, since 2012, has conserved or enhanced 4,444,680 acres, opened 678,686 acres to public hunting access and recruited 1,531,384 new hunters.