Linn County, in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, historically has been a rich area in which to hunt for a wide variety of wildlife. Rich in natural resources, the county offers a wide variety of terrain and habitats that are home to big game such as blacktail and mule deer, Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk, coyote, cougar, bear, and some great waterfowl hunting.
Central and eastern Linn County, in particular, includes a large area of public and private lands (mostly timber company holdings) that are open to hunting. Certain timber companies are more open to hunting than others, so it’s good to check ahead on restrictions – particularly vehicle access – before hunting on private lands.
All hunting in the Willamette National Forest is managed and regulated by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Some areas of the forest have special regulations, so be sure to check for current regulations before heading out.
Roosevelt Elk – Among the Northwest states and provinces in the range of the Roosevelt Elk, named for President Theodore Roosevelt and the largest subspecies of North American elk, Oregon is the leader. having produced most of the top 25 Boone & Crockett bulls, and about 5,000 elk every year, usually somewhere near 500 in Linn County. Within the county, these elk are found mostly west of Highway 126 and the Cascade passes. In the dense cover provided by thick forests in the eastern portion of the county, they tend not to migrate as much as the more nomadic Rocky Mountain Elk.
In addition to the archery season, which begins at the end of August, and a late bow season in November, there is also a week-long “Cascade elk” season are available in mid-October. Permits are sold over-the-counter for both the Santiam and McKenzie wildlife units in western Oregon. Permits may be purchased until the day before each season opener.
Rocky Mountain Elk – Found in the Metolius and Upper Deschutes units, these are slightly smaller than the Roosevelt subspecies and with somewhat broader antler spreads, these are rarely seen in Linn County. They also move around a lot more due to more sparse forests east of the Cascades.
Blacktail Deer – Generally mirroring the Roosevelt Elk range, blacktail is one of the top big game animals in the county, despite the challenge they present to hunters. Generally nocturnal and wily, they can present a real test for even the most experienced hunter. The good news is that in Linn County there are thousands of acres of land open to hunting (see above), which is also prime blacktail habitat.
Mule Deer – Can be found just east of the Santiam Pass, in the Hoodoo area. Bigger than the blacktail, mule deer are one of the favorite game animals in Oregon.
Turkeys – Linn County has a large population of wild turkeys, particularly in the Crawfordsville, Brownsville, and Berlin areas. Although many of them are on private property, a lot of that is timber company holdings that may be open to responsible hunters. If you know where you want to go, inquire with the company in question.
Waterfowl – Canada geese and various species of ducks are plentiful in the agricultural areas west of the mountains. Check with the farmer whose land you are interested in hunting. Many of them are open to hunting.
Upland birds – Grouse and quail are plentiful in the Cascade foothills around Brownsville and Lebanon and east of Sweet Home, much of which is either private timberland or Willamette National Forest land. As noted already, a lot of this is open to hunting.
Predators – Cougars and coyote are plentiful in the hills and mountains of Linn County and hunting restrictions are generally generous, particularly for coyotes. Local farmers who have problems with these predators are often very open to hunters reducing the local population. Bears can also be found in the mountains and hills throughout central and eastern portions of the county.
Youth Hunts – Oregon offers generous opportunities for youngsters to hunt, particularly for deer and elk. A mentored hunter program allows an adult to buy a tag and have a child as young as 9 accompany the adult and fill the tag. Note: All youth hunters (17 and under) in Oregon are required to wear a hat or exterior garment in hunter orange or hunter orange camouflage.