From the first crunching step, bow hunters will know just how dry conditions are in Oregon's forests. This summer, nearly 70,000 acres have burned in wildfires - six times the average at this point in the year. For this reason, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is asking early-season hunters to exercise extreme caution as they head afield this month.
This summer the largest wildfires have been caused by lightning, not people. But firefighting resources throughout Oregon and the West are stretched as tight as a bowstring. Any additional fires, regardless of cause, could place added strain on ODF and its sister fire protection agencies.
When the forest is so very dry, a wildfire can do long-term damage, actually sterilizing the soil. As a result wildlife habitat is devastated, and game populations may take years to recover.
Fire safety restrictions are tight on public and private lands. Activities that could cause wildfires - campfires and warming fires, off-road motorized vehicle use and smoking are restricted or prohibited, depending on the location.
Hunters are advised to check the current rules right before heading afield, since fire restrictions are subject to change on short notice under such volatile conditions. Oregon's hunters are traditionally among the most conscientious users of the forests. In this severe fire season, ODF asks them to take extra care to ensure that the 2013 hunt leaves the habitat on which game animals depend intact.