Southern Oregon along I-5 is not really all that ducky. The Rogue River provides habitat, as do a variety of small ponds along Bear Creek and scattered on private land. But if you don’t have a boat to drop into the Rogue or access to private land then you are probably going to visit the Ken Denman Wildlife Area, a 1,760-acre mixture of small ponds, sloughs, and seasonal sheet water just north of Medford.
You also could cross the mountains east to the Klamath basin in South Central Oregon and Northern California. With the water issues in 2021 it will be interesting to see how those areas will fare.
Expect Other Hunters at Denman
Denman’s proximity to Medford and its relative easy walk-in areas means you you’ll find some spots but you won’t be alone. The hunters I talk to voice the usual stories of people walking into your spread moments before legal shooting time and setting up 30 yards from you or shooting at ducks you are working.
I moved down to Southern Oregon from the Portland area in 2020 and my hunting experiences in the area were limited to one trip to Denman, guided by a couple of local waterfowlers. During that hunt, we had a guy walk in on the opposite side of our pond and start blasting at coot, pointing his muzzle right at us. We were surprised he didn’t try to shoot one of our decoys. Welcome to public land hunting … everywhere.
My Experience Waterfowl Hunting at Denman Wildlife Area
We hunted in an area called the Hall Tract unit (map below) and, out of courtesy, I won’t give away their favorite spot. But in order to access it, they shuttled gear into it via a canoe, which also made retrievals easier. The pond we hunted became too deep in certain spots for anything other than a dog, canoe, or kayak.
It was quite late in the season and not particularly cold that day so I did not expect to see much in the way of ducks. We got a couple of opportunities on a few buffleheads, ringneck, and some low-flying geese that must have been wearing kevlar as we only managed to scare them away. After that it was pretty slow. One of our party pulled out of the blind and walked through the tract, jump shooting birds on the sheet water in this area.
Once we decided to call it a day, I also took the opportunity to walk the the area, get some bearings, and see if I could spot any other birds. By that time in early afternoon, the birds had left. However, trails criss-crossing the area make getting to the seasonal ponds quite easy. Once I return to this area I will try to set up for geese and / or ducks on the sheet water and perhaps get an opportunity or two.
Once I have a chance to venture to the Military Slough Unit I should be able to provide more ideas on how, when, and potentially where to hunt this area.
Key Facts About Waterfowl Hunting at Denman
Please double-check these from year to year because they can change.
Units of Denman Wildlife Area
Military Slough Unit: This is the more popular northern unit along the Rogue River. In order to drive into certain areas you will need to apply for a gate key at the Denman Wildlife office. I got my application by calling (541) 826-8774. You don’t have to get a gate key, but it makes your access a lot easier.
Hall Tract Unit: This is the unit I hunted, which is the southern one. If you look at the map, the areas around the ODFW Offices and the adjacent Whetstone Pond are closed to hunting so note that carefully before you hunt this area.
Waterfowl hunting days:
- Military Slough Unit: Every day from 4 am-10 pm.
- Hall Tract: Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 4 am-10 pm after November 1. Prior to that it is open 7 days a week.
Checking in: Daily hunting permits must be obtained and are available at self-service check stations location at access points and parking lots.
Parking: Daily permits are $10, annual permits are $30. Buy them online at the ODFW website.
Guns: No rifles or handguns are allowed to be discharged on the property.
Shot: Federally-approved nontoxic shot, unless you are hunting big game, then you can use buckshot or slugs.
Boats: Gas propelled motors are prohibited.