Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Region

Hunting Program

Malheur Lake is dropping rapidly as a result of low annual precipitation and high summer temperatures. If the lake drops below 10,000 acres regulations dictate closure of waterfowl hunting on Malheur Lake. Contact the Refuge in advance of your hunt concerning lake levels.

Malheur Lake landsat image showing low lake levels


Hunting Changes for the 2014-2015 Season

A number of changes have been made to the hunting program on the Refuge. Details about these changes can be found below.

Some quick highlights of the changes:

  • Waterfowl hunting will be allowed in the Buena Vista Unit.
  • Upland bird and waterfowl hunting will open 4 weeks earlier in the Buena Vista Unit on October 25, 2014.
  • The South Malheur Lake Waterfowl Unit – accessed from the Boat Launch Road at Refuge Headquarters – opens October 25th.
  • Malheur Refuge is not open for the extended White Front and White Geese season.

The refuge offers both upland bird hunting and waterfowl hunting opportunities. Each of these hunts are in designated areas on the refuge, see below.

All other areas on the refuge are closed to all hunting.

Hunting brochure (1.5 MB PDF)

Malheur Lake Waterfowl and Upland Bird Hunting Access

Lawen Access Parking - Hunters will need to hike over 2 miles to reach water – the last 300 feet to water is through mud. There is little or no cover.

Saddle Butte Access – the road is open, but in disrepair and should be driven with only 4x4 vehicles. The water is ½ to ¾ miles from the parking area. There is no cover

Narrows Access – the lake is 6 miles to the east of the parking area.

Boat Launch Road Access – The River is extremely low and non-motorized boats will have a difficult time navigating the shallow river channel and mud at the mouth of the river. The lake is only a few inches deep across the entire hunt area. The water’s edge is a ¾ mile hike across mud from the boat ramp and 1.5 miles from the west parking area.

Waterfowl Hunting on Malheur Lake

There are two hunt units on Malheur Lake:

The North Malheur Lake Unit which opens on September 6th for the early goose hunt.

The South Malheur Lake Unit which opens on the 4th Saturday in October and is accessed from Refuge Headquarters.

map of the two hunting units on malheur lake

There are numerous tracts of private property that surround the Hunt Area, please respect private property.

  • Non toxic shot is required for hunting waterfowl on the refuge.
  • Non-motorized boats or boats with electric motors only.

Update on Hunting Conditions and Waterfowl Numbers: Waterfowl numbers are low due to poor water conditions.. The lake has retreated and cover for hunter concealment adjacent to the water is poor.

Species available in the Malheur Lake Hunt Units:

  • Goose
  • Duck
  • Coot
  • Merganser
  • Common Snipe
  • California Quail
  • Rooster Pheasant

Check the Oregon Game Bird Regulations on the ODFW Web Site for game limits and other pertinent information.

Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt for youth 15 years old and younger -September 27-28, 2014.

Youth hunters under 15 years must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult 21 years or older. Hunters 14 years or older must have a State waterfowl validations

Duck and Merganser - October 11 – December 7, and December 10 – January 25, 2015

Scaup - October 11 – December 7, and December 10 – January 6, 2015

Bag Limit on Ducks, Scaup and Mergansers - 7 daily, 21 possession
Daily limit  - 2 Hen mallards, 2 Pintail, 2 Redheads, 1 Canvasback, 3 Scaup

Coot - October 11 – December 7, December 10 - January 25, 2015

Bag Limit on Coots - 25 daily, 75 possession

Canda Goose - Early season: September 6 – 14, 2014 - Bag Limit - 5 Canadas daily, 15 possession
The taking of white-fronted, Aleutian and Cackling geese is prohibited statewide during the early season.

General season: October 11 – December 7, and December 15, 2014 – January 25, 2015
Bag Limit - Canada Geese - 4 daily and 12 possession. White Front Geese - 10 daily and 30 possession. White Geese 20 daily and 60 possession.

The Refuge will be closed to migratory bird hunting after January 25, 2015 - the late State Goose Hunt does not apply to the Refuge.

Waterfowl Hunting in the Buena Vista Unit

  • Waterfowl Hunting opens in the Buena Vista Unit on the 4th Saturday in October.
  • Limits as listed above apply to waterfowl hunting in this unit.
  • Waterfowl hunting ends in this unit on January 25, 2015.
  • The late season goose hunt does not apply to the refuge.
  • No boats are allowed.
  • No hunting blinds allowed.

Upland Bird Hunting

Upland bird hunting in the North Malheur Lake Hunt Area and west of Highway 205 are open during the regular State of Oregon seasons.

Update on Upland Game Bird Numbers: Observations by refuge staff indicate that California quail numbers are down, pheasant and chukar numbers appear to be very low - below previous years. The general hypothesis is that three consecutive wet springs during the hatch followed by dry summers have been detrimental to upland game bird populations,

Non-toxic shot is required for upland bird hunting on the Refuge.

There is no waterfowl or predator hunting allowed in the Buena Vista Unit

Youth 17 and under must wear hunter orange

Upland game bird hunts are available in two areas on the refuge:

North Malheur Lake Hunt Area, West of Highway 205 and Krumbo Creek

Rooster Pheasant - October 11 - December 31, 2014 - 2 daily, 8 possession

California Quail - October 11 - January 31, 2015 - 10 daily, 30 possession

Chukar - October 11 – January 31, 2015 - 8 daily, 24 possession

Blue/Ruff Grouse - September 1 – December 31, 2014 - 3 each species daily, 9 possession

Sage Grouse - September 6 - 15, 2014 - 2 daily, 2 per season

Mourning Dove - September 1 - October 30, 2014 - 15 daily, 45 possession

Band tailed Pigeon - September 15 – 23, 2014 - 2 daily, 6 possession

Buena Vista Area Upland Game Hunt - October 25 - December 31, 2014

A late season rooster pheasant, California Quail, Chukar, Hungarian Partridge and rabbit hunt is held each year in the refuge's Buena Vista Area. Waterfowl hunting is not permitted within this unit. This 22,000 acre unit is located east of State Highway 205, north of Diamond Lane and south of Sodhouse Lane.

Rooster Pheasant - October 25 - December 31, 2014 - 2 daily, 8 possession

Chukar - October 25 – January 31, 2015 - 8 daily, 24 possession

California Quail - October 25 - January 31, 2015 - 10 daily, 30 possession

Special Regulations:

  • Only federally approved nontoxic shot may be used or be in possession while hunting on the refuge.
  • All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are not permitted off refuge roads. Oregon ATV regulations are in effect. Properly state licensed (tagged) and equipped ATVs operated by users that meet state training requirements are permitted only on roads open to public automobiles - the Center Patrol Road and Krumbo Lane.
  • Please observe No Hunting Closures near Residential Areas at Refuge Headquarters, Buena Vista Station and the Malheur Field Station.
  • Boundaries may not be clear, contact private landowners for permission to cross or hunt private lands adjacent to the refuge.
  • Vehicles are allowed only on maintained public roadways. Parking is allowed only within one vehicle length of the roadway. Do not block dike and field accesses.
  • Overnight parking, camping and campfires are not permitted on the refuge.
  • Youth 17 and under must wear hunter orange

Consult the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for bag limits.

For more information contact Malheur Refuge at (541) 493-2612 weekdays between 7:00 AM and 3:30 PM.

Last updated: September 24, 2014