Deer hunter success rate down for Cockburn Island

COCKBURN ISLAND—It appears the success rate for those hunters harvesting deer on Cockburn Island during this year’s hunt is down from previous years.

“The success rate was down,” said Peter Koskela, a conservation officer (CO) with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), who was on patrol for the first week of the hunt (which took place over two weeks, November 5-17). He commented that this year’s hunt on Cockburn “has been very bizarre. The Cockburn Island hunt is very unique, in a good way, and you would think the island would be crawling with deer, but many hunters have complained that they are not seeing much of anything, and even people who are on the island all the time from June or July said they haven’t seen a lot of deer.”

As for reasons for the decrease, “the first week of the hunt was very cold. We patrolled many kilometres of the island on ATVs and during this time I only saw three live deer and a flash of one. I had been expecting to see many more. Weather was probably a factor in the number of deer seen and harvested, and because the ground has been so dry this year with the hot summer-fall, maybe deer relocated to different areas where water is more accessible.”

“And there is the presence of predators, such as black bears and wolves and I also saw quite a few coyote tracks,” said Mr. Koskela. “Probably three parties I talked to during the hunt said they saw coyote and Ian Anderson, who traps coyotes, said he trapped one that was very large—39 pounds.”

“The cold weather should have meant deer were moving around, but that didn’t seem to be the case,” said Mr. Koskela, who pointed said that although there was a decrease in the number of deer seen and harvested, “there were some hunting groups that got three or four deer.”

Jack McQuarrie, secretary of the Cockburn Island Sports and Conservation Club (CISCC), talked to the Recorder about the annual meeting of the group that was held on Cockburn Island during the hunt. “There were a total of 92 people signed in, but there were quite a few more in attendance, so there were over 100 people on hand.”

“One thing we heard is that deer hunt numbers would be down in terms of the deer harvested,” said Mr. McQuarrie. “Last year there were 98 deer harvested and 155 hunters, but I suspect this year the hunter numbers were to around 165 hunters, but the deer harvest certainly didn’t increase.”

Mr. McQuarrie confirmed that Mr. Anderson had made a presentation at the meeting. “Ian gave a little talk, he traps there, and he said a couple of things that would affect populations are predators. There are a lot of bears around, and he said there are also timber wolves on Cockburn and quite a few coyotes, and the two have interbred so the coyote is now a bigger species than normal. And he said there are quite a few bobcat around—he checks their scat and says he has seen deer hair in some of it.”

“In one case in particular he showed us a 39-pound bobcat that he had trapped,” said Mr. McQuarrie, “which is a darn big bobcat. An animal of this size can take down pretty well anything it wants. They would no doubt have an impact on deer, and especially the rabbit population.”

“I talked to (another CO) and he said about 50 hunters took part in the second week of the hunt, with some charges laid for loaded non-encased firearms in vehicles and alcohol related charges, although in total there weren’t too many,” said Mr. Koskela.

 Tom Sasvari