Island gun hunt approaches, MNRF concerned deer herd numbers haven’t rebounded

MANITOULIN ISLAND—It appears that the deer herd on Manitoulin Island is still slowly recovering from the winter of 2019 as thousands of hunters converge on the Island for next week’s rifle hunt.

“Based on hunt data gathered over the last couple of years, deer numbers on Manitoulin were slow to recover from winter 2019 despite favourable winters in 2020 and 2021,” said Wayne Selinger, biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNRF), last week. “As a result, tag numbers were kept status quo for the 2022 hunt.”

“Winter 2022 was once again favourable for deer and one would expect a good 2022 fawn crop with increasing deer numbers overall,” said Mr. Selinger. “Tag recommendations for 2023 will depend on the results of this fall’s hunt, winter severity and the deer population index.”

Mr. Selinger reported, “Manitoulin deer should have come through last winter in excellent condition. However, prolonged dry weather this summer and early fall may have had some impact on the growing season and possibly effect the condition the deer’s bodies are in this fall. Hopefully deer will be in average condition for this fall’s hunt and going into the coming winter.”

In terms of hunter safety, MNRF is advising hunters again this year that hunters must handle firearms with care and attention at all times. Never shoot unless they are absolutely sure of their target and what lies beyond it; and do not shoot from a vehicle or carry a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle—both are illegal. “One of the most common and preventable hunting violations the ministry deals with includes the safety feature that it is illegal to shoot from, down or across a public road while hunting. There are no exceptions. In many parts of Ontario, it is illegal to even have a loaded firearm in the road right of way.”

“Generally, in Ontario you must transport your gun unloaded while it is in a vehicle, motorboat or aircraft. Vehicles include all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. You must unload and encase firearms in your possession during the period from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise. In Ontario you can generally only hunt from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. It is a good idea to check sunrise and sunset times prior to heading out so you can plan accordingly.

The MNRF also advises that “always remember, when you are hunting you cannot carry another person’s tag. Please note that you must also have on your person any applicable validation certificate and tags. You must also carry proof of having the credentials to hunt with a gun.

Failing to properly tag harvested animals (for example, not notching the tag or not attaching the tag properly when it is required to be attached) is a violation. Each tag has detailed instructions on its use, so follow the instructions.”

Trespassing is not permitted. Generally, you must have permission to hunt on privately owned lands. If you have wounded an animal and it runs onto private property, you usually must secure permissions prior to following the animal onto the private property.

All hunters must wear solid orange clothing (a minimum of 400 square inches or 2,580 square centimetres above the waists) and a hunter orange head cover during gun seasons for deer, moose and elk. This also applies to bear hunters who are not hunting from a tree stand.

It is up to hunters to know the rules. Hunters can check out the 2021-2022 Hunting Regulations summary available at before heading out.

If you witness a hunting violation, call 1-877-TIPS-MNRF (847-7667) or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).