MANITOULIN – A local member of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), who is also an avid hunter, would like to see a potential opportunity for providing additional deer hunting opportunities to hunters on Manitoulin Island considered by filling in deer hunt season gaps that are currently in place.
“There is a week after the regular deer gun hunt ends where there is no hunting. And then the black powder and bow season starts for a week and then closes again. In the rest of Ontario these seasons continue until the end of December,” said Bryan Barker, when contacted by The Expositor after a recent OFAH Zone D meeting with a wildlife policy analyst for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).
“They were proposing to look at trying to line up the opening and closing of the hunting seasons around the wildlife management units (WMUs) in the province,” said Mr. Barker. “Deer hunt tag allocations are based on recommendation on how deer fared the previous winter. In my opinion filling the gaps in the seasons on Manitoulin with bow hunting opportunities would not be detrimental on deer populations.”
“We have an annual deer management meeting with the ministry (natural resources and forestry) every year where reports are presented on the hunt, harvest numbers and estimated deer population numbers,” said Mr. Barker. “So the total number of deer tag allocations would not increase in an WMU area.”
“And don’t forget why we hunt, yes, for a food source, but also to experience nature and to spend time outdoors,” said Mr. Barker. “And of course harvesting deer is a big part of this.”
“But if we are also trying to encourage youth to get involved in hunting having additional opportunities might help,” continued Mr. Barker.
Chris Godwin, of the MNRF, who met with the OFAH Zone D members told the Recorder after the meeting, “the MNRF is currently exploring potential opportunities to streamline and simplify deer season types and durations where appropriate across the province.”
“MNRF has participated in some early information sharing opportunities with some hunters and stakeholder groups to discuss and explore current deer seasons and potential opportunities and changes,” said Mr. Godwin. “While these early information sharing opportunities have been insightful, all hunters and members of the public will have the opportunity to review and provide feedback on any proposed deer season changes through Ontario’s environmental registry should the MNRF pursue them.”
Mr. Barker noted that concerns were raised at the meeting that farmers don’t like hunting seasons to be taking place at the same time that cattle are on the range.
“I thought about the concerns with livestock and hunting that were raised at the meeting,” said Mr. Barker. “Manitoulin Island is basically all private property ownership. If a farmer doesn’t want hunters on their property, all they have to do is decline any hunters permission to hunt on these properties in these situations. And, keep in mind hunters go through stringent hunter training and target identification. Hunters go through hunter education and firearm safety courses, with the key to these courses being safety and target identification, which is critical. And since land on Manitoulin is all private property, a hunter needs written permission from a property owner to hunt on this property. The farmer or land owner has control on who they allow to hunt on their property.”
Mr. Godwin told the OFAH meeting that currently around the province, hunting seasons vary depending on the WMU area. “We are meeting with groups to see if small changes could be made that would improve the hunting season consistency around the province.”
“Are there small tweaks that can be made?” asked Mr. Godwin, who pointed out it has been over a decade since the deer hunt seasons were reviewed throughout the province.
“One of the problems is most people are not interested in having the black powder bow hunt season go further into November due to the weather conditions and there is a lack of interest in this,” said one OFAH member.
Mr. Godwin noted Manitoulin is not the only place that sees gaps in its hunt seasons. He added that if any proposal is made by a club, and considered by the MNRF, “if any deer season changes were proposed they would require public consultation on Ontario’s Environmental Registry where these proposals would be posted.”