Province looking to make major changes to hunting and fishing licencing system

ONTARIO—A member of the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club and Manitoulin Deer Management Advisory Committee says in taking a first glance at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) proposed new hunting and fishing license system for Ontario, mandatory hunter-harvest reporting for deer and other big game is particularly good news.

“Absolutely,” stated Ian Anderson. “I haven’t seen the proposal, but if includes a new system for mandatory deer hunting reporting province-wide it would be really good news. This would be a great first step.”

“It would provide much more accurate representation of what is being harvested in the wildlife management units, and is overdue to accurately manage deer herds,” stated Mr. Anderson.

Ontario Out of Doors reported that the MNRF is currently developing a new hunting and fishing licencing system for the province. Numerous changes are being considered which the MNRF proposal states will “modernize licencing products and approaches, improve client services, and ultimately support sustainable fish and wildlife management.”

The proposal which has been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry, if accepted would provide for sweeping changes to many areas of the current system, including the Outdoors Card, licensing, game seals, hunter-harvest reporting and the Hunter Apprenticeship Program. Streamlining hunter accreditation and other enhancements to hunting and fishing licencing are also on the table.

Under the proposal hunters would see the elimination of multiple Outdoors Cards (e.g. H1, H2) to be replaced by a single version. A single licence document would be introduced that would list all the holder’s valid hunting and fishing licences and could be printed at home or delivered via email for storing in digital format.

The proposal would include mandatory reporting of all hunting activity and harvest for black bear, moose, elk, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and wolf/coyote (where seals are required), using a phased-in approach. Reporting by mail would be eliminated in favour of reporting via phone, online and possibly, an app.

Game seals would be replaced with ‘tags’ which users would be able to purchase online and print at home, or obtain from a licence issuer. Hunters would still be required to carry their tag and complete it at the time of harvest, but would only need to attach it to the harvested animal if they were no longer accompanying it.

Apprenticeship hunters would be required to obtain an Outdoors Card, which would replace the current Hunter Apprenticeship Card, the proposal indicates. This change would pave the way for apprentices to purchase their own hunting licences and tags, but not to participate in a draw. Alternatively, they could continue to hunt under their mentor’s licence and bag limit.

Mark Ryckman of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) said, “we’ve been in discussion with the MNRF for a full year and a half on the proposal and bouncing ideas on it for the proposed changes,” said Mr. Ryckman. “I’m fairly familiar.”

However, Mr. Ryckman said, “there is still a lot of questions concerning implementation of these changes and the practical aspects of enforcement.”

“Yes, it’s fundamental in that the changes should be good, but how will this all roll out and be phased in. If they (MNRF) do a wholesale change and all at once it could be hard communicating this to all hunters in the province,” said Mr. Ryckman. “But in general the changes seem to

be positive.”

Mr. Ryckman said, “the mandatory reporting system is a good thing, we have seen declining rates of response from hunters to reporting over the years. “

Under the proposal one a hunter who does not report his harvest may  not be able to purchase a licence in the future year.

Implementation of the proposed system is anticipated for late 2018/early 2019.

The full proposal is posted on the EBR, Registry Number 013-0487, and is available for public review and comment for a 60 day period, until July 28, 2017.