COCKBURN ISLAND – The number of hunters on hand at the start of the annual two-week deer hunt on Cockburn Island was extremely low, local hunter Ian Anderson told the Recorder late last week. And, a major hydro power outage didn’t help matters either.
“The number of hunters was extremely low,” Mr. Anderson told the Recorder. “We had 75 hunters this week (normally there is 100). It was somewhat expected there would be less hunters than normal with COVID-19. There were several hunt camps where no one was present.”
The low hunter numbers “are certainly not reflective of a lack of deer. I’m over to Cockburn Island enough in the summer that I can say I saw more deer this year than I have in years. And a lot of hunters have trail cameras and they were seeing a lot deer, including a lot of bucks.”
Having helped out at a deer check station for the first few days of this year’s hunt, Mr. Anderson told the Recorder, “there were only four bucks that were brought in; there are usually a lot more,” noting most everyone hunts bucks, “and there were only 10 doe tags allocated this year.”
“A lot of hunters commented that without question, the deer rut had not started (with the hunt season starting a little earlier in November this year) it was early for rutting activity to take place,” continued Mr. Anderson. “I fully expect the Island will have a good hunt the second week of the season.”
“Weather-wise it was huntable,” said Mr. Anderson. He pointed out there were reports from a number of hunters who heard coyotes and wolves at night. “I’m not saying predator animals have impacted the deer population, but when there is hunting taking place they move to another place. It was an unusual hunt.”
“On the weekend, before the hunt started, gale force winds knocked power out on the Island,” said Mr. Anderson. Power was out from Sunday to Tuesday. One of the trees that was felled by high winds took one transformer off a hydro pole.
“This past weekend, severe weather caused power outages to more than 60,000 customers across Ontario,” Alex Stewart, media relations and communications officer with Hydro One, told the Expositor in an email. “On November 1 at approximately 6 pm, 55 customers on Cockburn Island experienced a power outage as a result of a fallen tree on a power line. The island is only accessible by boat or helicopter and severe weather delayed access to make repairs. On November 3 at approximately 3:30 pm, crews were able to safely transport the equipment required, including a new transfer, and safely restored power to customers. We appreciate our customers patience as crews worked to restore power through challenging weather conditions.”
It was thanks to at least one of the hunters with generators that they were able to tie into the electric-dependent cell tower to bring it back to life long enough to make an emergency call to Hydro One and alert them of the situation, Mr. Anderson said.
“Luckily hydro came in earlier than we were told originally,” said Mayor Jones. “They came in with the boat and an ATV with the needed items since they were aware of the problem beforehand. Hydro One’s notes say that there are 40 customers here but it’s higher this week, more like 150 with all the hunters (counting heads).”
Cockburn Island’s hunting week began November 2 and lasts for two weeks.
As for predictions for the Manitoulin rifle season, Mr. Anderson believes it will be “reasonably good,” adding that the deer have not yet fully recovered from the tough winter of a few years ago, but that they were on the rebound.