If you've had your ear to the ground when it comes to hunting news in Manitoba, you know significant changes are now in place for the 2012 deer hunting seasons. In short, it means most deer hunters will have a single tag to fill this year.
Previously, licences were available for archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons in most game hunting areas (GHAs). Additionally, second and third licences were also to be had in many of those areas. That means enthusiastic deer hunters could have three, four, five or more tags from the end of August until the beginning of December. That's all changed.
According to the 2012 Manitoba Hunting Guide, it was the unfavourable conditions of the 2010-2011 winter that led to the change. The Manitoba deer herd has been reduced by at least 40 per cent, says the guide.
Resident deer hunters can purchase one general deer licence that will be valid across all the appropriate seasons. Once your tag is filled, you're done (unless you choose to party hunt). In some select GHAs, second and third licences are still available. Check the 2012 Manitoba Hunting Guide for all the details.
Reid Woods, president of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation (MWF), has mixed feelings about the changes in the regulations.
"The MWF supports the staff in the big game department of (Manitoba Conservation) and works closely with them on many issues," he said. "We do have a big concern regarding the lack of funding for proper surveys in game hunting areas to do full and proper counts of animals."
Woods went on to say the lack of funding means the conservation department has to rely on crop insurance claims, Autopac collision reports and data from hunters to make decisions. "These are all good tools but don't present the hard documentation that a flown survey provides," he said.
The MWF has offered to lend a hand by developing a network of "on the ground folks" who would supply information about wildlife populations and landscape conditions.
"This compromise (the change in regulations) is acceptable, but again, we expect to see hard data on the effects of the change and if populations have rebounded, we fully expect seasons and tags to be returned to what they were last season," Woods said.
Other changes for 2012
Moose Seasons: Moose hunters purchasing a Conservation Moose Licence are allowed to party hunt with other moose hunters who purchased a Conservation Moose Licence up to a maximum party of four hunters. In GHAs 2A, 4, 6A, 7, 9A, 11 and 21A the archery moose bag limit has changed to one bull moose.
Oak Hammock Managed Hunting Area: The restriction on the maximum number of days individuals can hunt in the Oak Hammock Managed Hunting Area has been removed. A maximum of six hunters are permitted per quarter section of land. A maximum of four hunters are now permitted on land less than a quarter section.
Grants Lake Managed Hunting Area: The number of crown land posts has been reduced to 20. A maximum of six hunters is now permitted per quarter section of land. A maximum of four hunters is now permitted on land less than a quarter
Wolf baiting restrictions: Baiting restrictions for wolf hunting, similar to bear hunting, have been implemented.
Antler traps: The use of antler traps as a means to collect shed antlers is prohibited.
Woodcock season: There's a new season for woodcock in GBHZ 3 and 4.
New licence eligibility requirements: Keep in mind that the new hunter education requirements are now in place. All hunters need a valid Hunter Education Certificate or equivalent from another jurisdiction to purchase a hunting licence. Keep your card on you when you're in the field. You'll need to produce it when requested by a Natural Resource officer.
An electronic version of the 2012 Manitoba Hunting Guide is online at www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/wildlife/hunting/index.html
Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org