Hunting Forecast 2013: Alberta

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The severity of the past winter, with regards to game animals, varied between the north and south. In the central and northern parts of the province, winter came early, stayed late and delivered lots of snow, which has implications for hunting in those areas. Further south, the winter was not as bad and game populations were not as heavily impacted. So, hunters should check the regulations carefully because there are some new opportunities to take advantage of and new restrictions to be aware of.

 

Elk

Alberta elk hunters are going to be a happy lot this fall. There are new opportunities in many parts of the province. There will be 17 WMUs open to elk hunting in the Parkland (200 series) – general open season for archery and a draw for rifle hunting are to help manage crop depredation issues in the farmlands. CFB Suffield will have a new draw for cow elk.

 

Moose

Moose are built to withstand a lot of winter, and so did not suffer significant population declines, particularly those that winter near farmlands. Recent population inventories have confirmed that moose numbers are basically stable. There will be some adjustments to manage the small increases and decreases in various areas, but there are no significant swings in moose numbers, thus no significant changes to the regulations. Moose numbers have been fairly robust in past years, so hunters can expect as good a season as any recently.

 

Mule deer

Considering the winter just past, the news for mule deer hunters is pretty good. The prime mule deer areas of the south and east did not see as significant a winter as further north and the carryover is expected to have been relatively good. Many archery hunters have been successful in recent years, so much so that some areas will be put on a draw from a general open season.

 

Whitetail deer

As with much of the prairies, this species suffered in the past winter. There were frequent reports of winterkilled deer in the Boreal and northern Parkland WMUs. Hunters can expect to see fewer opportunities for antlerless hunts, although, for now, the buck seasons will be the same as last year.

The only good thing to say is that whitetail numbers had been very high a couple of years ago, so the recent population declines brings the numbers closer to provincial targets.

 

Pronghorn

Unfortunately for pronghorn hunters, it will likely be a couple more years before you can pursue this game animal again. There has not been a rebound in numbers from the big hit in the winter of 2010/2011 and so the season is still closed.

 

Black bear

This species is little affected by a bad winter. With limited hunter interest recently, there are good numbers of bears right across the province, but they are especially plentiful in the foothills and the forests in north and central Alberta. For some WMUs, there is a second bear tag available. This may be the year to carry a bear tag where the deer hunting opportunities are reduced.

 

Upland game birds

Grouse surveys are now infrequent, so there is little specific information to report. However, winter can limit the adult bird carryover and a late, cool spring can limit the chick production. Both appear to have been the case for 2013. On the plus side, though, the increased soil moisture from melting snow means brushier ground cover, which reduces egg and chick predation and thus promotes better survival and more birds for fall hunting. So, the past winter was a mixed blessing for bird production, but the coming season is not expected to be anywhere near a bonanza for Alberta’s upland bird hunters.

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