Hunting Forecast 2013: Manitoba

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Manitoba saw a winter with early snow, a lot of snow and then a late melt – not a good combination for game animals or hunters. Two of the past three winters reached the “bad” category and the only good thing that can be said is the one year of relief between the two nasty winters allowed for some recovery. Otherwise, the situation could have been more dire.

 

Elk

Provincial wildlife biologist Ken Rebizant said recent surveys in the Interlake found “expected numbers” of elk and that other hunted elk populations, such as Duck Mountain and Spruce Woods, are stable. All indicators of hunting success are normal, which, seeing as elk hunters have been doing well in recent years, promises another good season.

 

White tail deer

There is no way to sugar coat it: deer numbers are down, thanks to two severe winters of the past three. Manitoba is near the northern limit of white tail deer range and Rebizant says that we have to expect some challenges from the weather.

There are still a few areas in the south where the objective is to reduce deer numbers, so there will be some extra hunting opportunities, but for most of the province the reduced deer hunting regulation framework will be extended for another year or two, but hopefully not more. White tail deer numbers can recover quickly with decent winter carryover, so hopefully there are better hunting seasons ahead.

There is still testing for bovine tuberculosis in elk and deer harvested in GHA 23 and 23A. To increase the sample size, in 2012 and again for 2013, free deer licenses will be offered to hunters specifically for the TB core area.

 

Moose

The story on Manitoba moose is mixed – there are bright spots and some management challenges. In the northern parts of the province, moose numbers are stable and hunting prospects are good. However, moose numbers are still down in the Porcupine Hills and western uplands. In the east/central area of the province, there has been a multi-year moose conservation project, consisting of controls on hunting, access and predators, and Rebizant is seeing a positive response in moose numbers.

Across the province, moose are becoming increasingly vulnerable as road access increases, which may trigger hunting regulation changes in future. So, for Manitoba moose hunters, the forecast for 2013 is not totally rosy, but also not totally bleak.

 

Caribou

The picture for Manitoba caribou hunters could not be much better. Caribou numbers are robust, and have returned to Manitoba following a temporary westward shift in distribution. After a couple of years of declining hunter harvest, both hunter success and hunter harvest of caribou were up in 2012.

 

Black bear

Winter has little effect on bear populations, as they sleep through the worst of it. Rebizant reported that bear numbers are up, hunter success is high and that very large boars have been tagged every year. This all adds up to a great hunting opportunity, particularly for deer hunters who might otherwise be disappointed this fall.

 

Wolf

This species continues to attract more hunter interest. Some hunters take wolves to reduce predation pressure on the game ungulates, but other hunters are enjoying the challenge of hunting wolves as a game animal. Calling wolves can be an exciting, challenging and rewarding hunting experience.

 

Upland game birds

The fall of 2012 was a good one for upland bird hunters in Manitoba. The harvest of ruffed grouse was up and sharp-tailed grouse hunting was the best in many years. Hungarian partridge numbers were also up. The long winter and cool spring of 2013 may put a bit of a damper on grouse and partridge numbers, but hunters can expect a decent, but likely not spectacular, season this year.

Hunting Manitoba wild turkeys is an increasingly popular sport and these big birds are growing in numbers and expanding their range across the south end of the province. A recent study of wild turkeys, which included radio telemetry, found excellent numbers of eggs (10 to 12) in the first nesting and frequent repeat nesting if the first nest was raided by egg predators such as skunks, raccoons or coyotes. The result is strong numbers of wild turkeys and a high proportion of young males, known as jakes. Party hunting is permitted for turkeys, which increases the likelihood of success.

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