Hunting Forecast 2013: Saskatchewan

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Saskatchewan residents, whether human or animal, know about winter. The past winter provided lots of snow, but actually relatively mild temperatures until nearly spring when it turned cold. This was a challenging situation for animals that had not had much to eat for several months. The province’s big game manager, Brad Tokaruk, said that for deer, “if winter isn’t over by the end of March, it is bad news. It is just too long without decent food and their fat reserves are used up.” Winter was not over by the end of March, so the bad news is that Saskatchewan hunters will have fewer deer hunting opportunities this fall.

 

Elk

This species is less affected by winter compared to deer. Elk numbers are up basically everywhere they are found and east/central Saskatchewan and Moose Mountain Park are two particularly bright spots. In addition to good numbers of the species, hunters will see more opportunities designed to manage elk populations in potential conflict areas, usually near farmland.

 

Moose

Like elk, moose can often shrug off winter and thrive in spite of adverse weather, and such appears to be the case for 2013. There were some reports of winter ticks in east/central Saskatchewan, but they were not widespread. The moose populations in the forest management zones are stable and hunting is expected to be as good as any of the past few years.

In the farmland zones, moose numbers are increasing, which is great news for hunters but a challenge for wildlife managers. Hunters will see additional opportunities designed to manage potential agriculture conflicts.

 

Mule deer

For this species, the news is not good. Tokaruk said Saskatchewan mule deer had not recovered from the die-off in the winter of 2010/2011, so, coupled with the challenges of the past winter, numbers are well down. Hunters will definitely have to temper expectations for this fall. Mule deer quotas are reduced and the antlerless seasons have been eliminated. Hunting mule deer along the US border had been the most productive area before the recent winter die-offs, so that is likely where the population recovery will begin.

 

White tail deer

The story is similar for white tails as for mule deer. Numbers are down, regulations are tightened and hunting opportunities are diminished. White tail populations can recover comparatively quickly with favourable conditions, but the deer numbers are currently so depressed that it will likely be several years before hunters see deer as plentiful as in 2010. The southeast corner of the province (WMZ 31-39) traditionally holds the highest number of white tail deer and that is likely to be the best bet for 2013.

 

Pronghorn

Unfortunately, there is no good news for pronghorn hunters either. This species suffered a significant die-off in the winter of 2010/2011 and did not see much recovery in the following year. And the most recent nasty winter further hampered the population recovery. The hunting season will remain closed, certainly for 2013, and, unfortunately, likely for a couple more years.

 

Black bear

Winter is not a challenge for this species, secure in their dens until spring. The province’s bear population is up and Saskatchewan hunter demand is generally low. So, for hunters who do choose to buy a bear tag, the prospects are somewhere between excellent and terrific. Most bears are taken from the Forest Ecozone, in a broad band across the province, basically between Prince Albert and Lac La Ronge.

 

Upland game birds

Long winters can be difficult for adult upland game birds and cool springs can reduce chick production of most species. There has been a series of difficult winters/springs in recent years and the number of grouse are down, particularly sharp-tailed. Upland bird hunters will have a challenging season in 2013. The non-native species of the farmlands, like pheasant and Hungarian partridge, fared somewhat better through the winters, but this is not expected to be a banner year for those species either.

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