Hunting Forecast 2014: Saskatchewan

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I know, I know, we Canadians get enough winter during the winter season, and don’t really want to talk about it during the nicer months of the year. However, the severity of the past winters is a prime driver of game numbers, particularly deer, so for western sportsmen and women it is important to review the conditions in the cold, dark months of last year in order to understand what the coming hunting season will bring.

Not surprisingly, a good hunting season depends in large part on high numbers of game animals. Heavy snow, crusty snow, extreme cold or a delayed spring can each affect the winter survival of game animals and thus the numbers available in the coming hunting seasons. In fact, it can take several mild winters to erase the negative effects of one severe winter.

 

Overview

Wildlife managers assess game populations each spring and adjust hunting seasons to balance numbers and hunting opportunity. For the coming seasons, although there are encouraging reports on game ungulates from all provinces, there also have been some declines. Hunters may want to expand their hunts to include plentiful but less popular game, like black bears and waterfowl.

For parts of western Canada, the winter of 2013/2014 exhibited all of the negative aspects that can influence game numbers. One bad winter is bad enough, but actually, for much of western Canada, three of the past four winters have been a challenge for game animal survival, particularly deer.

Black bears are found across western Canada and are under-harvested by hunters pretty much everywhere. Winter has little impact on bear numbers; they escape the worst of the snow and cold by holing up for most of the winter months.

For waterfowl hunters, lots of snow also means lots of melt water, thus full duck nesting ponds, good hatches of ducklings and lots of whistling wings in the fall. Across western Canada, geese populations may never have been higher.

So for 2014, here is a closer look at the hunting prospects for the coming season, province by province and species by species.

Saskatchewan

A long and bitter winter for much of the province will have had an impact on some game populations, particularly deer. There are a number of adjustments to seasons and draw quotas to reflect the new game population status.

Hunters should be aware that there have been some changes to the Wildlife Management Zone boundaries. Wildlife Allocation Specialist Travis Williams reported that all WMZ boundaries were reviewed and amended to improve on-the-ground identification. There were 33 amendments designed, as much as possible, to follow easily identifiable features such as highways, major municipal roads or major water bodies. Some WMZ have been permanently separated into east and west divisions for more effective wildlife management. Hunters can find the new boundaries map in the 2014/2015 Hunters and Trappers Guide.

 

Moose

Hunters will see some changes to moose hunting opportunities, both up and down. The moose population is down in the northeastern forest zones and quotas will be reduced accordingly. Further south, though, moose in the farmland zones continue to prosper and hunter success in this area is high.

 

Elk

This species continues to do really well. For 2014, there are no decreases in hunting opportunities and the list of increases is long, such as a new September season in the Farmland WMZ, new hunts both inside and outside Moose Mountain Provincial Park and quota increases in WMZ 7, 9, 34, 42 and 46 – a most promising forecast.

 

Mule deer

There as not yet been a significant recovery of mule deer since the damaging winter of 2010/2011. For 2014, most of the quotas for this species are the same as last year, which is to say, significantly reduced from previous years. Plus, in response to depressed populations, in selected WMZ there will be further reductions in season lengths and bag limits. The best to hope for is a series of mild winters to help the deer numbers recover.

 

White-tailed deer

The story is not much better for white-tailed deer hunters. Deer numbers are down and there will be further regulation changes to reduce hunter harvest. Although deer hunting opportunities will be offered in all WMZs, the highest whitetail numbers have historically been found in the southeast corner of the province (WMZ 31 to 39) and that is likely to be the best bet for 2014.

 

Pronghorn antelope

The hunting of pronghorns is closed after some disastrous recent winters. Surveys will be conducted this summer to evaluate the population, but there is no plan to open a hunting season for 2014.

 

Black bear

Winter has little impact on bear numbers, because they hibernate through the worst of it. The provincial bear estimate is up and hunter interest has not kept pace, which is a formula for an excellent hunt. Deer hunters, who might otherwise be disappointed this fall, might want to carry a bear tag. The highest hunter harvest is from the Forest Ecozone, in a broad band across the province, basically between Prince Albert and Lac La Ronge.

 

Upland game birds

The numbers of upland birds are down. Thanks in part to the series of unfavourable winters and springs, including those just past. No species of these game birds is particularly abundant. The birds of the farmlands, like pheasant and Hungarian partridge, might have fared somewhat better than the grouse in the forest, but unfortunately this is not expected to be a banner year for any upland bird hunters.

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