Removing some of the mystery on hunting’s regulations in Ontario. Did you know that most can’t hunt adult females (or adult males for that matter?). Did you know a bow and arrow is a firearm? Did you know a lot of moose hunting takes place in 6 days? All that and more below…
Talking about hunting in public is not something I do a whole lot of. I was trained at a young age to recognize that this is a dangerous conversation to have with people and that the perception of what we do is far from favourable in many circles. I long ago stopped trying to convert people to believe in hunting and I certainly understand the reluctance to accept hunting (I documented my journey and struggles with it in an earlier post).
Recent years have found me in uneasy territory. There is a new-found curiosity surrounding hunting and I find myself cautiously answering questions regarding a part of my life that I grew up with and simply accepted. A lot of people find the reality of hunting to be very different from how they thought it would work. This is the first in a series of hunting articles focusing on the regulations and basics of getting involved and are accurate to the best of my ability- copies of the actual regulations are here.
Before getting to hunt, one must attend (and pass) a Hunter Safety course. The program is a 20-hour certificate which concludes with a test. Graduation provides you an Outdoors Card which allows you to purchase individual hunting licenses in the future. This card will allow you to buy bear, moose, deer and small game licenses – wild turkey require an additional course.
Once you have an outdoors card, you need to apply (and test) for a Possession and Acquisition License. This includes a criminal background check and allows you to purchase, transport and use a firearm in Ontario. Firearms include rifles, shotguns, musket loaders and bows/ crossbows (a firearm is classified as such based on how fast it’s projectile is propelled through the air which is why a bow/ crossbow qualify). There is another seperate permit and process for hand guns.
Once you have both licenses, you now qualify to hunt. Next step is to apply to hunt for the given year. This means more licenses and more decisions.
The province is divided into regions called Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). A complete map of these can be found here. The different areas have slightly different hunting seasons and the area you choose has a direct impact on your chances of receiving an adult moose tag in the draw (to be explained very shortly).
Once you have your region picked, you buy a moose tag (it’s another license which gives your permission to hunt in a specific year). You buy the tag before June 1 to be eligible for the draw which will determine which type of mosse you can harvest. If you buy a tag after June 1 you will only be able to harvest a calf (the young ones). Culling the young in the herd increases the survival rate for the others as it helps ensure there is enough food for the remaining to survive the winter ahead. It’s a tough concept to work ones head around at first…
if you think there’s a lot of licenses you are correct. Separate licenses have to be purchased for small game, deer and bear. Your dog also needs a license of it’s own. Hunters fund a lot of our provinces conservation efforts in the Province as you may imagine.
Now for the complicated part – the lottery. Each WMU is a controlled hunt – the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) establishes limits for the maximum number of adult male and adult female moose that can be killed in any given year.
The system to get one of these adult tags was simple when I was a child – you would indicate if you wanted to be put in a draw for an adult male (bull) or an adult female (cow) and you would hope to “win” a tag that would permit you to harvest the larger adult. If you won a tag this year you were placed in a second pool in the following year which reduced your chances of winning the following year. The year after that you returned to the main draw again. This system worked at times and failed others. There were years when we would receive no tags and other years we would receive too many. This problem is what created our new system called the group draw.
When our camp buys our licenses, we decide to group our members in one or both draws. The larger your group, the more likely you will get a license. The ministry tries to help you by publicizing their anticipated guaranteed numbers (in other words, the number of people they think you would need in a single group to win a tag). If a group is successful the tag is awarded to one individual (who enters the second pool in the following year) and the entire group is removed from the remaining draws.
New hunters start in the second pool as well. Anyone in the second pool cannot join a group of people in the first group.
In 2008 the Government sold just over 100,000 licenses. 14,047 tags were awarded – roughly 66% of those were for Bulls and the rest for Cows. About 10,500 groups applied (the average group was less than 5) and 66% of the received a tag.
We are generally fortunate to receive a tag as we are a larger group. We aren’t always successful in receiving a tag and the process can be quite a challenge to go through.
Once you have all that out of the way, it’s almost time to hunt. Moose season lasts 6 days in most of Southern Ontario (there are exceptions and it’s longer in the north). Harvesting the wrong animal (i.e. an adult without a tag or a cow when you have a bull license) is not an option – it can lead to thousands of dollars of fines, lost vehicles, properties and more. If you don’t know what you are shooting at – you don’t shoot.