Lil and I didn’t get an adult moose tag this year – too bad for us. Tag numbers were substantially reduced in many Ontario WMU’s, including the WMU Lil and I hunt. No one feels sorry for us, though, as we bagged a nice bull last year. Still, we’ll miss the hunt.
I did write a story for Ontario Out of Doors magazine they called ‘Distress Call’, which was basically an article on what’s happening to Ontario’s moose herds. In a nutshell, they’ve declined steadily for about 10 years, and at least in the near future, prospects for a turnaround appear to be slim.
As usually happens, the article didn’t get printed as I wrote it. For whatever reason – space, editors/publisher concerns – two items I had hoped to be included didn’t make it to print.
So I’ll post them here.
First, I have issues with the archery hunt, which in recent years has been becoming more popular. In some WMU’s, there are more archery tags available than gun tags; here’s what I said:
Another problem might be the growing popularity of the bow hunt. Noted ungulate biologist Dr. Tony Bubenik, said it was essential to protect prime bulls, as they do the majority of the breeding. With too few prime bulls, breeding is left to younger bulls (teenagers) that are not good suitors. As the archery hunt occurs during the rut, prime bulls are being harvested before they have had a chance to breed.
The 2nd item that didn’t see the light of day had to do with access. Again, here’s what I had to say about this:
Moose are not everywhere; more likely they are ‘over there.’ Wherever they are, you will need to get there, and that means some form of access.
In Alaska, the hunting access issue has focused on airplanes, because there are so few roads. In Ontario, airplane moose hunting used to be a concern.
Not anymore. Moose hunting in the Trillium province is mostly about trucks, trailers, ATV’s and RV’s. All rely on roads, and the northern, core moose range is full of roads.
Anything to do with roads is a big deal and there are many factors that determine which roads get built and maintained. Moose are only a part of the equation. Problems arise when restrictions on roads used by licenced moose hunters are proposed as solutions to moose management.
Almost everywhere access controls have been used, be it tearing up roads and culverts and making them impassable, or simply closing a road network to moose hunters using signs and gates, there’s been strong and vocal opposition. It’s extremely difficult to get agreement on access control restrictions because that means possible infringements on legislated rights and privileges, including Aboriginal Rights.
With the decline of the forest products industry, it’s likely there will be less access to the forest in the future than there is today. Old roads are not being maintained, are washing out and are being ‘decommissioned’ at a rate faster than new ones are being built.
Roads can help disperse hunters and their harvest. Less road access might actually concentrate harvest.
The good news is that roads into moose country continue to be built and maintained. But questions on access control remain.
There is no one reason why moose herds have declined in Ontario, and elsewhere for that matter (e.g., Minnesota and Manitoba). However, early season archery hunting and access issues are certainly – at least in my mind – part of the mix, and need to be discussed if solutions to the problem are to be seriously addressed.