Hunting is about killing. It’s not what it’s all about, but it most certainly is a major factor in the hunting equation. Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act defines hunting as (a) lying in wait for, searching for, being on the trail of, pursuing, chasing or shooting at wildlife, whether or not the wildlife is killed, injured, captured or harassed, or (b) capturing or harassing wildlife.
But’s let us focus for a moment on killing. After all, when hunting, that’s the end game.
Hunters know there are only so many animals that can be harvested out of any given population. That’s why we have seasons and limits. If we kill more than the population can produce, the population will decline. Keep that up and at some point, there won’t be any left. Owing mainly to unregulated, over-harvest, there wasn’t a lot of big game left over much of North America by the early 20th century. When a clamp down on harvest finally came, populations began to recover.
Recently in Ontario, following a time of plenty, populations of moose and to a lesser extent deer, are in decline. Despite evidence to the contrary, I think senior executives responsible for managing Ontario’s wildlife believe deer and moose will recover, without hunters having to make sacrifices,
It’s not hunters! It’s the wolves! The bears! Climate change! Disease and parasites!
For decades, Ontario deer hunters and managers resisted making changes to the ‘one license, one deer’ way of deer management. Americans clearly demonstrated that when deer populations were low, restricting the harvest of antlerless deer was the quickest and easiest way to see deer populations bounce back. But for years, Ontarians resisted change mightily. Fortunately, change eventually came and today, with a deer management system that regulates the antlerless kill, Ontario deer populations are in much better shape.
So I don’t understand the complaints when antlerless deer quotas and additional seal numbers were lowered following the vicious 2013-14 winter.
But these days it’s moose hunters and moose managers who really seem to be in denial. There is no doubt moose populations have been in decline for years. Maybe predators are a problem, but does anyone really believe Ontario could wage a war on wolves and bears so hunters can shoot more moose? Improving how moose habitat is managed might help, but the magnitude of the undertaking is enormous and will take years to implement. Resolve climate change and disease and parasite problems? No easy solutions there.
As human and hunter populations grow, all hunters are facing a scenario of shrinking supply and growing demand.
Hunters are going to have to work together and be realistic as to what they can harvest. That means licenced hunters as well as rights based hunters.
It doesn’t mean ignoring other management options.
But if we don’t do a better job of reducing our harvest when populations fall – particularly for species like moose and deer – the situation will worsen.
Dead animals don’t reproduce. Dead is dead.