2012 hunting forecast: Nova Scotia
Deer: Lunenburg County, particularly within about 10 kilometres of the coast, continues to be the hot spot to hunt deer in the province. Agricultural areas in Hants and Colchester Counties are also productive. The overall hunter success rate last year was 25 per cent. There are some populations of white-tailed deer on Cape Breton Island, but they are low, says big-game manager Peter MacDonald. Deer declined province-wide in the late 1980s and have failed to come back on the island. “We think it is due to more severe winters than on the mainland in combination with winter habitat loss,” MacDonald says.
Moose: Moose are listed as endangered on the mainland, so the northwestern side of Cape Breton Island is the only area in Nova Scotia open to moose hunting. In 2011, there were 345 permits issued for the four different seasons that occur over the fall, and 249 moose were harvested. The highest hunter success rate was in zone 1, at 95 per cent; rates in other zones were high as well.
Bears: Black bears are distributed fairly evenly province-wide. The southwest interior is probably the best area to hunt them, says MacDonald.
Upland birds: Based on small-game hunter reports from last fall, the general abundance of ruffed grouse is now trending upward across the province. Antigonish is the only county trending downward. Weather across Nova Scotia during the spring nesting season was warm and dry, which bodes well for a successful nesting season this year. The best pheasant hunting was in Hants, Kings and Digby Counties.
Waterfowl: Eastern Canada doesn’t generally experience the annual variability in habitat conditions that’s typical of the Prairies. As such, the outlook for waterfowl production in the Atlantic region would be considered average in 2012. Prime spots to hunt dabblers include the freshwater marshes in Cumberland County, and the saltwater marshes and estuaries throughout the province. Ring-necked ducks are also found on the freshwater marshes, while scaup and bufflehead frequent the bays and inlets along the Northumberland Shore and Atlantic coast, from Digby to Bridgewater. Sea ducks are found along the Atlantic coast, but they’re particularly abundant along the southern coast from Digby to Halifax. All across the Atlantic region, the possession limit for goldeneye will drop from two birds to one this year.