2012 hunting forecast: Ontario
Deer: There are roughly 400,000 white-tailed deer in the province, with approximately 280,000 residing in the southern region. Agricultural land continues to provide good numbers of healthy, quality deer. Generally, the most productive areas in southwestern Ontario are in the Aylmer, Guelph and Midhurst Districts. Given the favourable snow conditions for deer this past winter, good survival and recruitment of fawns was expected. In northwestern Ontario, the past winter was very mild with low snow depths, especially in core deer range. These conditions should enhance recruitment and result in increased numbers of deer compared with the previous year. White-tailed deer continue to be distributed across most of the region. In northeastern Ontario, WMU 47 is the best place to hunt deer.
Moose: In southern Ontario, the moose population is stable to slightly increasing, and the best hunting occurs around Parry Sound, Bancroft and Pembroke. Generally, managers are expecting an excellent hunt this year throughout the southern region. In the northwest, moose population density is generally highest around Thunder Bay, Dryden, Fort Frances and Kenora. In 2011, the highest success rates among resident gun bull tag holders were observed in WMUs 4, 9A, 9B, 15A and 16B. For fall, there are 355 fewer adult validation tags available in the region compared with last year. In the northeast, WMUs 28, 40 and 41 are most popular with resident hunters, and larger tag quotas are available in WMUs 21B, 24 and 28. In 2011, for resident gun hunters with bull tags, the highest success rates were in WMUs 24, 36, 41 and 42.
Elk: The current management objective is to maintain the population between 400 and 600 elk in the Bancroft/Hasting areas while attempting to optimize the age/sex structure. The population appears to be healthy. Elk hunting is permitted in portions of WMUs 57, 58, 60, 61, 62 and 63A, with the most productive hunting areas within 57 and 61. Twenty elk were harvested during last year’s hunt, the first in 128 years.
Bears: Bear densities appear stable throughout southern Ontario. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region and the areas around Parry Sound, Bancroft, Pembroke and Kemptville provide the best hunting opportunities. Overall success rates last year were 48 per cent for non-residents and 18 per cent for residents. The bear population in northwestern Ontario is primarily stable. Black bear productivity is greatest in the boreal units in the southern portion of the region. In 2011, most black bears hunted in northeastern Ontario came from WMUs 21B, 28, 29, 40, 41 and 42.
Upland birds: Expect higher densities of birds in Shield areas of the southern region relative to southern agricultural Ontario, where habitat is not as favourable, managers say. Wild turkeys are abundant in southern Ontario, particularly in areas south of the Shield; the highest densities are in areas with a good mix of forest and agriculture. The outlook for hunting this fall and next spring is excellent. Across much of northwestern Ontario, ruffed and spruce grouse populations are stable to increasing. Northeastern Ontario is generally productive for ruffed and spruce grouse. Sharp-tailed grouse populations are localized, and good to stable in the Cochrane area and fair to stable on St. Joseph and Manitoulin Islands. The wild turkey population level on St. Joseph Island (WMU 45) is considered fair.
Waterfowl: Across the province, weather and habitat conditions have been mostly average for breeding waterfowl. A mild winter and early spring, with good amounts of rainfall in mid-April, recharged many wetlands, resulting in average breeding habitat conditions. Currently, there are no major concerns about the waterfowl populations that breed in Ontario. As a precaution, however, there are still special restrictive daily bag and possession limits for American black duck, Barrow’s goldeneye and the southern James Bay population of Canada geese. Warm temperatures in May and June also benefited brood rearing waterfowl. Therefore, managers expect average waterfowl populations this year. The possession limit for Canada geese has been increased from 24 to 30.