Changes coming to moose hunting regulations in 2021

Growing up in northwestern Ontario and participating in hunting as much as I could growing up, moose were definitely on a pedestal for me and many others as the premier hunting opportunity in our part of the world. My dad used to tell me stories about moose hunting when he was young with his father and finding moose around the outskirts of Kenora, then loading them up into their station wagon if they were successful.
When I was young, there were still a few moose around Fort Frances and Kenora. Seeing a couple in a year was normal but in the 90’s when the deer population exploded, the moose numbers declined and sightings became rare. By the late 2000’s it was almost extraordinary to see a moose around Kenora. Fort Frances hunters don’t have to travel quite as far to find moose but they have experienced a decline as well.
The decline in the moose population is the result of climate change, an increase in the deer population causing disease, an increase in the wolf population as well as hunting pressure and harvest. It remains to be seen how well they can rebound. In-the-field reports I’ve heard from some of my acquaintances have been positive over the past year as more moose sightings have been happening in areas that were historically pretty good.
For the past 15 years or so a group of my friends and I travel north, usually towards the end of the season for an annual moose hunting trip. We have been fortunate to run into a moose or two each year and always have a good time. It’s a trip that I look forward to each year.
Over the past several years, there have been changes to the traditional moose regulations in Ontario. For the most part, these changes have been good. There was more protection implemented for calf moose, which is seemingly working to help the population grow. The problem is that hunters were still able to harvest cow moose, even if they had calves with them, leaving them orphaned and not likely to survive the winter. It would have been nice to see a simple antlerless tag for moose, so hunters could shoot a cow or a calf. It might not work all of the time, but there would be hunters who might choose to target a calf over a cow if given the opportunity or in a party situation where maybe there are multiple cow tags, a cow and calf could be taken. The option would be good and it’s something that it looks like we’re going to get moving forward, which I applaud.
Recently, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry released a new plan for the distribution of moose tags moving forward starting in 2021. The traditional draw format is going to move towards a point system for hunters to earn moose tags, much like the way most other jurisdictions in North America deal with coveted tags.
Starting in the spring of 2021, hunters will pay $15 to apply for a moose tag. If they are successful or want to party hunt, they will then pay an additional $35 to claim the moose tag or license. From there, it is going to be an additional $150 for a cow/calf tag and $200 for a bull tag. It’s sort of confusing, but if you apply and are not drawn for a tag, you will get to save some money on not having to purchase the whole moose tag. If you are lucky enough to get drawn, you will have to fork over a little more money to claim your tag. While the prices are significantly more than they have been in the past for a moose tag, they are still in line or much cheaper than most jurisdictions for a moose license. I’m okay with it, especially if the money is going back into Natural Resources activities. It should be noted that there are going to be no changes to the current party hunting regulations, but everyone will apply for their tags individually.
Moving forward you will get a point for every year you apply and don’t receive a tag. These points will add up and those with the most points accumulated will have the first crack at getting tags in the future. It’s a fair way to do it, and again, is the way it’s done in most places for coveted tags. You can look up your point accumulation and find other information through your account on the website.
There will be a primary tag allocation period and a secondary tag allocation period for any tags that remain available. The tags available for each WMU can be found on the website above, as well as other information related to the moose tag allocation moving forward. 
We are lucky to have moose hunting opportunities in Northwest Ontario. I really enjoy getting out in the remote areas where we find these magnificent animals and they are so great to eat. Hopefully this new program, while a little bit confusing right now, will work out well moving forward.