Checking in from the deer woods

In the early 2000’s we had some of the best deer hunting opportunities in North America right here in Sunset Country. In terms of the number of trophy sized bucks, the overall population of deer and all of the public land to hunt, few areas could compare. The old saying “nothing lasts forever” held true and a combination of events lead to a decline in the deer population over the past decade.

As a deer hunter I always say that we didn’t know how good we had it. When I came out of University I was interested in deer hunting and got out in the woods when I could on weekends throughout the hunting season but I didn’t really know that much about it. There were so many deer around that the hunting was easy. You could find them in clear cut areas, on open ridges, it wasn’t that hard.

Around 2005 I had some friends visit to go fishing who I knew were really into deer hunting and they told me I should consider guiding for deer. I was guiding a good number of fishing trips around that time so this was essentially a way to prolong that season a little more and hopefully put off having to get a real job. I sent out an email to all of my friends and contacts within the fishing industry that I was going to offer five day deer hunting trips in October and November and got a few trips booked.

I was fortunate because when I started doing this it was probably around the peak of the deer hunting in our area. We weren’t quite overrun with hunters yet, the deer were easy to find and I was really into it. I would wake up every day to a new adventure and I was excited to get out there and explore. The first group of hunters that I had both tagged out on big bucks, taught me a few things and sent more hunters my way. For the next ten years or so, deer hunting was my life in October and November.

Eventually, we had multiple tough winters in a row, which aided the wolf population that had exploded because of all the deer and there was probably a shortage of quality forage. The Fort Frances area has a guide requirement for non-resident hunters but up around Kenora and Dryden anyone could buy a deer tag over the counter and go hunting. It was good for the tourism community because you could hardly find a hotel room during November but I think it got a little out of hand. Our great deer hunting got really tough.  

A nice whitetail buck made an appearance for Jeff Gustafson’s trail camera last week. Although deer have become a nuisance in towns, the numbers are dwindling for hunters in the forests across northwestern Ontario. – Submitted by Jeff Gustafson

I haven’t been doing the guiding thing for the past few years but I still love being out in the woods, exploring for deer and doing some hunting. Our past couple of winters have been relatively easy, the wolf population seems to have cooled off a bit and there are fewer hunters. It seems like the deer are starting to comeback. If you live in town you are probably reading this thinking, there are deer everywhere, but that has not been the case when you get out of city limits. It has seemed like the more remote you get, the fewer deer there are but hopefully that will change.

As the temperatures drop over the next few weeks, it’s a great time to get out in the woods to deer hunt and enjoy being in the outdoors. Hunting isn’t for everybody but it’s a unique part of our culture here in northern Ontario that I am proud of.