Deer hunting tough so far

Over the past seven or eight years since I finished university, my fall season has been totally consumed with deer hunting.
In 2005 and 2006, our deer population really peaked in Northwestern Ontario. At that time, my interest in deer hunting was very high.
I was spending much of my time in the woods learning how to get close these animals in the wild. And for me, the biggest benefit was getting to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Eventually I started my own outfitting business, which has kept me very busy now for several years through October and November. I don’t get to do a lot of actual hunting on my own, but I think I enjoy scouting potential hunting areas and setting up spots for my clients more than actual hunting.
This involves covering ground on foot looking for sign, using about 20 trail cameras to monitor various areas for deer activity, and spending even more time in the woods during the spring looking for shed antlers.
I really have a lot of fun with it.
The first few years that I spent guiding, things went really good. The hunting was world-class, as good as anywhere in North America. Hunters saw a lot of deer and had pretty high success rates.
Several tough winters, along with deep snow, over the past six years have put a big dent into the deer population across Sunset Country. That, coupled with an increased wolf population (likely because of the high deer numbers), have combined to knock off a significant number of the deer.
I have noticed a decline in deer numbers and quality in recent years—evident by the deer sightings that my hunters have, the images my trail cameras take, and the number of shed antlers I find.
Other causes for this decline include hunting pressure, of which non-resident has dropped significantly in recent years, and a possible decline in high-quality forage.
My friend and retired biologist, Bruce Ranta, has mentioned in the past that severe spruce budworm infestations in the late 1980s knocked down thousands of coniferous trees that grew a lot of lichen once they were on the ground, so deer had a top-notch winter forage option for several years that helped lead to their peak in population.
This year, I have several hunters once again visiting me to hunt but it has been very tough. We have been seeing fewer deer, and the big bucks our area has become famous are nowhere to be found for me.
I’ve talked to some of my friends who also spend a lot of time chasing whitetails who are experiencing the same results.
We’re still having fun enjoying being outdoors, keeping busy by catching a few fish and hunting some grouse and waterfowl.
There still are high deer populations in communities around the region, but when you get out of these towns, populations drop off. I understand that is hard for some people to believe, but that’s the reality.
Hopefully, we’ll get a nice winter without too much snow and cold weather—for the deer and for us because we had to suffer through enough winter last year.