Hunting season produced bumper harvest of deer

“Everything was funny this year,” observed Dale LaBelle as he summed up the 2004 hunting season.
The owner/operator of LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp on Northwest Bay also was referring to the summer fishing season, which he said was full of surprises and disappointment for some.
But by and large, LaBelle felt it was a good season for outfitters like himself and their clients. “Our guys did pretty well on deer,” he remarked.
The moose results, on the other hand, were less than spectacular. LaBelle noted he only had one moose tag for his area anyway, but as it turned out there wasn’t much to see.
“I went out myself for three days and didn’t see any,” he said.
Others in the eastern and central parts of the district seemed to bear that out. Bill Godin, who owns Lake Despair Lodge not far from LaBelle’s outfit, told a similar story.
“It was a good fall, the success rate was good—a little bit better than last year, overall,” he remarked earlier this week.
His clients also reported less success with moose, although Godin noted he only had five non-resident moose tags for his area (WMU 9B). Once again, deer were telling the story.
“Deer are moving into traditional areas now,” Godin observed, adding that logging cuts are changing the relationship between deer and moose.
“Deer like those fresh-cut areas and it moves them away from farmland,” he noted.
Godin speculated that with deer sharing the same habitat with moose more frequently, the possibility of them transmitting diseases like brain worm to moose increases.
Brain worm is a parasite that is carried by both deer and moose, but in deer it appears to be harmless while in moose it often is fatal.
But farther west, Randy Hanson of Hanson’s Wilderness Lodges in Nestor Falls said even moose hunters had a good year in most of his area near Lake of the Woods.
“Overall, it was a pretty good season,” Hanson reported from his lodge. “Our moose hunters did quite well in [WMU] 9A and [WMU] 8, but not so good in 7A and 7B.
“There were lots of deer throughout the area,” he added.
Hanson said virtually all of his clients did quite well—particularly later in the season.
The early-season bow hunters did not fare as well, but Hanson attributed that to a late rut caused by warmer than usual weather in October and early November.
“It was pretty good, but not for bow hunters,” he remarked.
Hanson also noted there were decidedly fewer moose reported in areas like the Aulneau Peninsula on Lake of the Woods. He attributed that to a larger harvest in previous years, as well as an increase in reported cases of brain worm and ticks.
The ticks generally infest the animals during the spring and summer, and cause so much irritation that they literally scratch themselves raw, resulting in large areas of exposed skin.
When the cold weather hits, the animals are prone to hypothermia and often succumb. “I’ve seen a few carcasses that had big patches of fur missing,” Hanson said.
Most of Hanson’s clients are Americans and he conducts guided trips almost exclusively. He also conducts guided hunts for ducks and geese, and said the success rate there was down a bit.
“It was pretty spotty,” he noted. “The wild rice crop was below-average, so there was nothing to hold them here.”
Hanson said his location near Lake of the Woods puts him between two major flyways, so most of the birds usually are to be found to the east or west of him.
He said most of the ducks they saw were early in the season (September) and the majority were bluebills. Since these birds love zebra mussels, the didn’t linger long and headed farther east, where these invaders are much more common.
Hanson said he did not hold a bear hunt this year—preferring instead to give the area a rest so he could conduct his own surveys. “We generally hunt every other year and this year we just observed,” he explained.
The observations and conclusions by the outfitters were echoed to a certain extent by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Doug Gibb, enforcement supervisor for the Fort Frances District, said the final official tally will not be complete until hunters have turned in all their tags.
But while the ministry won’t have the final results until mid to late February, Gibb reported last week that preliminary input seems to concur with the outfitters’.
“The deer hunt was very successful,” Gibb noted in a telephone interview from his office in Fort Frances. “Moose were down a bit, but it seemed to be weather-related.”
Gibb also noted it was a busy year for the MNR because of the large number of hunters in the field.
“It was a busy year for enforcement,” he remarked. “The hunting pressure was up and the extra [deer] tags created some enforcement problems.”
These problems generally involved hunters coming into conflict over the same piece of land. As well, Gibb said his officers found evidence of trespassing and improper sealing and tagging.
(Fort Frances Times)