Hunting season likely to offer mixed bag

With another hunting season underway, the Ministry of Natural Resources says how good it will be depends on what you’re looking for.
The deer population is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the numbers are so high, the MNR has issued additional tags and some hunters could get as many as six.
Each additional seal costs $34 and there will be restrictions as to which WMUs are eligible. Contact the local MNR office for more information.
The increase in deer population is attributed to a series of mild winters of late, which enables more of the animals to survive.
Since the two severe winters of 1995-96 and 1996-97, there have been six-straight winters of below-normal severity. Even last winter was only moderate, according to MNR standards.
Consequently, deer hunters can expect an excellent season.
Moose herds also are in good shape across the area, with populations stable to increasing in WMUs 9A, 9B, 12A, and 12B. They are declining slightly in WMU 11A, however.
Hunting prospects are projected to be good except in the southern fringe, particularly WMUs 7A, 7B, and 11A, due to surging deer populations.
The good news continues for bear hunters, with the MNR conservatively estimating their numbers at between 75,000-100,000.
Maria de Almeida, an MNR large carnivore biologist, said Northern Ontario has one of the largest black bear populations in North America, with roughly 5,400 being harvested last year.
As such, bear hunters can look forward to another good season.
The snowshoe hare population in Northern Ontario is considered generally good, although below the cyclical peak of several years ago. Reports from the Dryden area indicates numbers there are quite good.
Populations of grouse, on the other hand, remain near the low end of their cycle. The number of birds in the Fort Frances area may be particularly low due to the prolonged, heavy rainfalls over the past three springs, including this year.
Cool, wet conditions throughout Northwestern Ontario this past year also will likely contribute to those low numbers. Hunting prospects for grouse are predicted to be fair to poor.
However, the news is much better on the waterfowl front in the Fort Frances area.
Although only average water levels in wetlands and beaver ponds have produced just fair-to-good breeding habitat this year, the numbers of waterfowl appear to remain close to normal and early-season prospects look good in the district.
Further west in Manitoba, the conditions were drier and, consequently, the numbers there probably will be lower.
Across Northwestern Ontario, the number of breeding pairs of ducks are similar to last year while resident Canada geese numbers continue to expand both west and east of Fort Frances.
Late-fall migrations generally are better west of Fort Frances, near Lake of the Woods, while locations east of Rainy Lake usually are outside of major flyways.
However, the wild rice crop in the Fort Frances area is about average while closer to Atikokan it is above average. This could help attract and hold more waterfowl later in the season.
The waterfowl season remains open until Dec. 15.
Bag and possession limits for waterfowl are regulated by the federal government. Copies of the 2004 Migratory Birds Hunting Regulations are available at Canada Post outlets and local MNR offices.

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