More deer tags for hunters this fall

Deer hunters—and motorists—will be happy with the news that the Ministry of Natural Resources has put into place new regulations to allow hunters in Northwestern Ontario to take as many as six deer this fall.
Area MNR biologist John Vandenbroeck, a member of the provincial deer technical committee, said the regs were passed Friday that will “give us a new tool to better manage deer populations when they are in abundance.”
Several mild winters and a lack of snow have allowed deer numbers to explode.
Previously, the MNR had tools to manage the population when it was down. The new rules will allow the ministry to evaluate conditions annually and if the deer are in abundance in one Wildlife Management Unit, it can—at the local level—choose to issue more deer tags for that area.
“Pretty much all of Northwestern Ontario will be getting additional opportunities,” Vandenbroeck said Monday.
The application process currently is in high gear for the regular antlerless deer tag draw. The deadline to apply for those tags is next Wednesday (June 30).
However, separate from the regular system, the MNR will be offering all licensed hunters from last year the chance to apply for additional tags in WMUs across the region.
That will run Aug. 9-22, and will be a second tag for an antlerless deer.
Vandenbroeck said the MNR has established quotas for the region’s WMUs and if they all are filled between Aug. 9-22, there will be no need to offer another opportunity to hunters.
However, if the quotas are not met in that first period, then another window will be opened from Aug. 23-31.
“The first window is to ensure that all hunters are given an equal opportunity to get an extra tag,” noted Vandenbroeck.
If all the tags are not taken by hunters in that first window, then the field will be opened right up to all resident hunters—regardless of whether they already have one or two tags.
A hunter could end up being allowed to take up to six deer this fall, though they only can take two from any one WMU.
Vandenbroeck said the new regs are unique in that MNR easily can turn them on and off from season to season.
“Many jurisdictions in North America are re-evaluating the way they manage deer and Ontario is no different,” he remarked.
The new opportunities for hunters are available only to residents of the region and focus only on antlerless deer (i.e., does and fawns).
In addition to the exploding deer population, Vandenbroeck said there’s a need to balance harvest ratios. Many hunters prefer to take a big buck over a smaller doe.
The new tags likely will help balance that, as well as help reduce the population. Each tag will cost the hunter $34.
All licensed hunters from last year will be receiving information on the new opportunities in the next several weeks via the mail.
Applications for the second window (and possibly up to six tags) will be done over the phone using an interactive voice recognition system on a first-come, first-served basis.
Any remaining tags after Aug. 31 will issued at the district managing the relative WMU beginning Sept. 1.
If the system works, there should be a significant reduction in the deer population this fall—and hopefully fewer car-deer collisions.