Saskatchewan hunting forecast: A great year for big game and upland birds

Image Via: Tourism Saskatchewan/Brian Wolitski

Weather report

Mild winter means increased numbers of game animals, says Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Because of uncommonly warm temperatures this past winter, Saskatchewan’s big-game and upland bird hunters could be looking at a banner year, says Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) executive director Darrell Crabbe. “It was a very pleasant winter for all the species,” he says, “but certainly for our deer, moose and upland birds.”

For a province that’s used to temperatures as low as -40, the mild winter was particularly good for whitetail numbers, which were significantly reduced by the nasty winters of two and four years ago. In some areas, up to 90 per cent of the deer died, says Crabbe.

As for upland game bird numbers, they stand to also be higher this hunting season. The warm winter should translate into more grasshoppers, a favourite food for upland birds. “We’re anticipating a very good recruitment year,” Crabbe says.

The effects of the warm winter won’t all be positive, however. “We’re pretty excited about what this year might provide,” Crabbe says, “but with that, we’re going to have to put up with some little nasties.” Here he’s referring to ticks and other parasites that normally die over the winter; moose in particular stand to suffer. “Moose ticks burrow under the skin and lay eggs,” he says. “The vast majority of the time they’re fatal.”

Credit: Vanessa Oakes. A “ghost moose” suffering from ticks.
Credit: Vanessa Oakes.
A “ghost moose” suffering from ticks.

Indeed, moose infested with ticks end up with heavily compromised immune systems, lose their hair and turn grey, earning them the name “ghost moose.” Most hunters don’t shoot them. Says Crabbe: “Everything benefits when it’s a mild winter—including things we don’t want to.”

Learn more about the SWF’s programs and positions at

Bob Sexton

Bob Sexton

Growing up in Gander, Newfoundland, and Peterborough, Ontario, Outdoor Canada's managing editor Bob Sexton jumped at every chance to wet a line and head afield. After spending half of the 1990s working as a tour guide in Latin America, he completed a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in 2001 and was hired on as Outdoor Canada's assistant editor. Since joining the magazine, he has won two Outdoor Writers of Canada awards, in 2008 and 2011, and contributed to numerous National Magazine Award winning or nominated stories. Sexton is the past president of the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors.

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