Manitoba hunters have had some lean years recently, and they’ve been waiting for the kind of news that the 2019 forecast brings. This past winter was mild to normal, and deer, elk, moose and bear numbers all are improving. The only dark spot on this otherwise bright forecast is the caribou situation.
For bear hunters, the coming season looks great. These animals can be found across most of the province, and their range is expanding. Numbers are up, too, and the boars are big. There’s also a high proportion of colour phases other than black, which should interest hunters. The Duck Mountain and Riding Mountain areas look especially promising this year.
Last season was a bust for Manitoba’s caribou hunters, with the migrating herds that usually arrive with the snow in the north of the province remaining far from their normal wintering grounds. Although still numbering in the many thousands, the caribou population unfortunately remains on a declining trend.
The news about Manitoba’s elk is all good, with numbers stable or increasing in all populations. Recent surveys in some areas such as Turtle Mountain found significant increases. The Riding Mountain elk herd, which had been managed to a low population density to deal with a disease issue, will now be allowed to increase. This is good news for future elk hunts.
Moose management efforts in the province have been concentrated in the Moose Conservation Closed Areas, where no hunting has been allowed for several years. Happily, this work is paying off and moose populations are recovering, although not yet to the point of reopening the season. Elsewhere in the province where moose hunting is still open, populations are stable. Dedicated moose hunters should do well this fall.
There were no reports of significant die-offs from this past winter. Populations continue to increase as they did last year, when hunters reported seeing and harvesting more deer than in previous recent seasons. This is a most encouraging trend. While populations are not yet back to normal, they’re certainly getting better. The best deer numbers are in the southeast and the southwest corners of the province.