Ontario hunters are passionate about moose management and tag allocation
In our 2019 Ice-Fishing Special issue we published an opinion piece, by Ontario moose hunter Nick Sevastian (it’s also available online). In “Save the hunt,” Sevastian points out what he sees as critical flaws in Ontario’s management of moose populations, and in the way the province handles licencing and draws.
Clearly this an issue that concerns many hunters, since Sevastian’s article has generated an usually large number of responses. There are too many to include in the magazine, so we’ve collected them here. If you’re concerned about how moose are managed—in Ontario, or beyond—you’re going to want to take a look at what these readers have to say.
And here’s what Outdoor Canada readers had to say…
I’m responding to the article regarding fixing the moose hunt draw system in Ontario. I live in northern Ontario and I’ve been hunting moose for over 35 years. I remember when the moose tag draw system came into effect and was supposed to be a fair system for everyone and at the same time introducing a better management system for the MNR. Well, I can attest to the fact that the system has definitely not been fair and is not good for the management of moose.
The system was supposed to allow for all hunters to receive a moose tag every 2 to 3 years. Unfortunately, this has never been the case and it was apparent that the system was only introduced to control and discourage honest hunters from hunting.
Over the past 10 years the system seems to have gotten worse and designed by MNR biologists to cater to personal incentives within the organization. As well, I have seen an increase in illegal hunting habits, a decrease in appropriate moose tag allocation (more cow tags vs bull tags and inappropriate calf management ideology), a decrease in honest hunters that no longer hunt and an increase of poor hunter tactics used to catch anything at any cost (use of atv’s to chase moose, shoot a moose without having the proper tag and searching for someone who has a valid tag and establishing temporary towns with people from out of region making the hunt more dangerous than ever and poor hunter etiquette).
Over the past 10 years the system seems to have gotten worse
I have a copy of the moose aerial survey policy which initially makes sense but upon further understanding how moose populations are determined on a yearly basis, it has a flaw in its logic to properly calculate the moose population, statistically.
Since they do yearly aerial counts in established patterns, in different sections of the units that change from year to year and the results can be dramatic from one year to another without proper reasoning to the either why has the population drastically decreased or increased.
Well, if one year a logging company decides to cultivate a large or different area and it just happens to be in the defined section of a unit, that year for counting moose populations, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out that the moose will move to a section of forest just next door for survival. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are less moose in the defined area/unit all of a sudden due to too much hunting pressure or some other unexplainable reason.
Even while doing this aerial survey, if a moose is spotted just out of the area’s boundry, it’s not counted. This makes no sense. This should be an indication that the method of gathering statistics developed are incorrect and/or false. With today’s technological advances in computer science, I’m sure someone can come up with a program to take these types of discrepancies into account and formulate predictions as to why and how the populations are drastically changed from year to year and are incorrect. I have been in field of engineering for many years, and I have studied computer science and developed programs with built in parameters and it’s not that hard. We have satellites and computer prediction models that are used worldwide to predict changing weather patterns on a 20 minute basis. Now I’m not saying that that is what is needed but it is just like a scientific experiment. It takes into account many factors such as constants and variables to be able to explain the results.
I have personally only received two adult moose tags in 35 years
I have hunted by driving and walking for thousands of hours over the past 35 years and I can tell you that there is no shortage of moose. The moose will move within that same unit section to seek cover or food for survival. I will tell you though the predator populations are growing and other than wood harvesting practices, I have never seen more bears and wolves in my life. When I was young my father had a baitfish business and I only remember seeing only a few bear (2) and no wolves. All were rare. Now, I almost always see either one. Oh, by the way, I have personally only received 2 adult moose tags in those 35 years. One being in the archery season only.
Now, the calf hunting period has been reduced to only two weeks in the middle of the adult hunting season. This makes no sense other than to reduce the amount of hunters. What also makes no sense or is illogical is if the cow has a calf or two and is killed during the adult hunt, the calf life expectancy is greatly reduced. They are left alone to try and survive with a greater population of predators available to see their demise. Also, if you are a northern Ontario resident, you have less of a chance to obtain a moose validation tag than if you were a resident from any other region or from out of the county. This true year over year. It seems just like a money grab for the ministry that discourages honest hunters from hunting. I will say though that since the system is getting more and more unfair, being a stubborn person and not a quitter, I have broadened my hunting endeavors to species other than just moose, e.g. bear wolf, coyote and fox.
It seems just like a money grab for the Ministry
There has also been an increase in coyotes in this area over the last 10 years. Prior to that I have never seen a coyote myself in the wild and around the town.
I do understand that there is also an economical reason for poor moose management but I look at the present deer population system and it’s so out of control that you can obtain 2 tags in one season where they exist. I guess there must have been a good management and practice system in place that maybe should be adapted to the moose management system.
In all, I totally agree that large parts of the Ontario moose, bear, wolf and coyote management system can use a good overhaul where everyone benefits.
I do agree that the way Conservation Officers interact with people could be improved but don’t forget, there are very few CO’s out protecting our forests, often working alone. It’s a dangerous job with no backup. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Great letter and ideas, it’s time COs and government pencil pushers listen to the real people out in the field.
That was a well-written article by Nick Sevastian, that explains why hunters like myself who have quit buying a moose license. The only way I can get my concerns across to the MNRF is withholding the $54 dollars a year. In WME 47 last year, they issued one bull tag yet we had 5 to 6 adult moose wandering around in our small hunting area during the deer hunt.
The one item that was not discussed and needs to be addressed is the ongoing slaughter by first nations people. If they are truly feeding their families then they need to follow some rules also. We could investigate how Alaska handles this issue.
A statement that was inaccurate is: “Until this year, groups could choose which member a winning tag could be transferred to. Now, however, the tag is automatically transferred by the MNRF to the person who has gone the most years without receiving one.”
That is an inaccurate statement, as the automatic tag transfer by the MNRF to the person who has gone the most years without receiving one has been in place for a number of years
All the other comments are bang on.
Nick Sevastian makes some astute comments and suggestions on the Ontario moose draw system (“Save the hunt,” Ice-Fishing Special). With regard to the broader aspects of Ontario moose management, I offer the following thoughts.
Having a bull-only season every second year, or more often if necessary, would be a great tool to increase the herd by protecting cows—and by extension their calves, which likely wouldn’t survive the winter without them. By all accounts, Quebec has a thriving moose population, partly because its system works hard at protecting cows.
Ontario reveals its thirst for licence revenue, not moose management
Ontario also needs to completely eliminate calf hunting, because predation by wolves and black bears already takes far too many young. Calf tags are only issued to garner more licence revenue, not help moose herds grow. As well, the province should rethink its ridiculous cow allocations to reduce moose herds in zones where it’s trying to bring back caribou. With logging roads creating wolf highways, along with many other disturbances, any hope of a caribou comeback in those areas is unrealistic.
As for hunters unsuccessful in the draw, they should have the option of getting a refund or keeping the licence for party hunting. Most other jurisdictions will issue a refund, taking only a small admin fee. By not allowing refunds, Ontario again reveals its thirst for licence revenue, not moose management.
Finally, when the Supreme Court affirmed Aboriginal fishing and hunting rights in 1990, it was made clear those rights must be subject to conservation. We’ve yet to see one province bring First Nations on board with sound conservation principles, however. This needs to happen soon if the moose population is to thrive.
Keep up the good work. I enjoy your magazine.
RON P. ALTON
RICHARDS LANDING, ONTARIO
While I agree with some of Nick Sevastian’s comments, I cannot agree with all of them. With respect to his feelings about conservation officers, I have also been stopped several times, but I have never experienced negative interactions. We have actually had a few positive conversations.
I do agree cow tags need to be restricted, as we need the breeding stock. And bull tags should be increased, but not unlimited. As Nick points out, one bull can service many cows and cover a fairly large geographical area. As for tag transfers, I could agree with the group determining who should get the tag, providing the person getting the tag is not eligible for a tag the following year.
As an avid moose hunter for 40 years I feel compelled to voice my concerns for the benefit of future moose hunters. If we continue to not manage moose tag quotas effectively the season will close due to the lack of animals.
By design, as a group applying for a tag, more moose are killed. The reason for this is how they hunt as a large group: Pushing the bush and waiting at main trails or crossings. Many cows are killed accidentally as hunters believe they are shooting at calf moose.
My recommendation would be to close cow tags and calf tags for five years. This is long-term thinking.
Amazing article. I have always said the reduction of tags was a political move. We know that local (northern) hunters had their tag quota increased. My question is: were certain postal codes of hunters were given less tags because it was a non-Liberal riding? I am positive that southern Ontario hunters were targeted in the less tags as well as general hunters in Ontario. Maybe you could investigate.