Even if you don’t have access to private land for hunting, chances are you aren’t far from lands held by the province’s conservation authorities (CAs). About half of Ontario’s 36 CAs permit hunting on some or all of their properties, which together comprise tens of thousands of acres of public access.
Conservation authority lands are managed and held in public trust by individual CAs. Each CA is controlled by a local board of directors who can set land use conditions, including opening or closing areas to hunting. To that end, hunters and others can approach a CA board to examine their conservation area use policy.
Some lands receive heavy hunting pressure, while others hardly see a hunter. Those CAs that do allow hunting have their own rules, which range from offering few opportunities to imposing few restrictions.
If you are fortunate enough to live near CA land that’s open to hunting, I recommend you give it a try.
I have spent more time hunting upland game on CA land than on private land. Recently in my area of Norfolk County, I’ve been hunting released pheasants. Many of the same CA properties that hold grouse can also hold woodcock.
Some conservation authorities have logging programs that create ruffed grouse habitat. Look for low ground cover as opposed to treed park-like areas with no undergrowth.
Typical conservation authority lands make perfect deer habitat. The primary thing to keep in mind when deer hunting on CA property is that other hunters could be nearby.
Conservation authority lands also provide opportunities for bear hunting, but be sure to check the CA’s regulations if you intend to use bait and a stand.
Moose hunting opportunities are more limited, as many CA huntable lands don’t lie within the territory of these giant ungulates.
Tree stand and blinds
Given a choice between a tree stand and a ground blind on public land, I’d always opt for the tree stand, as the elevation can help lift one out of harm’s way. I use portable tree stands on public land, and only short-term, due to potential theft. I use removable strap-on steps for the bottom couple of steps to discourage others from using or stealing the stand. A climber treestand would also work well and you have the security of taking it home. Or, you could construct a tree stand if that is allowed. Be sure to check the CA’s rules before bringing in or building any kind of a structure.
One of my favourite waterfowl hunting memories happened on a small CA pond. The first time I hunted it with a friend, he asked how I proposed to get any ducks from there, just as a pair of wood ducks came in. I dropped one on the first shot. While that was undeniably lucky, wetlands and ponds on CA properties can be hot spots. Consult Google Earth, CA maps, and CA staff to find promising locations.
Some authorities use a system of predesignated hunting blinds or hunting areas, which are assigned on a first-come, first-come basis. Essex Region CA uses a draw system to provide hunters with access to marshes along Lake Erie, but hunters need to apply well ahead of time.
Long Point Region CA’s Lee Brown Marsh is unique in that it offers a first-rate waterfowl hunt club on what was once a private wetland. Hunts are guided and include accommodation. The club is run by descendants of the donor, Lee Brown and is part of a tradition of hunt clubs in the area.