Long-awaited changes to moose hunting regulations were announced by Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski on Feb. 25. The changes, informed by public consultations with the Big Game Management Advisory Committee (BGMAC) and comments on the Environment Registry of Ontario, will be implemented over the next two years.
Starting this year
Starting in 2020, calf tag quotas will be set in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 37, 40, 41, 42 and 47. To hunt calf moose in those WMUs, a hunter must apply for and receive a calf tag through the draw.
Additionally, the calf season is being extended in all nine WMUs with a calf tag quota (37, 40, 41, 42, 47, 48, 55A, 55B and 57) and calf tags issued for these WMUs will be valid for the bow and gun seasons.
Autumn of 2020 will also feature new bow hunting seasons and quotas for moose in WMUs 46, 47, 49, 50, 53, 54, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62 and 63. The new seasons (WMUs 46-50, 53-63) will be seven days long and begin on the first Saturday in October.
In WMUs 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41 and 42, where separate bow hunting seasons already exist, separate tag quotas for bow and gun hunts will be set. These changes will ensure all WMUs with separate gun and bow seasons will have separate gun and bow quotas.
Big changes next year
In 2021, hunters will have to apply for tags as individuals, rather than as part of group applications. Bull tags, cow/calf tags, or calf tags will be available. WMU-specific calf tag quotas set across the province in all areas where moose hunting is permitted.
Bull and cow/calf tags will be season-specific (either bow or gun season), but calf tags can be used over the full length of the season within that WMU. Tag transfers will be heavily restricted under the new process.
Starting in 2021, a resident moose hunting licence will cost $35. This will not come with a tag.
To be able the hunt moose with the licence, a hunter must either successfully apply for a tag or arrange to party hunt with a successful applicant.
A moose hunting licence need not be purchased to apply for a tag.
New approach to tags
Tag allocation will be based on a new point-based approach. A $15 application fee will be required to apply to the moose tag allocation process, in which a hunter’s draw history will be used to determine the number of points they have accumulated.
Points will be awarded based on the total number of years a hunter has applied and been unsuccessful in the draw. Being issued a tag through the draw or receiving a tag transfer will reset a hunter’s points to zero in that year.
A detailed description of the process will be available later in 2020 at Ontario.ca/moose.
If a hunter claims a tag they are awarded through the allocation process, they would be required to purchase a licence and their tag. Calf tags will be $30, cow/calf tags $150 and bull tags $200. Non-residents will pay a higher moose licence fee and the same tag costs.
Starting in 2021, non-resident landowners and immediate relatives of Ontario residents will only be able to acquire their own tag to hunt moose by purchasing a hunt from a tourist outfitter.
A non-resident who is an immediate relative of an Ontario resident who holds a moose tag, may purchase a non-resident moose hunting licence to party hunt with their relative.
Hunter concerns heeded
Due to concerns expressed by hunters in southern Ontario regarding the timing of the hunting season since it was changed in 2017, the season will be shifted back to begin once again on the third Monday in October. Also, current party hunting rules for moose hunters remain unchanged.
Recognizing the importance of the hunt
“We’re taking a smarter approach to moose harvest management to deliver on our commitment to make moose hunting fairer and more accessible, while also ensuring the sustainability of our moose population,” said Minister Yakabuski.
“Our government recognizes the importance of moose hunting to Ontario families and communities, and we want to ensure Ontarians have opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy our natural resources today and long into the future.”
According to the MNRF, moose hunting adds more than $205 million to the province’s economy.
The OFAH take
OFAH Biologist Dr. Keith Munro said the changes were driven by moose hunters.
“They have voiced their concerns for many years and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters appreciates that the MNRF has listened. When the process began, we told the MNRF that reception to the changes would be mixed, because hunters hunt moose in different ways province-wide. In particular, restrictions on party size were the most contentious of the proposed changes and the MNRF chose not to implement changes in that aspect of the hunt.”
The OFAH will hold the MNRF to its commitment to review the changes in three years so that any concerns are addressed. As the changes are rolled out, the OFAH will continue to act as a pipeline for hunters to provide feedback to the MNRF. Our goal is to ensure that the new system is hunter-friendly, results in increased hunting opportunities and benefits to the moose population, and does not present any barriers to participation.”