5 Reasons to Hunt in Sunset Country

Sunset Country is a hunter’s paradise because of the options available for deer, moose, black bear, and small game.

Over the last couple of decades, Northwest Ontario’s Sunset Country has hosted some of the best whitetail deer hunting opportunities in North America. Hunters come from everywhere to experience the excellent big woods hunting that can be found here.

The Sunset Country region is a hunter’s paradise because of the options available for deer, moose, black bear and wolf, as well as several small game species and waterfowl. Mix in the world-class all-season fishing and any outdoors person will be able to have a good time.

For all of the hunters out there, here are five great reasons to come and visit us in Ontario’s Sunset Country. 

Grouse

Grouse

Of all the small game species we have, ruffed grouse are the most popular and the top reason to plan a trip. While you can find spruce and sharp-tailed grouse as well, ruffed grouse are the most common and the best eating. Known for being a cyclical species, meaning their populations rise and fall in a cycle, I can’t remember a time in my life when we didn’t have excellent grouse hunting. They are plentiful.

As a kid, I was introduced to hunting by my dad and we would spend weekends throughout the fall looking for grouse. I have never taken a season off. I tell people all the time that I would be happy to eat grouse every day, they truly are one of my favourite things on this planet to eat. No matter how you prepare them, they are top-notch.

Grouse hunting

They are found across the region but the more remote you get, the more birds you’re going to see. Logging operations continue across Northwest Ontario, creating excellent habitat for many species of wildlife. The old roads that the logging workers used to grow over time and become trails that provide hunters access to these birds. You can get on your feet and walk or bring an ATV and cover a little more ground. The limit is five birds per person, per day (all grouse species combined), you can bring a dog if you want and you should know that you must wear a helmet on an ATV and you can’t shoot from an ATV or any vehicle. A small game license can be purchased online or through any licensing agent.

Many of the resorts across the region remain open throughout the fall and can put you up for your visit. They can likely point you in the right direction for areas to hit the woods as well. 

Grouse are not hard to find in Sunset Country!

Moose

Moose

The north and eastern sections of Sunset Country have good moose populations as well as several resorts that are allotted moose tags that they can provide for their guests. As far as moose hunts go, visiting Sunset Country is a lot more economical than most other parts of Canada where hunts are often two or three times the price, if not more.

The most popular time for hunters to visit is during the rut period, which runs from late September through the first part of October. Because of all the water that we have, most outfitters like to hunt around it in some way because it allows them to access remote areas with the best moose habitat and if you can get a boat close to them, it makes extracting these big animals a little easier.

During the rut, the most popular hunting method is to call for them early and late in the day, when the winds are light. Bull moose will often react well to cow calls and come within range of both gun and bow hunters. Another popular hunting method includes looking over cutover or burn areas that provide forage for the animals and offer hunters some visibility.

Moose numbers remain good in many parts of the region and outfitters can provide both cow and bull tags, but most hunters want to target a bull. Bulls will grow fairly large, with 50” specimens common, with a shot at a bigger one. 

Like grouse, moose are excellent eating. 

Big deer 2005 whitetail

Deer

In the mid-2000s after I finished my “keeping mom happy” stint at university, I returned home and wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, other than be outdoors. I was fishing bass tournaments whenever I could and doing quite a bit of fishing guiding. Some of my fishing customers were really into deer hunting and we would constantly see all kinds of deer on the lake, including some big bucks. They told me if I wanted to guide them for deer, they would be in.

In 2005, I booked my first guests and we had a blast. We were rattling in several bucks a day during the rut and everybody was filling their tag with a nice deer. As the years went by, I got way more into deer hunting and dedicated my whole fall to guiding for whitetails. I also spent much of the spring scouting and looking for sheds.

The really good hunting lasted for about ten years before several bad winters with a lot of snow and cold weather, combined with an explosion in the wolf population led to a decline in the deer numbers. They have never really come back as strong as we want but there are still some deer out there to hunt. 

So far, this winter of 2024 has been a cupcake across Sunset Country, without much snow to speak of at all and mild temperatures. Hopefully, it continues and that will be a big bonus for the deer that we do have. We have the genetics and the habitat, the deer will come back around. The amount of country we have to hunt is incredible, with mostly public land when you get out of the towns and communities. Quite a few resorts still offer deer hunts and they will be able to lead you in the right direction if you want to do your own thing or they can set you up with a fully guided hunt.

Deer tags can be purchased over the counter. Northwest Ontario is one of the only places in Canada where non-resident hunters can hunt without an outfitter if you are interested in doing your own thing, several of the resorts will still accommodate you. 

Hunter orange must be worn for all hunting during the big game gun season. 

Sheds

Places to Stay

Few places in the world have as many resorts, cabins and places to stay for anglers and hunters as Sunset Country does. While not all of them remain open through the fall, many do, to cater to hunters that come to visit the region. There are literally hundreds of options for accommodations, from beautiful five-star resorts to do-it-yourself cabins, fly-in outfits and campgrounds. However you want to bunk up, we have you covered.Some great personalities own and operate these places. They will provide you with great meals, and good stories and can always point you in the right direction on where to hit the woods. 

When it comes to doing your research on where to stay, the Sunset Country site does a great job of listing the accommodations that might meet your needs. Check out the websites of the resorts and outfitters that catch your eye. Look over their photos and information and see if you get a good feeling from that. From there, call these guys and see what they have to offer, what their hunting opportunities are and to feel them out. I grew up working at a bunch of these different resorts and I can tell you some amazing people operate these places across Sunset Country. 

Late season hunting

Public Land & Water

Few places have access to the vast expanses of public land that you can find across the Sunset Country Region. Once you leave the city limits of most of the communities, most of the land is public, and anybody can hunt. I have had conversations with hunters quizzing me on my operation back in the day and they were sometimes concerned with hunting on public land, that they would run into other hunters. While that can happen, it’s very easy to find your places to hunt, especially if you put in the work to get a little bit off the beaten path.

When I was operating my outfitting business, I used to access a lot of my deer hunting spots by water because I was almost certain to get away from other hunters and we could often find deer that had never seen a human before. Because of the incredible amount of water we have, you can use it to access so much land.

Our forests are big so if you plan to come and do your own thing, a GPS is a good idea and some map study on Google Earth can help you make a plan. There is an app called iHuntOntario that has a lot of valuable information that my friends and I use. You get access to good mapping, hunting regulations, hunt times and even information showing you public and private property. If you do visit us for a hunting adventure, be sure to look over and familiarize yourself with the Ontario hunting regulations summary. 

Come and see us and have some fun in the woods!  

About Jeff Gustafson

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. His outgoing, genuine, friendly attitude makes him a natural outdoor writer, fishing and hunting guide." You'll see him fishing the Bass Master Tournament Circuit where he's has had a lot of success against the best bass anglers on the planet. Jeff also fishes many bass tournaments in Ontario's Sunset Country, his home base. 

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