Non-Resident Guide to Hunting White-tailed Deer in Ontario

The majestic whitetailed deer is an important game animal–not only in Northeastern Ontario, but across North America. The Virginia Whitetail (as it was first referred to) is North America’s top game animal, attracting deer hunters in Ontario, other Canadian provinces, and the United States.

As with other natural resources in this province, our coveted whitetail herd is fragile and varies greatly from region to region and year to year. Ontario's whitetails are monitored closely by the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF), the agency responsible for setting seasons and bag limits. Winter deer assessment, surveys, harvest numbers, and predator control are all factors to consider when managing this precious resource. Environmental influences such as a harsher-than-normal winter can also put a huge strain on the deer herd.

The once burgeoning Ontario deer population of 20 years ago, including the popular destination of Manitoulin Island, has faltered slightly in the last decade, requiring extra attention from biologists and big-game managers. For example, whitetail numbers stumbled during the winter of 2008-2009 when record snowfalls were responsible for upwards of 30% winter die-off in areas of Central Canada. This called for a period of rebuilding. The number of additional tags issued to hunters were dropped, and special care and wildlife management strategy were required to get the whitetail back to sustainable levels.

On Manitoulin Island, specifically Wildlife Management Zones (WMU) 43A and 43B, things have rebounded nicely in the eight years since the big snowfall. The numbers of deer tags available in 2015 was up, thanks in part to a MNRF Committee known as the Manitoulin Deer Advisory, which recommended that numbers be increased in both WMU 43A (Robinson and Dawson Townships) and WMU 43B (remainder of the Island). As fish and wildlife biologist Wayne Selinger, of the MNRF in Sudbury, explained in the Manitoulin Expositer: “Current density is still considered to be moderate and our management objective is to continue to increase the population over the next few years.”  

As deer numbers continue to climb on the isolated whitetail paradise that is Manitoulin, the island has become an even more attractive location for hunters from outside the region. Manitoulin’s WMU 43A and 43B will be "high on their radar" come fall.

Organizations like the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) also play a pivotal role in whitetailed deer conservation on the Island. In fact, the organization’s first Canadian Chapter was located on Manitoulin Island and thanks to folks like Rob Argue, Operations and Outreach Coordinator, the group is back and stronger than ever. QDMA is a collective voice for whitetail conservationists, working to improve the quality of deer herds through sound management practices, and having an active chapter on Manitoulin can only serve to improve whitetail hunting opportunities. 

Deer hunters from out of province owe it to themselves to do their homework prior to packing the truck and heading to Manitoulin. Those hunters whose prime residence is outside of Ontario should be aware of important regulations. For example, non-residents are only permitted to hunt "antlered deer" and are not eligible for antlerless deer seals. Non-residents visiting Manitoulin must also possess a hunter’s version Outdoors Card from their home province or state, as well as a valid deer license and a deer seal for the 2016 deer season.

Non-resident deer enthusiasts, unlike out-of-province moose and bear hunters, are permitted to hunt on Crown land and are therefore not required to use the services of an outfitter, nor are they obliged to hunt with an immediate relative. This is great news from a tourism perspective for those in the lodging industry. Hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts are all suitable options for out-of-province hunters while visiting Manitoulin Island. The cost of a non-resident deer license and game seal is $241.61 (tax included). 

Non-residents planning to visit Manitoulin are encouraged to read the current Ontario Hunting Regulation Summary.

Thanks to ongoing efforts by the MNRF, organizations like the Manitoulin Deer Advisory Committee and the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), whitetail hunting in this most beautiful part of Ontario never looked more promising. Manitoulin Island, once considered a whitetail mecca, is now back on track for another productive deer season. Hunting tourism just as ecotourism is crucial to the local economy. So this fall, when folks in the Northeastern region spot out-of-province license plates around town, be courteous, be kind, and understand the importance your guests have to the local economy.

About Jeff Morrison

Jeff Morrison is an award-winning outdoor writer, book author, and nationally-syndicated newspaper and magazine columnist.

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