Anecdotally, it seems that virtually every hunter participating in last week’s gun hunt on Manitoulin Island saw any number of does (or antlerless deer, at any rate) but had only received tags for buck deer in the MNR’s lottery.
Given the number of animals visible on or along roadsides over most of Manitoulin Island, it would seem prudent that the MNR should either abolish gender-based deer tags for a few years and allow hunters to cull the entire population or, at the very least, make many more of antlerless tags available to hunters participating in the lottery.
However it is accomplished, the Manitoulin deer herd must be pared back and the number of motorists who have had collisions, or near misses, with deer darting across highways and sideroads will certainly agree with this observation.
The Manitoulin deer hunt has certainly gone through many incarnations: 45 years ago, it was a two-week long event with no requirement as to the gender or age of the animals shot.
Within a decade, the Island deer herd had dropped to about 10,000 animals, a number that was deemed to be unhealthily low and so the hunt was sharply curtailed to merely five days.
Landowners also demanded that they should be allowed to determine who would hunt on their property and so the “letters of permission” was added at that time, particular to Manitoulin Island.
Eventually a weekend was added on to extend the hunt to one full week. All of these changes have reflected the numbers of deer available and now it’s time for yet another change.
It’s unlikely that the MNR will drop the gender/age stipulation that currently defines the Island hunt, even though that more would in all likelihood be positive for both the health of the Island’s deer herd and for Manitoulin Island’s tourism industry.
At the very least, the MNR must add substantial numbers of tags for does (and other antlerless deer) into the deer tag lottery for the 2013 event.