This consultation closes at 11:59 p.m. on:
January 4, 2022
We are proposing amendments to regulations under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 to increase consistency in white-tailed deer hunting season duration and type to simplify and align deer hunting seasons in some parts of the province.
Ontario is home to an incredible abundance of natural beauty and resources, and the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry is committed to protecting this important heritage for future generations. White-tailed deer contribute substantial ecological, social, and economic benefits to the people of Ontario. White-tailed deer are one of the most sought-after big game species for harvest by licensed hunters as a heritage activity and food source. They are also very popular for non-consumptive activities such as wildlife viewing. In some situations, deer come into conflict with people, as they can damage agricultural crops, impact protected areas, and are the most common big game species involved in collisions with vehicles. As a result, deer are one of Ontario’s more intensively managed species.
Ontario’s selective harvest system for deer was introduced in 1980 and deer seasons have evolved over time in response to local ecological and socio-economic considerations and public and stakeholder feedback. This has led to a lack of consistency and clarity in some areas. While these management strategies have been successful at maintaining deer herd numbers over time, there are opportunities to take a simpler and more consistent approach at an ecological scale.
We have recently developed the White-tailed Deer Management Policy for Ontario (2017) and the White-tailed Deer Population Objective Setting and Harvest Management Guidelines (2019) which provide a detailed description of the provincial white-tailed deer management program. The guidelines incorporate adaptive and responsive harvest management planning which includes ecological, social, cultural, and economic information while striving for coordination and consistency among ecologically similar neighbouring wildlife management units (WMU) to achieve broader scale management objectives.
Proposed Regulation Amendments
We are proposing amendments to Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting) and Ontario Regulation 670/98 (Open Seasons) under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 to simplify and align deer seasons across the province in order to deliver a modern, efficient and sustainable provincial deer harvest management system.
There are no anticipated significant environmental implications that would impact deer harvest levels, hunter safety, or deer population stability as a result of these proposed changes. The proposed changes described below apply to resident seasons and non-resident seasons (where applicable).
- Extend the gun season(s) by 1 or 2 days in WMUs 28, 29, 31, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 53B, 82A, 82B, 83A and 84 to end on a Sunday.
This proposed change will simplify deer seasons and increase consistency and weekend opportunity for gun hunters. The existing gun season(s) would be extended by 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) in WMUs 45 and 53B, and by 1 day (Sunday) in the remaining WMUs listed above. This gun season extension would impact existing bows only seasons, however, bows are permitted to be used during the existing gun seasons (hunter orange required) in the WMUs listed except for the 53B controlled deer hunt (CDH). If the use of bow during the CDH season is added in proposal number 2 then existing bows only hunters will be able to continue hunting with a bow on the additional Saturday and Sunday of the gun season if they are successful in the CDH validation draw.
These proposed changes will not impact the existing municipal Sunday gun hunting restrictions in WMUs 82A and 82B (e.g. three municipalities in WMU 82A and a small area on the southern border of WMU 82B). Therefore, extending the gun season to include Sunday will not benefit gun hunters in those areas at this time. Hunters will continue to be able to hunt with a bow on those Sundays with the hunter orange requirement.
- Permit the use of bows during the gun season(s) in WMUs 53B, 69A2, 70, 76A-E, 77A-C, 78A-B, 79C-D, 80, 81A-B, 82C, 85A-C, 86A-B, 87B-E, 89A-B, 90A-B, 93A-B, and 94B, while requiring the existing safety protocols (e.g. hunter orange).
This proposed change will simplify deer seasons and increase bow hunting opportunity for hunters. The use of bows is permitted during all regular deer hunt seasons across the province (except for WMU 82C and 93C) but is not currently permitted in CDH seasons (mainly southern Ontario). This change would also provide increased opportunity for CDH hunters interested in using bows to harvest deer in the WMUs listed. There would be no impact to the existing requirements regarding the CDH (e.g. CDH validation application and draw, participation in only one CDH season, etc.) or the existing hunter safety measures (e.g. hunter orange) for gun seasons as described in the Hunting Regulation Summary.
- Align the bows only, muzzle-loading guns and bows, and rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loading guns and bows seasons in WMU 8, similar to those in neighbouring WMUs.
This proposed change will increase gun hunting opportunity for hunters, shorten and provide an earlier shotguns and muzzle-loading guns season start date, and shorten the existing bows only season.
- Align the muzzle-loading guns and bows season start date and add an early bows only season in WMU 7A consistent with neighbouring WMUs.
This proposed change will increase bows only and gun hunting opportunity for hunters in WMU 7A. Only bows and muzzle-loading guns are permitted for large game in the Aulneau Interior Conservation Reserve (an Enhanced Management Area) which falls entirely within WMU 7A.
- Align the rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loading guns and bows season start and end dates and add early and late bows only seasons in WMU 26 consistent with neighbouring WMUs.
This proposed change would delay the start date and shorten the gun season and increase bow hunting opportunity.
- Create new bows only seasons and a new rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loading guns and bows season in WMU 32 consistent with neighbouring WMUs 29 and 31.
This proposed change will add bows only and gun opportunities consistent with neighbouring WMUs. This is a proactive season addition to prepare for increased deer abundance (due to predicted range expansion. Maintenance of low deer abundance is desired in this area due to potential interspecific competition and secondary impacts as described in the Cervid Ecological Framework (2009).
- Create new bows only seasons and a new rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loading guns and bows season in WMU 33 consistent with neighbouring WMU 22.
This proposed change will add bows only and gun opportunity consistent with neighbouring WMUs. This is a proactive season addition to prepare for increased deer abundance (due to predicted range expansion). Maintenance of low deer abundance is desired in this area due to potential interspecific competition and secondary impacts as described in the Cervid Ecological Framework (2009).
- Add a new late muzzle-loading guns and bows season in WMUs 36 and 42 consistent with neighbouring WMUs.
These proposed changes will increase muzzle-loading guns opportunity for hunters in WMUs 36 and 42. Hunters participating in the existing bows only will continue to be able to hunt with bow with the hunter orange requirement.
- Extend the early bows only season and add a new late muzzle-loading guns and bows season in WMU 45 consistent with neighbouring WMUs.
This proposed change will add new bow hunting opportunity before the existing gun season and increase muzzle-loading guns opportunity. Hunters participating in the existing bows only will continue to be able to hunt with bow with the hunter orange requirement.
- Start the existing rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loading guns and bows seasons in WMUs 83B and 83C on October 1.
This proposed change will allow the hunt clubs on these small, privately-owned islands to better manage the islands deer populations and increase opportunity for clients and club members.
- Repeal the special authorization regulation for WMU 93C, delay the season start date to September 1, and permit the use of bows during the gun seasons, while requiring the existing safety protocols (e.g. hunter orange).
This proposed change will delay the season start date until September 1 and shift the application, allocation, and mandatory reporting administration from the district office to the provincial licensing service. Implementation of these changes would be delayed until 2023 to provide enough time for transition and messaging.
The ministry is proposing amendments to Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting) and Ontario Regulation 670/98 (Open Seasons) under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 to implement the changes should the proposals proceed.
Other public consultation opportunities
We have developed a digital form to provide a supplemental commenting opportunity for this proposal. This digital form lists the proposed changes to white-tailed deer seasons as detailed in this Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) proposal and allows individuals to comment on proposed changes of interest. Individuals may skip any proposal they do not wish to comment on.
Individuals are encouraged to comment using either the digital form or on the ERO, there is no need to comment on both. The information collected through the digital form will be considered with the information collected through the ERO before the comment period closes and will be included in the comment summary in the decision notice of this proposal.
Please click this link to access the digital form.
Regulatory impact statement
The anticipated environmental and social consequences of the proposal are neutral. The proposed changes do not impact the overall regulatory framework of deer harvest management in Ontario. The proposed changes are intended to reduce regulatory burden while maintaining protections for public health, safety, and the environment.
The anticipated economic consequences of the proposal are neutral to positive as the proposed changes are intended to provide streamlined regulations and additional hunting opportunities as appropriate. There are no annual administrative costs to business anticipated from these proposed changes.
View materials in person
Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.
Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.
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