There probably is no such thing as a hunters' paradise, but Saskatchewan probably comes as close as you can get. We have tens of thousands of square kilometres of wildlife habitat, good populations of game species, from ducks to moose, and a long history of hunting.
It's been estimated that hunters spend over $100 million a year on lodging, gas, meals and guide services, which is about eight per cent of the total tourist dollars spent in Saskatchewan. Hunting is important to our economy.
"Our province has a lot to offer," said Penny Lalond, with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. "Waterfowl hunting is probably the best it's ever been with high populations of ducks and geese. Big game animal populations are good. Moose are flourishing in the southern part of the province."
She notes that two out of last three winters have been harsh on upland game birds, pronghorn and deer: "It will take a few years for populations to rebound."
Saskatchewan has many types of wildlife habitat supporting a large variety of game species. From the boreal forest in the north to the grasslands of the south, game is widely available to hunters.
Even though the Saskatchewan population is becoming more urban, Lalonde says hunter numbers are fairly stable. Saskatchewan also attracts hunters from all over the world and nearly half of waterfowl hunting licences are sold to people from outside Canada, mostly from the United States. She notes that whitetail deer are the most highly sought after big game species in the province. Known for our trophysized animals, the world-record whitetail buck was shot by Milo Hanson in the Biggar area in 1993.
The tens of thousands of prairie sloughs and potholes provide breeding grounds for millions of waterfowl. As well, we are on two major flyways for ducks and geese moving to and from breeding sites farther north. Lalonde notes that the Quill Lakes region is a popular destination for waterfowl hunting. The waterfowl season begins Sept. 1st.
Saskatchewan has a variety of upland game birds. Hungarian Partridge and Ring-Necked Pheasants are two introduced species that have flourished in southern Saskatchewan. Sharp-tail Grouse are common throughout the agricultural lands. Spruce and Ruffed Grouse inhabit the forest lands in the north.
If an individual wants to start hunting, Lalonde says, "All first time hunters must take a Hunter Education Firearm Safety Course -these courses are offered throughout the province. If an individual has successfully completed the course, that individual would be eligible to purchase a license to hunt waterfowl, upland game birds, and big game species or apply for the Big Game Draw. A Wildlife Habitat Certificate is necessary to validate any hunting licence."
She also notes that you need a federal Firearms Acquisition License to purchase a firearm.
Hunting can be a family activity in Saskatchewan, as children are allowed to hunt starting at age 12. You can use a bow, crossbow, shotgun or muzzle loading rifle and rifle to hunt in Saskatchewan, but it is important that you check the annual Hunters' and Trappers' Guide for current regulations and season dates prior to hunting. (It can be found at www. environment.gov.sk.ca.)
Hunting with a bow takes special skills, since you have to study the habits of the animal and get within 50 metres of your target.
It should be noted that big game hunters from out of the province are required to utilize one of the 600 outfitters licensed in the province.
Lalonde encourages all hunters to ask permission from landowners before hunting on their land, and to show respect while hunting on their land. She also notes that safety is very important while hunting. "Remember that you are carrying a firearm that is very dangerous if not used properly."
Wildlife staff like Lalonde are working to ensure that our wildlife resource will remain abundant into the distant future. Hunting can provide everyone in your family with fresh air, exercise and an appreciation of Saskatchewan's beauty.
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