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Dr. Dave Samuel

English poet David Harris once wrote, ‘in this old world, nothing stays the same’ and the longer I live, the more I find that to be true. And so it is with various aspects of hunting and that saying now applies to the Quebec-Labrador caribou.

Hunting for caribou in Quebec has changed for 2011 and there will probably be further changes in 2012. There are two likely reasons to explain the caribou hunting cutbacks that are about to be imposed. First, the George River herd is in decline. Second, with changes in weather patterns in Quebec, some caribou movements have been altered and caribou are not found where they once were.

A quick summary of the history of the caribou herds in Quebec shows steady growth in the 1970’s and 80’s leading to a two caribou limit beginning in the 1990’s. However, ‘nothing stays the same in this old world’ and studies done in the fall of 2010 showed that the George River herd (that’s the one that for the most part is hunted out of Schefferville) dropped from 775,000 in 1992 to 74,000. Viewing a map of the hunting zones in Quebec will assist you in what follows. You can get a better visual picture of this situation by going to www.mrnf.gouv.qc.ca, then going to the regulations and look for the reference to the hunting zone map.

Another map that I found extremely helpful that shows where the Leaf River herds and the George River herds are located in September, can be found by Googleing ‘map showing the George River herd’, then select the www.bowsite.com option. It has a great map showing both herds and where they are found at different times of the year. As you will see, during the year these herds move quite a bit and at times their ranges overlap. This creates management problems for wildlife officials and what is now happening is an effort to deal with caribou declines.

Zone 23 is the northern zone (north and northwest Quebec). It is now split into a North section and South section so that the George River herd can be managed separately from the Leaf River herd. Zone 24 is a small zone inside the eastern part of zone 23. I subscribe to The Hunting Report (and if you do much out-of-state hunting, you will really enjoy getting this every month) .

They report that there is now a 50 percent reduction in permits in Zones 23 and 24. And the southern part of that zone (outfitters operating from LacPau/Caniapiscau) is closed to sport hunting in 2011 (I found conflicting information on this, so I am not positive it will be closed this year. But what is mentioned below is definite. Part of zone 23 will be closed in 2012). In the part of zone 23 that is open to hunting, the season has been shortened for 2011 from August 15 to October 2.

Author took this nice bull back in the days when caribou numbers were much higher.

But here is the biggie. The eastern part of zone 23, where you have the George River herd will be closed to hunting in 2012. Several outfitters believe this will end caribou outfitting in Schefferville and Caniapiscau. It remains to be seen. It has been reported that several Schefferville outfitters have moved their operations to the west, to Leaf River herds. Also, for this year, the western part of zone 23, accessed from Kuujjuaq, has a 25 percent reduction in permits, but no other changes.

Regardless of the cause, it appears to me that the government officials and the outfitters have a good feel, and good data on this situation and are taking steps to ensure a hunting future for that species of caribou. Relative to any hunts you have planned there for this and next year, contact your outfitter. Bowhunting Safari Consultants also has a good feel for what is happening there, so you may wish to contact them as well. The fact that nothing stays the same in this old world doesn’t mean the end of caribou hunting in Quebec. It just means that things have changed a bit.