Small game up­date for the 2018 fall and win­ter hunt

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Editorial - Gary Shaw

As is usu­ally the case, the an­tic­i­pa­tion of any up­com­ing hunt is a test of hunters patience and the 2018 fall and win­ter small game hunt is no dif­fer­ent.

The other no­tice­able com­po­nent to the hunt is that once it ar­rives, it flies by at break­neck speed. The 2018 ver­sion of our small game hunt has cer­tainly been no dif­fer­ent.

We are well into the hunt, a cou­ple of months have passed and so to, our abil­ity to an­a­lyze what this sea­son has brought to the hunters, com­pared to past years.

For those among us who are hunters, we of­ten ap­pear to de­scribe our suc­cesses and fail­ures on our hunts as we com­pare these an­nual re­sults. I am con­vinced that suc­cess rates on in­di­vid­ual years do not mat­ter nearly as much as we of­ten let on. We are af­ter all, hunters, re­gard­less of the ups and downs in our game har­vest, we are go­ing hunt­ing any­way.

As is al­ways the case in Labrador, each year can be dif­fer­ent, both good and bad. Cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the weather con­di­tions and its ex­tremes and the cyclic na­ture of the species we hunt thrown into the mix, and we can eas­ily see an of­ten big dif­fer­ence in species num­bers and suc­cess rates from one year to the next.

So far, our 2018 sea­son has sent a mes­sage from Mother Na­ture to us that re­minds us that she is still in charge. The weather im­pact goes right back to our spring. For any among us who may have for­got­ten, it was un­usu­ally cold, un­usu­ally wet and con­tin­ued its late start well be­yond nor­mal lim­its of nor­mal years.

Our spring, with­out doubt de­liv­ered a neg­a­tive im­pact to our breed­ing birds and an­i­mals. Cold wet weather and the late start saw higher mor­tal­ity rates in this years young, whether birds or an­i­mals.

As we started our hunt for grouse and set­ting our snares for rab­bits, we had fewer younger birds and an­i­mals of the year added to the in­ven­tory for us to hunt, than a nor­mal year. The same sce­nario has been the case so far with the ptarmi­gan as well.

The sec­ond im­pact on our hunt was the ab­nor­mal early ar­rival of win­ter and its ex­treme amounts of snow for the start of the sea­son.

Both of these sce­nar­ios in the same year have con­trib­uted neg­a­tively in the num­ber of birds and an­i­mals in the coun­try.

The spruce grouse num­bers are way down. The com­bi­na­tion of the spring con­di­tions and where they may be in their nat­u­ral cy­cle has given hunters a sig­nif­i­cant drop in num­bers.

Although the ptarmi­gan have shown up from the North, there are only scat­tered in small groups in cer­tain ar­eas of both the burn overs and the green woods. There is still time for more to yet show up, if they are ac­tu­ally out there, but a high spring hatch mor­tal­ity that could also be neg­a­tively im­pacted by a down­turn in their nat­u­ral cy­cle could see us with more chicken soup than ptarmi­gan soup through­out the whole sea­son.

There has been some good catches of rab­bits but the early and larger amounts of snow has been a chal­lenge for those among us who are snar­ing them. It has been dif­fi­cult to keep the snares set at the right level with the big and reg­u­lar snow­fall that we have seen since its early ar­rival.

At the end of it all, we ap­pear to be head­ing for an over­all chal­leng­ing sea­son in more than one of our tar­geted species. That is the bad news if you let it be.

The good news is that there is still some game out there. For those among us who are true hunters, we are go­ing any­way. If there are fewer num­bers of game for us to hunt and clean, so be it.

We will still have our trips to the coun­try and the ad­ven­tures it brings to us. Shar­ing the coun­try that means so much to us with our fam­ily and friends and what­ever treats it can give us, big or small, is well worth the ef­fort no mat­ter what the count may be.

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