Deer hunting to remain off limits in much of northern New Brunswick

1 / 3
Deer hunting to remain off limits in much of northern New Brunswick

The deer population in much of northern New Brunswick continues to be too low to support a hunting season, despite an increase in the number of permits across the province.

The province announced earlier this month that it will issue an additional 1,300 permits, up to 3,400 for the fall hunting season. 

But Wildlife Management Zones 4, 5 and 9 closed in 1993 and have never reopened. The zones include Kedgwick, Campbellton, Dalhousie, Bathurst and the northeastern tip of the Acadian Peninsula.

Kevin Craig, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Energy and Resource Development, said the harsh winters in the area have affected the number of deer. 

"The population declined in the late 1980s and early 1990s … and it hasn't recovered to the point where we believe we can have a sustainable hunting season," he said. "The telling thing is always the severity of the winter."

Andre Mercier, a hunter from Balmoral, said the snow is a major cause of the low population but clear cutting has also played a role.

"There's no woods, they don't have cover," he said. "The government clear cut all their winter yards so they have no cover to stand there."

There are restrictions in the parts of northern New Brunswick that do have a buck season. In three wildlife management zones in the northwest, the season has been cut in half — from four weeks to two.

Craig said that was done to take pressure off the animals in the area.

Mercier said there are deer in Saint-Quentin, which is on the border of two wildlife management zones, one which is open and another that is not. 

He believes the deer there are not part of the New Brunswick herd and have temporarily crossed over from Quebec.

Mercier now hunts in zones 10 and 11, which stretch from as far north as Nictau, about 35 kilometres southwest of Mount Carleton Provincial Park, to as far south as Woodstock. 

He said like animals, hunters can become territorial when someone enters their space. Hunters will often designate an area as theirs, setting up a tree stand and even baiting deer with apples. 

When another hunter enters the area, or worse harvests a deer in it, that can lead to confrontations, Mercier said, adding some hunting areas are perceived as "English" zones.

"There's a friction between the French and the English right at the start and then you have the hunting part of it," said Mercier.

"I stopped in an outfitter [in Riley Brook] … the lady that was taking care of the cottage told me that 'you come from the north' and she shut the door in my face."

Deer 'public resources'

Craig said it's important for hunters to recognize that no one owns the rights to the deer in the province.

"If you purchase a [buck] licence you can hunt anywhere in the province where there's an open deer hunting season," he said. 

"These are provincial resources. They're public resources."

Craig said he can't speculate on when a deer season may be possible in the closed zones, but there would need to be several mild winters to allow the population to recover. 

"Anything's possible, but the northern areas are under special conditions for sure," he said. 

Mercier for one isn't holding his breath.

"I'm 50 years old and I'll never see it in my life," he said.