Most of us don’t even consider Provincial Parks when we think of places to hunt. Myself included. Then a couple years back I was asked to join a winter camping trip with a group of friends to a provincial park north of Peterborough and I was surprised when one of the guys mentioned he was brining along a firearm. Of course I was skeptical at first but after some extensive research I was surprised to find out that many provincial parks in Ontario allow hunting.
I feel I should immediately clarify to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, Hunting is only permitted in a select few parks, so please don’t head into the care camping heart of Algonquin or Bon Echo decked out in camo with your with your favourite 12 gauge. You will scare a lot of people, piss off the park warden and get into heaps of legal trouble.
To elaborate, most parks that allow hunting are non operational and have hunting built into their management policies and landuse. It is very important to be 100% clear on this if you plan to participate in hunting on these lands. How do you find this info out? Well there are several sources, one being the MNR crown landuse atlas website https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/crown-land-use-policy-atlas . Check the info section on each park parcel using the “Get Land Use Information” tool. Each of these parcels should have a report available in PDF in either French or English. The permitted uses will either be clearly listed or will reference a ministry land use policy. Another way would be to head to http://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/provincial-park-management-direction and find your park of interest from the list. Once found, take a read at its management policy and confirm the permitted uses.
Since my first hunt on that winter camping trip I have often considered travelling back to one of these parks to hunt. Finally, about a week ago, I found some time and a friend and I headed out to for a quick morning hike and hunt in one of these non-operation parks. Our target was small game and conditions couldn’t have been better with crisp temperatures in the early morning, broken by some sun warming approaching noon.
Ice had already claimed most of the smaller lakes and a light skiff of snow covered the ground. Quite the perfect setting for observing tracks!
The trip was very refreshing and served to provide us with some welcomed weekend exercise. Interestingly enough, it was obvious we were not the only ones hunting as we came across a mineral lick and a crossbow bolt just off the path.
The hunt itself went very well if three birds being flushed with a moderate amount of effort. Of the three we even managed to harvest one (pictured below).
We had a great time exploring a new area and observing some pretty interesting geologic formations found in the park. However, as enjoyable as it was, the concept of conservation was never too far from our minds.
Fundamentally, these areas are put in place to conserve a specific feature, be it geologic, protected animal, plant, or features of cultural importance. Because of this intent, I firmly believe that conservation should be the underlying guideline for all uses in these areas. And although hunting in these areas can be a great experience, it is important for us as hunters to remember that we share them with other people and wildlife. Being public places, they can be susceptible to over hunting, accidents and can be the site for disputes between hunters and non-hunters. Respect and practicing safe, legal, hunting practises are the key concepts here.
Remember, these areas are there for the enjoyment of all, not just one.
Cheers from the wild