It’s not quite an all-you-can-shoot buffet, but a limited number of free deer hunting licences and an extended season are the latest tools being used in the ongoing effort to eradicate bovine tuberculosis near Riding Mountain National Park.
So far, 140 free deer harvest tags have been handed out by Manitoba Conservation covering the special season that started Nov. 12 and runs until Dec. 9 in the rural municipalities of Grandview and Rossburn.
The changes are aimed at boosting the number of whitetail deer samples needed for the ongoing TB monitoring program in the Western Control Zone, which in recent years had fallen to insufficient levels.
To get their first free tag, hunters must show that they have a mandatory hunter’s education certificate. Additional free tags are available to those able to show a receipt for submitting a legally required “fresh, not frozen” sample consisting of the head, lungs and attached windpipe, to any of the roughly 20 receiving stations in the region within 48 hours of the kill.
“Hunters are eligible for an unlimited number of licences provided they fulfil the sample submission requirements,” said a government spokesperson.
The rule changes for hunting areas 23 and 23A are aimed at increasing the number of whitetail samples submitted by hunters, not to spark a “free-for-all,” said Reid Woods, president of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation.
“It’s not really an all-you-can-shoot, because there’s only so many tags allotted. There’s a very, very limited number of tags,” said Woods.
In most cases, even the luckiest hunters will probably end up with no more than two or three extra deer for the freezer, he said.
Woods lauded the three-way co-operation agreement between Manitoba Conservation, the Manitoba Wildlife Association, and Manitoba Beef Producers, which are helping landowners in the area link up with eligible hunters.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Woods.
A list of willing landowners in the two RMs is being put together with the aim of creating a matching service, said Manitoba Beef Producers general manager Cam Dahl.
“It’s important that we meet those sample targets as a scientific basis for the bovine TB program,” said Dahl, adding the information collected will be used to determine future herd testing requirements.
“We’re quite pleased with this effort from Manitoba Conservation to ensure that they reach their targets,” he said.