So now you have a gun and you think you are ready ta rock and roll. Actually you aren’t, until you get acquainted with the rules first. Hunting is strictly controlled in Canada and if you are a serious hunter like me, before you even entertain the thought of going out on a hunt, you have ta read the bible on Quebec hunting laws, Sport hunting – General Regulations, cover ta cover. It clearly lays down the law.
You start by getting acquainted with the definition of ‘prey’ – what you are allowed ta hunt. And those are – Caribou, whitetail(deer), moose, black bear, bearded wild turkey and the last category, defined as ‘other small game’ – such as rabbits, partridge, duck, ptarmigan and other wild fowl.
Once you are clear about what you can kill, you move on to where you can hunt – the ‘zone’ – the region of the province where you can hunt. Quebec is divided into 29 hunting zones and the guide literature comes with a map of those 29 zones. You have to pick a zone and go buy a one-season license, that will allow you ta hunt only in that zone.
If you are an experienced hunter, you’ll know the zones where the chances of a kill are the maximum. But always remember, the more the game in one particular zone, the more the zone will be crawling with hunters. Take for instance Anticosti Island, the spit of land that looks like a traffic island at the mouth of the St Lawrence. It has more deer than humans – in fact so many that it might as well elect a whitetail for mayor instead of a human being. You could kill a whitetail there even if your gun went off by accident.
But I won’t advise you ta hunt in Anticosti. I know I could get my kill but I don’t venture there because I’m smart. Places like Anticosti attract huge hordes of hunters in season, most of whom are stupid schmucks who are nothing but drunks with loaded guns. I don’t like the odds that some pissed drunk son of a bitch will mistake me for a whitetail and put a bullet in me. Stories of accidental shooting deaths while hunting in Quebec are legion and more often than not, the perp is able ta get away with a suspended sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
Besides, I want to make it enjoyable. I want it to be harder, I want ta make the season last. It is the hunt – the chase – that interests me, rather than the kill, which anyway is very anticlimactic, very post-orgasmic. It isn’t about winning or losing. It is all about how I played the game.
One other thing – every zone has privately-owned and public land. You needn’t seek permission ta hunt on public land, your permit takes care of that. But if you wish ta hunt on privately owned property, it has to be an understanding between you and the landowner, whereby he allows you to hunt on his land in exchange for a certain amount of cash as rent. Prime private land can fetch as much as $1000 per season ta hunt.
Like I told you in Part-5, I hunt at my dear friend, Cedric’s 100-acre spread that abuts a massive wild life reserve known as Parc Omega, in Montebello, just over an hour from where I live. I don’t pay Cedric anything for the privilege, for reasons explained in Part-4, if you have cared ta read it. To Cedric, I’m family.
In general you are safer if you hunt on privately owned land since it is expensive and therefore less crowded and consequently the chances of your catching a misdirected .306 slug between your shoulder blades are minimal.
Let’s say you got yourself a hunting license for a particular zone. Now you got ta sit down and read the rules for that zone, which tell you when you can kill a certain species, what kind of weapon you are allowed ta use, whether you can kill a male, a female or a calf of that species and just how many you can shoot – ie: the bag limits.
Oh yes, the bag limits – very very important stuff. Here are some numbers you can bag per season, in a very general sense, since they vary, zone ta zone – Caribou (two per hunter), Moose (one per two hunters), Black Bear (two per hunter), Bearded wild turkey (two per hunter), Whitetail (one per hunter) and so on. For whitetail, in order ta make life interesting, they have lucky draws and if you win, you can kill an extra whitetail or say, in a doe-only season, you are allowed ta bag a buck, over and above the doe that you are already eligible for.
There are bag limits even in the ‘other small game’ category. For partridge, it is 5 per day and you mustn’t be caught in possession of more than 15 at any given time, even in your basement freezer back home. Likewise, for ptarmigan it is 10 and 30 respectively and so on.
Check out season dates as they depend upon the zone you are going ta hunt in. Just as a rough ball park, moose season is September-October, whitetail : Sept-November, black bear : May-June and Sept-October, bearded wild turkey : April-May and so on. The longest season is for caribou : August-October and then December-January. The extended season is partly because no one wants to hunt them for meat (the taste sucks) and also because the -50℃ Canadian Tundra, where you usually find caribou herds, is too hostile an environment to enjoy a hunt in.
Always be aware of when the season has ended in your zone. Get caught post-season with a dead whitetail in the back of your pick-up truck and you are looking at a serious fine, north of five grand, plus the confiscation of your hunting permit and gun. And if you are dumb enough to be sitting having a beer inside your truck or a skidoo or ATV, celebrating your kill when the rangers catch you, your vehicle is gone too.
All confiscations are permanent and confiscated stuff are auctioned off in public auctions. Canadian forest rangers are very different from their counterparts in my country of birth, India, where a twenty buck note will allow you ta go on a massacre and swagger around like Roy Rogers and no one will bat an eyelid. If you’re a rich movie star of course, they might harass you a bit, slap a case on you just to soften you up for the eventual palm greasing and then let you walk away. Hey, the ranger in India will even suggest for you a taxidermist, who just happens to be his bro-in-law.
Okay, so now you really are ready ta rock and roll. If you’re going after large game, don’t begin with black bear or moose – things can get nasty with those. So start with the harmless whitetail.
Well before the season begins, find yourself a good spot. I did and it was easy. I fixed six SpyPoint Castorama internet-ready infra-red motion sensing cameras at various points on Cedric’s land. I found that the camera north of the Parc Omega Reserve clicked the maximum shots of whitetail and chose that one.
That weekend, still two weeks ahead of season, I took my tree-stand in my F150 and had Cedric help me erect it at that spot, taking care to remain downwind of the little clearing where the SpyPoint had caught whitetail milling around. The whitetail must have watched me setting up the tree stand but whitetail are whitetail – dumb as ever.
A tree-stand is a camouflaged perch, around fifteen feet up on a tree and it looks like a chair with armrests and a bar in front to rest your rifle for the shot. The camouflage, while essential, isn’t enough. Whitetail have a strong sense of smell. Your camouflage might fool ‘em, but your smell won’t. They can smell you from a hundred yards and if they do, you might as well pack up and go home.
Besides a strong sense of smell, whitetail also have a very keen eyesight that can detect motion easily. So, before you climb up onto the tree stand, you have ta make sure you won’t need ta go pee or poop or eat/drink or anything else, because you have ta remain stock-still for hours at a stretch, if you want a kill.
And for heaven’s sake, make damn sure the stand is sturdy and can take your weight. A hunter pal of Cedric’s is now a paraplegic, after crashing to the ground when his tree stand came loose. (pic courtesy:sportsmanguide.com)
(to be continued….)