The Nova Scotia rifle season for whitetail deer opens next Friday and I know many Pictou County hunters are looking forward to spending some time in the woods. They won’t be alone as whitetail deer are the most popular big game species in Nova Scotia.
Eastern Canada is at the northern range for whitetails and their numbers are controlled to a significant degree by both weather and the amount and quality of habitat and food.
I know many hunters are wondering if the easy winter we had the past two years will impact deer numbers this fall. The low snowfall would have made for easy travel, improved survival and should increase deer numbers in the province. While weather plays an important role in deer survival other factors, such as predation by coyotes, black bears and domestic dogs, along with illegal hunting also play a major role.
Big game managers respond to declining deer numbers by altering seasons and reducing the number of antlerless deer permits available to hunters.
To get a professional opinion on how the deer population is doing in Pictou County I recently checked in with Natural Resources Wildlife staff. They responded promptly to my inquiry and provided valuable information on the state of the deer population in Pictou County and the rest of the province.
My first question was on the state of the current deer population in the county. They replied that deer numbers appear to be growing but the tough winter we experienced in 2014-2015 had a significant impact on the number of young deer that survived the winter and it shows up in a reduced number of older deer in the population. The reduction in this segment of the deer herd will be felt for a number of years.
The deer harvest across the province in 2016 was 8,337 animals, a seven per cent increase over 2015.
I also asked if there were any changes to the big game season or regulations local hunters should be aware of. They suggested the biggest change hunters should be aware of is that the either-sex regulation was changed this year for Deer Management Zone 109 which takes in much of Pictou County. Last year deer hunters were limited to bucks only unless they had applied for, and received, an anterless deer permit. This season, due to an encouraging increase in the deer herd in this zone, hunters in this zone may harvest either a buck or a doe with their regular licence.
Pictou County hunters must be aware that the county also includes portions of two other management zones. This is important because one of them, Zone 107, which takes in part of the Trafalgar area, also permits hunters to harvest either a buck or doe without the requirement of a doe stamp. In contrast Zone 110, which is the area bordering Antigonish County, restricts hunters to bucks only. There are no doe stamps issued in this area.
The Wildlife Division also provided me with some interesting observations on the work the department is doing to monitor both deer numbers as well as the health of the herd. We’ll talk about that next week.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.