Due to the declining numbers in Woodland Caribou populations on the island portion of Newfoundland beginning in the early 2000’s, the Dept. of Environment and Conservation ( D.E.C ) have dramatically reduced the number of permits issued for woodland caribou to both resident and non-resident hunters since the 2008 season. Some good news from the D.E.C. during June of 2012, indicated that the population had begun to stabilize but woodland caribou calf survival was still not significantly high enough to bring about an increase in populations, to the extent required, to rebuild herds back to their full potential.
An update provided in early 2015 states that woodland caribou productively across the island is relatively high, and not the cause of decline, not enough woodland caribou calves are surviving beyond their first three months of life to replace adult mortalities, largely due to predation by Coyote and Black Bear. In a further update provided on March 6, 2015 by the Dept. of Wildlife they eliminated hunting pressure as the cause for decrease in woodland caribou numbers.
The woodland caribou population on the island in 2013 was estimated at 31,980, and was still declining, but yet at a slower rate of decline then earlier years. The statistics provided for the Middle Ridge woodland caribou herd for that year showed that the number of animals was at least stable and possibly going up, other herds like the Grey River had seen a decrease of 1777 animals from 2007-2011.
Quota numbers provided in the latest March 6th, 2015 update on the Middle Ridge woodland caribou herd show that the caribou population in that specific herd have increased to levels that could warrant an overall increase in hunting licences from 140 to 185, an increase of forty five more licences for the 2015-16 hunting season. Herds on the Northern Penninsula saw a decrease of 40 licences. It was unclear if any of that increase would go to non-residents.
However, reductions in the number of allocated hunting licenses are further expected if population numbers begin to drop again. The Dept. of Wildlife has been reluctant to implement meaningful measures to decrease the numbers of woodland caribou calves lost each year to coyotes, bears and eagles and are basically letting nature take its course. Wildlife officials are still unsure to what extent coyotes and now wolves are having on the population of caribou on the island.
The latest census on caribou in Newfoundland has an estimated 32,000+ Woodland Caribou and our population is still such that the island of Newfoundland is the only place to hunt this big game species in North America. We hunt the Middle Ridge herd whose population is estimated at around 10,000+ animals. This is currently still the largest woodland caribou herd in Newfoundland.
Often times woodland caribou use the road systems to travel throughout their area. They are as comfortable in the forest as they are in the open country or forest. However, once October comes and the "rut" begins mature stags are more apt to be found on the open country or "bogs" where they roam in search of females. They often stay within a general area for a period of time until they have rounded up all available females. They then move to another area with the herd in search of more. The rut itself is later then moose and begins around the middle of October. Please note that over the past several years we have noticed in our hunting area that woodland caribou are more predominant in the first three weeks of September as opposed to the usual time of mid October. Please keep this in mind if you making a reservation to hunt one of these animals.
For those guests who are hunting both woodland caribou and moose during the same week, hunting for both is done in the same general area thus there is no need to move from one location to another creating an additional expense and loss of hunting time, for the hunter. (Note: Combination moose and caribou hunts will not be offered beyond the 2017 hunting season) Any hunting on road systems can be done on ATV or by walking. Walking is used primarily on the open country for hunting purposes once the animals have been located.
The overall hunting area is forested with both young and old growth, while being interspersed with abandoned logging roads, bogs and shrub land. Shooting distances can be greater than moose hunting as these animals if found on the open country are not always easily approached and hunters should be prepared to shoot 2-300 yards if a specific occasion to do, warrants it.