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 have dramatically reduced the number of permits issued for woodland caribou to both resident and non-resident hunters since the 2008 season. For the 2019-20 season there were only 216 permits issued for non-residents!
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.
Visit the following link to view the Middle Ridge Caribou Management area in Newfoundland. http://www.ecc.gov.nl.ca/wildlife/hunting/pdf/CMA64_y2014m07d31am_17by22.pdf
We primarily hunt in the upper left hand portion of the management area comprising of blocks G,H,I and J. Numbers 7,8,9 and 10.
Quota numbers provided in April 2017 for 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 185 to 210, an increase of twenty five more licences for the 2017-18 hunting season. This is very positive news as it is the second increase in recent years indicating the herd is on the rebound.
The new big game quotas for the island, released at the end of February 2018, indicate that the Middle Ridge Herd is continuing to rebound slowly. An increase of 40 additional licenses were issued to residents and outfitters combined.
Herds on the Northern Penninsula saw a decrease of 45 licences, its second reduction in precent years. It was unclear if any of that increase would go to non-residents. Caribou Management Area 69 (The Northern Penninsula) will be closed to hunting starting for the 2019-20 season!!
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 wolves, 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. This season closes earlier than our moose season as it closes December 1st as opposed to December 31st for moose.
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.