Jan 01 2014
By Al Raychard
Hunting Methods: Nearly all hunts are over bait.
Bag Limit: One bear of either sex*
License Availability/Cost: Non-resident licenses are available through outfitters and other vendors, by mail and phone. Foreign resident licenses (US, etc.) are available only through outfitters.
Resident: $31 Non-Resident: $103 Foreign Resident: $217
Bear licenses are valid for both the spring and fall seasons, and prices includes GST.
Estimated Baer Population: 45,000-50,000
Range/Legal Hunting Areas: Bears are found province wide except in southern prairie areas. Hunting is allowed in three Bear Hunting Zones, A, B and C covering all but the extreme southwest corner of the province.
Spring Hunts: Yes. All zones open June 21. Closing dates vary by BHZ: June 29 BHZ A,
June 15 BHZ B
June 8 BHZ C
Fall Hunts: Yes. All BHZs open August 5 and end October 5.
Legal Weapons: Centerfire rifles larger than .23 cal; shotguns larger than 20-gauge;
muzzleloaders .50 cal. Or larger (saboted bullet legal);
bow and arrow 40-lb draw min; crossbows 150-lb draw min.
Special Permits/Requirement: All hunters must show proof of hunter safety before acquiring a hunting license. *Sows with cubs may not be taken.
Contacts: Manitoba Wildlife Branch*1 (800) 214-6497*www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/hunting
Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Association*1(800)305)0013*www.mola.com
Officially, Manitoba is one of Canada’s prairie provinces but sitting in a bear stand it can be difficult to tell. Big bears, a good percentage of color phase bears and solid bear numbers make this a prime location for bruin hunting. The province covers some 250,900-square miles and about 48 percent of it consists of boreal forest. Northward, the Canadian Shield takes over and eventually tundra as you travel towards Hudson’s Bay. Scattered throughout are thousands of lakes and rivers, which doesn’t resemble a prairie landscape at all.
Another reason why it is difficult to accept the “prairie province” designation is Manitoba is home to wildlife species not typically associated with treeless, open environments. The black bear is just one example, yet scattered throughout its southeastern, eastern and northern expansions are an estimated 40,000 bears, an estimate many in the know believe conservative considering bears are now expanding their range into more southern agricultural areas where bears were previous considered uncommon if not a rarity. Whatever the actual number of bears is, Manitoba is home to one of the largest bear populations in Canada. Which is why the province offers some of the best bear hunting on the continent.
There are, however, other reasons. If you want more than a good or better chance at filling a bear tag Manitoba is the place. Most outfitters consistently provide clients with 100- percent shot opportunity over baited stands with actual kill rates in the mid-to-high 90 percentile.
If you want a spring or fall hunt, no problem. Manitoba has both. Although the spring season is most popular among visiting hunters with about 90 percent of the annual harvest taken between late-April and the end of June, fall bear hunts can be combined with hunts for deer, moose and even caribou in most management zones. The fall season generally starts in late August and runs into early October.
And about size? Manitoba has some big ones. In 2001 a 15-year old bear was killed by a vehicle and weighed 856-pounds. On average spring boars in the 200-300 pound class are nothing uncommon with larger males in the 300-350 range highly possible. Boars in the 400 and 500-pound class are taken annually, some over 600 pounds. Fall bears also run larger in size, after a full spring and summer of feeding. The odds of taking a B&C, Pope and Young, Longhunter or SCI record book contender is probably lower than in other North American jurisdictions, but Manitoba has produced a number for each book and several are taken each year to the patient and discerning hunter.
All is the result of prime habitat conditions, the fact outfitters have exclusive (and large) hunting territories and can control hunting pressure within those territories, low hunting pressure from resident hunters and compared to other provinces, low bear hunting pressure in general. Manitoba is also a one bear province, which allows bears to age and grow to large, trophy size.
How about off-colored bears? Manitoba has them in good number with many camps taking 40- to 50 percent light or dark brown, blonde or cinnamon specimens. The percentage at some camps is even higher. Bears in the black with white blaze marks on the chest are typical.
How about affordability? Prices vary among outfitters but bear hunts in Manitoba on average call for less investment than hunts in some other provinces with comparable quality and services provided. With all said and done, Manitoba may be one of the best deals going for an affordable, high quality bear hunt.
If there is a problem with bear hunting this province it is deciding where to hunt. World class outfitters and excellent, high success opportunities are found throughout Manitoba’s primarily bear range. To name but a few, the areas around Riding Mountain, Swan River, Duck Mountain, Porcupine Mountain are good bets with good densities and large bears. The same is true of the Interlake region and along the eastern border with Ontario, the areas around Atikaki and Nopiming Provincial Parks in particular. To the north the Thompson area offers good densities and large specimens.