A guide to start hunting in Ontario
By Chris Viel
There are hundreds of reasons why someone may want to start hunting. Whether it is a drive to get closer with the outdoors, or to continue a tradition, hunting can open the door to some of the most incredible and rewarding experiences of your life. I was drawn to hunting at a young age, but as I grew up I noticed there was more to hunting than meets the eye. Two of the biggest lessons I learned were; the deep connection between hunting and conservation, as well as the tremendous responsibility involved with deciding to harvest an animal.
Northern Ontario is an excellent place to go hunting. From moose and bears, to waterfowl and deer, hunting in Northern Ontario presents a wide range of challenges and opportunities for hunters of every level. Additionally, Ontario’s vast wilderness and diversity of hunting terrains can make every experience new and challenging. From lush fall canopies of red and yellow leaves, to rocky terrains and great lake shoes, there is so much about hunting in the North to be appreciated. However, before you can start this journey for yourself, there are a couple key steps involved so that you get off on the right (and legal) foot!
The first step you have to take in order to hunt in Ontario is to complete your Hunter Education Course. There are many courses available all across the province and a complete list of instructors can be found on the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) website. Go through this list, focus on the location of the course, and call several instructors until you find a time and length (weekend course vs. weekday evening) that fits your schedule. After this, you must take proof of your completion to a Service Ontario location (only select locations do this) and get registered in the system.
At this point you are allowed to hunt with a firearm under 500 feet per second, which would include both compound, recurve and longbows, as well as most crossbows. If guns are more your style, then the route you need to take is similar to the Hunter Education Course. Find an instructor who runs the course, listed on the OFAH website, and complete the training to obtain your Possession Acquisition License (PAL). One tip is to do the hunting and gun course together as it usually streamlines the process.
Now you are licensed to hunt! At this point, the first decision that needs to be made is what you intend to hunt. There are many ways of doing this, but the easiest is to research the wildlife in your area and check the seasons in the Ontario Hunting Regulations Summary. This book should be a must in every hunter’s kit as it explains all of the rules, laws, and seasons in each region. After a desired species (or two) have been chosen, you must decide what means you plan to hunt with. Whether it is archery or gun hunting, both require practice and research in order to produce the most effective means of harvest.
D&R Sporting Goods here in Thunder Bay offers a fantastic selection of bows, rifles, and shotguns, and the staff there can assist you in making the right decision. Now that you have a way to hunt, practice, practice, practice…and did I say practice? You can never be over prepared for a hunt, but you can easily be underprepared. Your goal should always be for a quick and ethical harvest, and it is your responsibility to make sure this happens. When you are ready to begin hunting, the best resource you can acquire is a friend or mentor with experience. Nothing will replace time in the field, and this will provide you with tips and tricks to avoid disappointment, or even worse, injury or death.
Whichever path you choose to take after obtaining your license is up to you, and is half the fun of the journey. Just remember that the rules and limits set in place by the Ministry of Natural Resources are to ensure the future of this sport. Keep in mind that you are setting an example and are ambassadors of the sport every time you step foot in the field. Hunt responsibly, respectfully, and remember that it is rarely about the kill – rather, the adventure before and after the harvest!