The Yukon government will use a lottery process to distribute special guiding licences this year, in response to their growing popularity.
Twenty-five licences for bison will also be available for the first time this season, on top of the 100 existing licences for caribou, moose, black bear, wolf and coyote.
Special guiding licences allow Yukon residents to guide family members and friends from outside the territory. They’ve been around for several decades, but in the last five years, demand has spiked.
Rob Florkiewicz, harvest program coordinator with Environment Yukon, said the 100 licences sold out in three days in 2013, two days in 2014, and two and half hours last year. He said people have taken to lining up on April 1, when the licences become available, to make sure they get one.
“People were starting to anticipate that they’d be completely filled, so they’d come sooner.”
Florkiewicz said the situation was becoming unfair, because only people who could come to Whitehorse and take time off work were able to get a licence.
The new lottery system should level the playing field. People can submit applications to Environment Yukon, along with a $10 fee, between April 1 and 22. The draw will take place on April 29.
The lottery is also weighted, which will give unsuccessful applicants an advantage if they reapply in subsequent years.
“For each year you apply, the probability that you’ll be drawn goes up,” Florkiewicz explained.
According to the old rules, resident hunters were only able to apply for a special guiding licence every three years. Now, residents will be allowed to apply every year, but non-residents can only be guided every three years, as before.
This year will also see the introduction of 25 bison licences, on top of the regular 100 licences for moose and caribou. Hunters will have to choose between the two types. Both licences include opportunities to hunt for black bear, wolf and coyote.
Florkiewicz explained that non-resident hunters will also have to choose between moose and caribou this year, instead of being allowed to harvest both.
“There’s a more general concern of the level of harvest of wildlife in the territory,” he said. “There isn’t a strong rationale for them to be able to take caribou and moose. That’s a lot of meat.”
Florkiewicz said he’s not sure why the special guiding licences have become so much more popular in recent years, aside from the fact that the Yukon is becoming well-known for its wilderness and hunting opportunities.
But he did acknowledge that some people use the licences to bring up non-resident hunters who are not personal acquaintances.
The licences are meant to be used for friends or family members from Outside. Hunters aren’t supposed to use them to make a profit. But that’s a difficult rule to enforce, Florkiewicz said.
“The burden of proof becomes impossible,” he explained. In practice, the government just requires that the visitor be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident.
Gord Zealand, executive director of the Yukon Fish & Game Association, said he welcomes the changes.
“The system that we had in place previously, it just accommodated those that were able to get away and put in the time very early in the day,” he said, referring to the long lineups on April 1.
Though special guiding licences can be a source of competition for Yukon outfitters if they’re used improperly, Zealand said he hasn’t heard much pushback from outfitters about the 25 additional licences this year.
“I don’t think the outfitters are in favour of these special licences, but at the same time, they’ve been in place for a long time,” he said. “At the end of the day, are things open to abuse? Sure. All we can hope is that people respect the outdoors and do the right thing.”
Successful licence applicants will be contacted after the draw on April 29, and their licence numbers will be posted on Environment Yukon’s website.
Contact Maura Forrest at