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‘Open season’ for bison hunting

There are too many bison and not enough hunters, so the Environment Department is relaxing restrictions on the bison hunt beginning on December 1st.

There are too many bison and not enough hunters, so the Environment Department is relaxing restrictions on the bison hunt beginning on December 1st.

“In previous years the only people that were permitted to hunt were those people that applied for and obtained a permit, and the number of permits was restricted,” said conservation officer Kris Gustafson.

There were about 70 or 90 permits issued last year, he said.

“This year, it’s an open season.”

Any person who has attended a bison workshop and who holds a hunting licence can go to a department office, buy a bison seal and go hunting, he said.

And there are no more restrictions on the number of hunters in a group that can take a bison home.

“Whereas last year you might have a party of three or four people going out and only one person allowed to shoot, this year all three could be (allowed),” said Gustafson.

The target is 200 animals overall and the hunt will be terminated once that number is reached, he said.

Hunters have 72 hours to report a kill.

The changes are being made in anticipation of a busier bison hunt, said Gustafson.

“I don’t think it will necessarily get crowded compared to what would be common in southern Ontario or Michigan,” he said.

“We’re not accustomed to running into other hunting parties when we do hunt.”

“But most people probably have the same spot in mind, so what we’re doing is reminding people you may bump into other hunters,” he said.

The department is urging hunters to wear hunter orange vests and other bright clothing.

There were 400 new attendees at the bison workshops this year, he said. Each is eligible to pick up a bison seal.

Already, 212 seals have been issued by the department’s Whitehorse office. And that doesn’t include seals issued from other offices.

Bison roam a swath of hills and forests around Aishihik Lake south of Haines Junction.

The hunt may start strong next Monday with the warm weather, said Gustafson.

But daylight restrictions in the winter are a mitigating factor, he said.

There are between three to six conservation officers around Aishihik to monitor the hunt.

There are more than 1,100 bison roaming around. The department would prefer to see 500.

Gustafson encouraged hunting females.

At this time of the year most young can survive without their mothers, he said.

There isn’t a concern that taking away the limit of hunters who can kill in one group will result in an unfair slaughter.

“A person can only hunt one bison. So I don’t know if that’s a concern.”

“But obviously with more hunters they are going to harvest more animals.”

Hunters should keep their eyes peeled for any of the 30 bison in the Aishihik area wearing gigantic yellow collars.

They are gathering information about bison movement and should not be shot.

“It costs us a lot of money to put them on and they’re valuable animals in terms of the scientific information they provide,” said Gustafson.

Contact James Munson at