Eating wild game is vogue, and the number of people wanting to harvest their own protein is on the rise. Many consider themselves “meat hunters” and aren’t looking for the largest set of antlers or horns. So if you’re just wanting to maximize the amount of wild game you put away for the year, read on.
Of the larger ungulates in Alberta, moose and elk are favourites. They provide the most protein from a single harvest.
If you go to MyWildAlberta.ca and click on Hunting, then Hunting Draws, and Hunting Draw Reports, you’ll see how many individuals apply for a given species in a specific Wildlife Management Unit (WMU). Why is this important? The interest in animals with antlers versus those without becomes apparent.
For instance, most WMUs that offer an antlerless moose draw opportunity will also have antlered moose as an option. The difference between male and female draws is the number of applicants. The Draw Summary Reports include a listing of the number of applicants and the amount of priority they had going into the draw. Let’s look at a popular WMU like 242, just southeast of Edmonton, with 175 licences available for antlerless moose, and almost half the applicants drawing with a priority of 1. When you look at the antlered moose stats for the same WMU, there are 109 licences available, and you need at least four years of priority to draw. A total of 547 people applied for the bull, while 443 applied for a cow.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out you can draw two or more antlerless licences at the same time it takes to draw one antlered. The bonus is that cows tend to be easier to find, and are considered by some to be better eating.
Antlerless elk seasons extend into January for lots of opportunities to get out in the cold months when animals are more gregarious and feeding in fields. Any hunter can purchase a general elk licence and harvest a bull with a firearm, but the cows far outnumber bulls—so don’t overlook this draw opportunity or unallocated licences.
If you aren’t after antlers, you can purchase and use supplemental white-tailed deer tags in several WMUs. The licence is issued with two tags, allowing you to take one or two extra antlerless deer in certain WMUs—the hunting regulations provide updated information on which WMUs. Armed with general and supplemental tags, a hunter can shoot any white-tailed deer they see and have a licence to cover it. If a buck is the first deer you see, the general tag is used.
The Strathcona and Foothills deer licences provide extra opportunities to harvest multiple animals without using your general tag.
If you’re after meat, keep an open mind when it comes to hunting. There are black bears, which many settlers counted on for meat, lard, and thick hides. Waterfowl are plentiful, and with liberal spring and fall snow goose seasons, you can pack away enough birds until the next season opens.