Alberta has an abundance of big game, gamebird and waterfowl species to hunt. In fact, you might face the “first world problem” of overwhelming choice. Let’s figure out what method of hunting and species you’d like to start with.
Is it for the food? The landscape? The challenge? The solitude? The comradery? All of the above? Thinking about your motivations will help you decide what to hunt and where.
Sometimes it comes down to logistics—deer versus duck might depend on car versus truck. Think about what works best for you and your personal capabilities.
You have a couple of decisions to make simply by process of elimination. Will you use a shotgun, rifle or bow? At the most basic, you use a shotgun for birds, a rifle for big game, and bow for either. With different seasons, different species and different methods of hunting, put some thought into the right fit for your skills, equipment and ability.
If you’re a red meat connoisseur, harvesting a deer, elk, or moose will provide you and your family with a generous supply of steaks, roasts and ground meat.
Is chicken a household staple for you? The white flesh of upland gamebirds—ruffed grouse, pheasant or sharp-tailed grouse—might be more appealing and ultimately what you choose to seek. Ducks and geese have dark meat and are very flavourful as well.
Hunting upland gamebirds and waterfowl are very different from one another. Upland gamebirds are often the easiest for beginners. Many Albertans got their start hunting with a .22 with open sights and grouse as their first target. While it certainly helps to have a bird dog, at the most basic you need your licence, shotgun or bow, and appropriate footwear or clothing. Ducks and geese are bit more in-depth. Hunting over water you’ll need a dog, waders or a boat (canoe or kayak work) and it helps to have decoys, calls, camo clothing, and a blind.
If your interests lie in filling the freezer, a whitetail deer licence is a solid bet with general seasons across the province. With a general season licence for whitetail deer, elk and even black bear, you can one day decide to go, purchase your licence, and head afield.
Much of Alberta’s big game populations are managed through draws for special licences. To hunt species like antelope, or even mule deer and moose in the settled areas of the province, you will need to apply for a draw. Draws require strategy and patience as it can take time to get the licence you want.
Once you’ve decided what you what to hunt and with what method, your next step is to review the regulations. We’ll help you with the next article in our Start Harvesting series: Understanding the Hunting Regulations.