The number of applications for a big game permit hunt in Yukon has increased by 28 per cent compared with last year, according to data shared with The Narwhal.
There were 1,327 more applications and 314 more applicants for this year’s hunt, the data from Environment Yukon showed — the highest intake since at least 2016-17.
The 6,073 applications from more than 1,500 Yukoners are entries into the lottery system that will randomly select who gets to take part in the hunt for goat, sheep, elk, moose, caribou and deer this fall. Yukon residents can apply for permits for more than one species. Last year, there were 4,746 applications from 1,190 people.
There are 270 permits available this year for all six species. While the total number of animals harvested won’t change — if all permits are granted, that is — the spike in applications suggests interest in the hunt has grown substantially.
Looking at the numbers, Eric Schroff, director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, points out that the novel coronavirus could be having an effect on the hunt.
“People are sitting on their hands,” Schroff said. “There’s uncertainty around the fall time and they want to make sure they have something to do. They may choose to go on a hunting trip this year instead of going to Maui.”
Food security is likely on people’s minds, too. According to a poll by Food Banks Canada, a majority of Canadians are concerned that food security will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schroff said the new Yukon hunters might be thinking about having food stores during the cold winter months.
“All you have to do is look at the mad run on toilet paper and other things to realize that our hunter-gatherer instinct kicks in big time,” Schroff said.
How the permit hunt works
The hunt takes place on a patchwork of private, Crown and First Nations’ settlement lands. But unlike hunts elsewhere in the territory — which are relatively open, requiring only licences and tags — this one requires a permit. Permit hunt areas exist across Yukon, established based on hunting considerations like how many animals can be killed in an area without negatively affecting the population, an Environment Yukon spokesperson said in an email to The Narwhal.
Conservation is key to the permit hunt. That’s why there’s a cap on permits given out for each species of big game in these regions that have particular environmental concerns.
Regardless of the type of hunt, hunters have to report their harvest to the Yukon government. Some species require biological sample submissions, such as the head and hide of an elk, so the government can monitor things like ticks, the presence of diseases or the sex of animals being hunted.
Many First Nations’ territories intersect with the permit hunt. On lands where First Nations control both subsurface and surface rights, hunting requires written permission from the First Nation.
The Narwhal didn’t immediately receive comment from three First Nations whose settlement lands overlap with the permit hunt.
The permit hunt occurs between August 1 and October 31. Environment Yukon and the Yukon Bureau of Statistics are in the process of determining successful applicants and how many of each species will be hunted.
Interest in learning how to hunt has been growing, too
For roughly two years, Jim Welsh, hunter education and ethics coordinator with Environment Yukon, has been leading skills-based hunting courses. Participants learn how to field dress animals and navigation and safety in the wilderness, among other things. In the last couple years, he’s seen interest grow. All-female classes tend to fill up within three hours, he said.
“The values of hunting seem to be changing right now,” he said. “The people who are coming to my classes are really interested in healthy organic food. There’s a different understanding about sustainability happening.”
Asked about the increase in the number of applications to the permit hunt this year, Welsh said he’s “baffled” by it.
“It seems like a lot,” he said. “Maybe people are contemplating their values a little more, thinking about that adventure they always wanted to do with their family and getting on the land. Perhaps this extra time has inspired people a little bit.”