New set of rules for foreign duck hunters in Manitoba ‘changes everything,’ says American

Manitoba has introduced new rules to lower the number of Americans hunting ducks and other waterfowl in the province.

Foreign hunters — which, in Manitoba, primarily means Americans — are now only allowed to hunt for a maximum of seven consecutive days under the new regulations for waterfowl hunters, which at least one American hunter says have been quietly rolled out.

In previous years, a foreign resident game bird licence allowed the purchaser to hunt under the same rules as Manitoban hunters.

Foreign duck hunters can buy a licence through a licensed Manitoba outfitter, or can apply to be drawn through a lottery system. Those who are owners or tenants of land in the province are eligible for a grandfather licence.

This year, all foreign hunters who apply for a licence will get one. But in the coming years, the province says it will only accept a certain number of the foreign hunters who apply in the draw. 

The province recently sent a guide outlining the changes to licence holders, saying that foreign hunters are staying in the province longer and controlling access to hunting land.

Foreign hunters account for 50% of harvest: province

In the guide, the province notes that waterfowl hunting pressure is concentrated in southwestern Manitoba, which is part of what’s known as the Prairie Pothole region — a vast area of the Great Plains that is filled with wetlands known as prairie potholes. 

In Manitoba, though, that’s a relatively small area of high-quality hunting territory that “concentrates hunting pressure and competition for access between user groups within Manitoba,” the province says.

The “intensity and duration of … hunting pressure” from foreign hunters “has significantly increased their share of Manitoba waterfowl harvest,” the province claims, resulting in roughly 3,500 foreign hunters each year accounting for 50 per cent of the waterfowl harvest, while about 10,000 Manitoba hunters account for the other half.

This increased competition from foreign hunters has “adversely affected the quality of [the] waterfowl hunting experience in Manitoba” by encouraging payments for exclusive access and sparking conflict over private and public hunting areas,the province’s guide says.

With the new rules, the province hopes to reduce illegal outfitting, establish a limit on licensed outfitting operations and legacy hunting camps, and ensure land is available to Manitoban hunters. 

Potential effects ‘heartbreaking’: U.S. hunter

Doug Janes, a hunter from Wisconsin who has been going on duck hunting trips to The Pas in northern Manitoba for more than 30 years, said the changes caught him off guard.

“For this thing to go provincewide and go in the darkness of night instantly, it just kind of shocks me,” said Janes, who added hunting in Manitoba is a big part of his life.

“I’m just absolutely in love with the country. I love the Great Plains, and I love the great marshlands of northern Manitoba,” he said.

“The thought of losing that to a lottery … not having some of my favourite people be able to join me on it … it’s heartbreaking. It really is.”

A man in hunting gear walks through a field with a dog.
Janes said duck hunting in Manitoba is a major part of his life. (Submitted by Doug Janes)

Janes said he didn’t voice his concerns during online consultation by the province on the new regulations because he never heard about it.

He questions the need for the new rules, saying he hardly ever sees any other hunters on his trips.

“Very rarely do I have an interaction with another hunter, much less a local hunter,” Janes said.

He’s also never witnessed any of the hunter behaviours identified as motivating the changes, and wishes the province would consider a regional approach to the new rules.

Janes added that seven days is a limited window to hunt, and it’s difficult to plan hunting trips when the draw for licences doesn’t happen until June each year.

“It changes everything,” Janes said. “I start in the wintertime, planning for next fall and not knowing whether or not I’ll have a licence or who may be able to join me.”

A happy medium: waterfowl organization

But John Devney from Delta Waterfowl, a non-profit operating in the U.S. and Canada, said the regulations will serve both Manitoban hunters and U.S. hunters well in the long run.

“The regulation that has been released sort of nicely manages all the stakeholders,” he said. “The challenge in so many places around waterfall hunting is just access and opportunity.”

Devney, chief policy officer at the organization and based in North Dakota, said many Americans are grateful for the opportunity to hunt in Manitoba.

“Manitoba feels a lot different than a lot of places in the United States, where access and opportunity is seemingly boundless in comparison to the guy that grew up in Arkansas or California,” he said.

No changes have been made that affect Manitoba hunters. Applications for this season’s draw start June 15 and end July 15 on the province’s e-licensing platform.