One of the hardest hurdles for many new hunters to overcome is figuring out what they can hunt – and where in the province they can hunt it.
These rules are in place to prevent overhunting. This is crucial, both to protect Alberta’s biodiversity, and to protect the future of hunting. Over-hunting can endanger species or even eliminate them from the landscape – and no animals means no hunting.
Alberta offers many great hunting opportunities throughout the province for both big game and bird game. This is in part because the majority of the hunting community are great environmental stewards who understand the need to pay it forward. Good management helps us keep the hunting tradition going into the next generation.
Crunching the numbers
So, we need a way of deciding who gets to hunt what – and a way to make sure that it treats everyone fairly. If limiting the number of animals hunted is the goal, why not just set quotas for the entire province?
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work – because our province isn’t a single ecosystem. Instead, it’s made of many different ecosystems, each with unique wildlife populations and needs. To be responsible, rules for hunting in each area have to reflect these needs. That’s where Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) come in.
Alberta is divided into about 185 WMUs. Each WMU has its own population goals for the various game species. Based on our population counts, we calculate the number of animals that can be harvested for each species while meeting those goals. Then, we use that number to figure out the number of licences that can be made available for hunters.
This is why the number of licences available for a particular species can differ across WMUs. If there is an overabundance of a particular species, more licences may be issued. But if the goal is to keep the population stable, fewer licences would be available.
In other words, this system helps us meet our goals for wildlife population management. It also helps us spread hunting opportunities throughout the province, making things more equitable. And both of these things help keep hunting sustainable.
So, now that you know a bit more about WMUs work, how do you figure out what they mean for you?
3 simple steps to navigating WMUs:
- Decide where in the province you’d like to hunt. Keep in mind that you need permission to hunt on privately owned land. To access agriculture or grazing leases, check the access conditions on the AEP website.
- Use this map to find out which WMU that area is part of. (Click on the map to visit the interactive webpage.) Find the number on the map and click on it on the left-hand side of the webpage to see the exact boundaries of your WMU.
- Use the Alberta Hunting Draws booklet (issued in May of each year) to find out:
- Draw details and dates for that WMU, if you want to hunt big game.
- Other rules and restrictions for that WMU. (We’ll be talking about some of those later on in the series.)
Learning where and when you can hunt is the first step towards a responsible and rewarding hunting experience. If you’re a first-time hunter, the next step is making sure you’re legally allowed to hunt and use a firearm in Alberta. That’s what we’ll be talking about next time. And don’t forget, you can see the full list of topics in this series here.