Just when Quebec caribou hunting appears to be stabilizing, the government throws a hard curve at the handful of outfitters who have managed to survive the complete crash of the George River herd, a severe economic downturn in the US, and the usual vagaries of northern weather and wilderness operations. As of this writing in mid-February, a proposal has been approved to limit hunters to a single caribou tag for the 2013 season. The Quebec Outfitters Federation has backed an alternative plan that would control the number of caribou taken by limiting each outfitter to the number of hunters they took afield in 2012. We've also heard of yet another proposal to cap the number of hunters (including the winter meat hunts sold primarily to Quebec residents) at a total of no more than 2,500 hunters and 5,000 caribou. With the Leaf River herd (the only caribou that can be hunted at this time) holding stable at an official estimate of around 430,000 animals, the caribou taken under this system would not represent any threat to the herd's future. Still in question is whether outfitters will be able to purchase unused quotas from other outfitters.
As we went to press in late February, an official announcement was expected on whether hunters will be restricted to one tag, though Quebec authorities have a long history of delay in matters like this. Coming this late in the cycle (most Quebec outfitters have already booked most of their hunts during the January-February show season) any change, if it happens, is bound to be disruptive. Because nothing has been made official, most of the hunts being booked are for two caribou. Several outfitters told me that they were hopeful the one-tag rule would not go into effect for 2013, if ever. If it does, they'll "deal with it", though their options are limited since it's as expensive to outfit a hunt for one animal as for two. As soon as we have official word, we'll issue an Email Extra Bulletin and publish an update in the newsletter. If you have booked a two-tag caribou hunt for this fall, you........(continued)