January 15, 2018
By Brad Fenson
Walking along a forest trail, I come upon a large wetland, where a big bull moose stands chest deep in the icy water, eating a breakfast of submerged vegetation. One well-placed shot from my rifle and the bull stumbles to the shore before falling.
Hunkered in a blind, I watch a flock of Canada geese set their wings and finish right in the pocket. Their excited clucks as they land among our decoys is almost deafening, until the roar of shotguns tumbles several of the big honkers to the ground.
As I push a brushy fence line, knee-deep grass conceals a pair of sharp-tailed grouse that flush like rockets sent into orbit. Shouldering my shotgun, I add a brace of the beautiful upland birds to the bag.
Take all of these amazing outdoor experiences and add a whitetail stepping through an oak forest or a heart-stopping black bear encounter in a marsh and one must ask: "Where am I?"
The answer may surprise you.
Manitoba is a hunting Mecca just waiting to be explored, offering great diversity and abundance for bird and big-game enthusiasts alike.
Located at the very heart of Canada, Manitoba has always been rich in natural resources, prized by the people of the First Nations and a magnet which drew European fur traders to the region. The province is about 251,000 square miles in size. It has a saltwater coastline and over 110,000 lakes.
Although it enjoys an abundance of wildlife and hunting opportunities, Manitoba is in many ways the "sleeper province." Saskatchewan to the west often receives praise for huge white-tailed deer and incredible waterfowl. Northwest Territories and Nunavut are to the north, with herds of caribou and muskox. With nothing but lines on paper separating the provinces and territories, you should get an idea why Manitoba is an underestimated producer and a worthy destination for U.S. hunters looking for new and exciting opportunities for everything from waterfowl to moose.
Southern Manitoba, once covered by Lake Agassiz, is now fertile farmland dotted with productive wetlands. The Minnedosa pothole region is famous for canvasback nesting and more dabbling ducks than you can wag a Lab's tail at.
The Sandilands Provincial Forest in the southeast has excellent scaup hunting, or bluebills as locals call them. They can be hunted off rocky outcrops on Canadian Shield lakes, where the birds target wild rice and other feed. The Pas area is well known for its huge wetlands and marshes. In the far north, amazing waterfowling adventures await among the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Thousands of ducks and geese stage along the shoreline where they chase the tide for prime feeding.
It doesn't matter where you look in Manitoba, you'll find excellent waterfowl hunting with one of the many qualified outfitters that call the province home.
Upland Game Birds
Ruffed grouse enthusiasts may find Manitoba to be a mecca. With generous daily limits it's not uncommon to fill your bag, even if you're hunting without a dog. When you hit the high cycle, the hunting is world class.
Bird hunters would be considered spoiled just with the ruffies, but add spruce grouse, sharptails, ptarmigan, and Hungarian partridge to the list and you've got a reason to spend all day in the field. There is endless country to hunt and next to no hunting pressure.
The remote areas of the north are difficult to access without an outfitter, but luckily there are a few that specialize in hunting the far reaches of northern Manitoba.
A remote trip during the calling season, running mid-September through early October, consistently produces mature moose for outfitters and clients. The waterways, or old transportation routes of the Voyageurs that explored the fur-rich area as far back as the 1600s, are still productive moose corridors. Outfitters offer great moose hunting for big bulls in remote fly-in areas, and the combination of floatplanes, boats, and birch bark horns are the essential ingredients for the moose hunt of a lifetime.
If you like chasing big-bodied Dakota whitetails, Manitoba will not disappoint. Deer survive the harsh winters by being big enough to avoid predators and access food. You don't often hear about deer hunting in Manitoba, but hunters in the know regularly have opportunities at one of the many big-bodied, mature bucks that roam the province's rural wilderness. Don't think that the big boys are roaming only in the agricultural areas of the province. The huge forest expanse continually kicks out some of the biggest deer taken in the province.
With archery, muzzleloader, and rifle seasons, there are lots of opportunities, and numerous outfitters ready to help make a trip north a reality. Don't overlook the early seasons, as deer are easily patterned, especially in areas where they aren't pressured.
You can't discuss black bear hunting without talking about Manitoba. The south-central part of the province, around Riding Mountain National Park and stretching to the north, is well known for producing mature bears of the type any hunter would be proud to take home, including many unique color-phase bears.
The big bears stretch north through the Interlake Region, and into the boreal forest and Canadian Shield, where baiting is the most popular way to target bears. Spring is the traditional time to hunt bears, and often the down time during the hunt can be spent fishing in one of Manitoba's many great lakes. In the fall, outfitters often combine bear hunting with the opportunity to chase waterfowl, deer or moose.
From the rush of the grouse's flush to the spike of adrenaline a black bear delivers, Manitoba is home to a diverse range of hunting opportunities. And, sitting at the heart of Canada, it's close enough for U.S. hunters to take advantage of every opportunity the province offers.
Whatever your passion, Manitoba can feed it with wide-open wilderness and well-established outfitters, ready for your next adventure. Learn more about Manitoba's many outdoor opportunities by visiting Travel Manitoba's educational and informative website.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.