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Where's the moose? Be aware of a busy weekend in the bush in northwestern Ontario

Ontario and across the province are gearing up for a busy opening day of the rifle season for moose this weekend.

This weekend is the opening day of the rifle season for moose

According to conservation officers, the body shape of calves is different from that of yearlings and adult moose. This photo shows a moose calf standing next to a cow. (MNRF)

Summer has come and gone, and with fall in the air many households in northwestern Ontario and across the province are gearing up for a busy opening day of the rifle season for moose this weekend. 

The CBC's Outdoor Columnist, Gord Ellis, spoke to a conservation officer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry about what hunters should keep in mind when heading out into the bush on Saturday.

With the opening of the rifle season for moose coming up, the CBC's Outdoor Colmunist, Gord Ellis, spoke with MNRF conservation officer Davis Viehbeck about what hunters should keep in mind before heading out to the bush. 2:22

"The two most common occurrences we see as conservation officers are hunters that mistakenly shoot a very small antlered bull moose for a cow moose," MNRF conservation officer Davis Viehbeck said, "and then with some amendments to the hunting season, we also see, unfortunately, calf moose being mistaken as cow moose and vice versa."

He said the calf moose season means hunters "need to pay particular attention" to the animal's distinct characteristics.

"For me, the telltale ID characteristic that I look for is the size of the head," Viehbeck explained. "So a calf has a very short blunt head in comparison to an adult moose ... also a calf moose at the shoulders, this time of year, is typically about four feet off the ground ... and the calf moose seems almost square-like, based on the body." 

He recommends hunters take the time to spot out the different characteristics before shooting. He says if a mistake is made,  the hunter needs call the Ministry's tip line and self report.

Staying safe 

In Ontario, according to Viehbeck, hunters are required to wear "400 square inches of blaze orange or hunter orange as well as a hunter orange garment on the head."

He said the hunter orange outfit and hat must be solid in colour, which means construction and safety vests with the reflective stripes do not meet the requirement.

Hunters are also encouraged to clean up their hunt-sites, Viehbeck said, as conservation officers "have the ability to start an investigation and contact" the individuals responsible.

Know your route

The recent winter-like weather in northwestern Ontario means hunters might have a tricky time getting into the back-roads as the ground is not yet frozen.

Conservation officer Viehbeck recommends hunters get familiar with their region.

"Make sure you have good maps [and] make sure your family members back at home know where you are going to be hunting," Viehbeck added, "and don't rely on a GPS. A compass is always going to get you back at least to a road."

"Take the time — if you do get misplaced — to sit down, gather your thoughts and don't panic."