New license system….

New licensing system coming into effect…

Earlier this week we received a package from the MNR about the new licensing system coming into effect this fall.  Upgrades they say… but for many of us northerners.. it is a serious down grade

We have been running this lodge for 19 seasons now, and every year we have been able to facilitate the licensing system for all our clients.  4 year ago they upgraded the system to the current one we are running now, although slow and time consuming it has been manageable.  Just remember now, we aren’t really making any money on this for every licences sold we get a very small percentage, i mean very small , like under 50 cents a licence.  But it was a great service to our clients.  With this new licensing program, we will not be able to continue this service.  Most outfitters we know of, don’t always have the best internet, or most reliable internet but hey at least we have something right, at least for the lodges lucky enough to have any kind of internet.  Well with this new system, the best we can get in internet service just isn’t fast enough for the new system thus we have no choice but to not provide it. Now why hasn’t the government taken into account the lodges that sell licences that cannot get a better internet connection? We understand that down south there is no connectivity issues, but up here in the north it’s just not a service we get.  So how is it that the south is reaping the benefits and we have to tell our clients that we can no longer provide a service that we have been for the last 19 years?  Yes, you can do your own license online before arriving at camp, but some of our clients haven’t reached the digital age yet, some clients aren’t tech savvy…so who looks after them?  I know in our area the closet place that may still offer it after this big “upgrade” is an hour and 15 min drive from us.

On top of connectivity issues, there are other issues that come into effect.  Sure they decided to give us a few extra cents for every licence sold, but now we must provide our own paper, printer, computer, and ink to print these licences. So we go back to not making a cent a licence.  Now i’m not too sure who thought up this new system… but from the above mentioned, in my eyes it’s not a very smart decision.

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Invasive species

Ontario’s bait policies

Currently in Ontario it is illegal to dispose of any live bait in any waterway, but how many people get away with this? Not all outdoorsmen abide by this law, and in return are harming our waterways.  Over the last few years there have been discussions over bait policies, to ensure the invasive species do not spread like wild fire and destroy the ecosystems of our waterways. 

The MNFR estimates that nearly 80% of anglers use live bait mainly worms and minnows with 20% using leeches.  This generates 20 millions dollars annually to Ontario’s economy. 

Currently the policies are under review to see what changes can be done and where it could be implemented.  Conservation groups have been advocating to have harsher rules to ensure invasive species are not getting into our waterways.  Invasive species compete with our native bait fish for food and habitat, some prey on sport fish eggs, they prey on larvae, and can unbalance the whole ecosystem in a certain body of water.  There are currently several types of invasive species threatening  our systems. The round goby is a soft body fish with a noticeable black dot on its dorsal fin.  They range in size from 4 to 10 inches and feed like crazy, typically they feed on larvae, worms, fish eggs and small fish. Round goby’s are robust and can live almost anywhere, and will compete with native species for food and habitat.  The ruffe looks like a walleye, it can reach up to 25 cm in length, it is known to be very aggressive for its size. It’s dorsal fin aids in its escape from predators. It typically feeds on small aquatic bugs and larvae. It has the capacity to reproduce at an extremely high rate and matures in 2-3 years, a single female can lay anywhere from 130,000-200,000 eggs annually. 

Here’s what  you could do to help, Learn the different types of invasive species, use local bait, dispose of your bait at least 30 m away from any shore, stream, river, remember it is illegal to dump it into the waterways and if you think you’ve seen invasive species report it.  Let’s try and limit the spread of these species. 

Spring where are you?

When spring doesn’t want to cooperate….

Spring time is our time to do any renovation we have to do before the busy upcoming season. This year spring do not want to cooperate with us, spring has come on the calendar but not with the temperature.  A lot of the renovations and grounds work that needs to be done, requires the weather to cooperate. It is really hard to redo a roof, or fix a dock when there’s still 5 feet of snow and its in the minus all day. This is nothing new in the north, it just makes for a few really busy weeks just as we gear up to open.

Luckily one major renovation can be done in any weather, the revamp of cabin #2.  Once that project is complete we hope that the weather cooperates enough to get the rest of our projects done, Let’s all hope for a quick melt and favourable weather.

which will it be?

Camp is all closed up… time to rest up…haha ya right.

Now is the time we use to better our little piece of heaven, all renovations that can be done in the winter months, will commence in the very near future, right after the holiday season.  There are so many renovations that we want to do, and things we want to build or start up, but we are only human and can only take on so much at once.  This being said we are starting on upgrading another cabin, which will it be??? Stay tuned to find out.

Speaking of starting things… spring of 2018 we will commence a recycling program for all our guest at camp.  We will have separate bins for glass, plastic, tin, aluminium and cardboard( burnables).  Hoping everyone will take part in our endeavours.

bear populations…

I keep seeing post on social media about an influx of bears within city limits, I wonder if the general population really know what’s going on with our bears and what restrictions that have been applied to bear control.

Bears within city limits frighten some people and for good reason, they can be dangerous and they can cause damage to property.

Did you know that the ministry recently allowed the spring hunt to be reinstated? ah relief bear population should start to see a decline….ohhh think again.  Although they have reinstated the hunt, they have set a limit as to how many non- resident hunters a lodge can sell tags to.  In past years we could sell as many tags as we wanted to resident or non- resident hunters, there was never a number.  Now ( 2 years now)that the MNFR has brought the spring bear hunt back, we are ( every lodge varies) now alloted a specific number of non- resident tags that we are allowed to sell.  Some as little as 1 tag.  At one tag, even 2 or 3 or ever 4 it is not even worth the effort to put on a hunt for the lodge owner, it becomes more work then it is worth.  So tell me, if we had a bear problem before they re-instated the hunt, because the population is out of control, how will re-instating the hunt with an allotment help?  Let’s face it most people that hunt black bears are non-residents.  There are few black bear hunters that reside in Ontario.

Now let’s be honest here and look at the demographics of whom actually hunts black bears. There are select few resident hunters that actually hunt black bears, the majority of the tags sold are sold to non resident hunters.  By controlling the amount of tags a lodge can sell, in turn will control the number of bears being harvested.

Now let’s put this into perspective….

A female black bear starts mating between the ages of 3 and 5.  She will mate every 2nd year for the rest of her life.  Now let’s figure she has a cub or two even possible to have 3 a year.  The number grows exponentially every year.  There are several factors to this, disease can cause deaths, cubs can become prey… But do you realize how many bears this can be over the years?  Plus let’s factor in the deforestation of our lands….now the bears have to move in closer and closer to town, exposing them even more to human life.

Now the economic part of the hunt.  This industry can bring in millions of dollars a year.. yup millions.

If you figure just one hunter will spend on gas, lodging and food for his hunter trip.  The hunter will also spend on a hunting licence, ammo, weapon or weapons of choice. Then all the little extra’s like specialized clothing( rain suits, camo, warmer clothes, lighter clothes, bug nets, gloves… and the list goes on) Then you get into the specialized gear like, tree stands, thermacell’s, no scent spray, no scent wash, bags, packs, cushions… the list goes on and on of stuff a hunter can and may buy. All on top of already spending to come stay at a lodge where he can hunt…

Now the more hunters a lodge has the more that lodge must spend in their local community, the more people the more supplies they need, it’s just how it works.  Perhaps they have to hire more people for the hunt, creating more jobs.  There are several ways that it is economically beneficial.   

This is how we do!

Bear hunt… this is how we do!

This has to be the most exciting part of our season but also the most exhausting.  I swear we gear up 3\4 of the year for this, and it last a whole week.   

Parts of the hunt are thrilling, and for lack of a better term awesome, and some parts of it, well it just has to be done. These thrilling jobs and not so thrilling job will vary depending on whom you ask.

Now I ain’t sure how every other lodge does it, but I know how we do it, and we make sure with everything in our power that our hunters have a safe, fun and successful hunt.  Now sometimes it comes easily, and sometimes we must work at it.  There are so many factors that are beyond on control… like weather, bear activity, and other people.  But let’s focus on what we can control.  We start baiting as soon as the spring season ends, we don’t need random hunters going after our guest’s prize.  Now some call us crazy, in the early season we start baiting once a week then as time progresses we end up baiting on a routine.  With such a large area to cover, we have a baiting schedule that spreads over 3 days, ranging in times between 3-6 hours a day.   Now this covers the baiting.  Before the baiting even happens, we begin to collect bait now this is a secret that we won’t go giving away, the bears really like it.  Then once it is collected we freeze it until we need it, once we are ready to bait we take it out thaw it we need to divide it. We keep our bears on controlled diets, they start out in a feeding frenzy then as we get closer they get less and less food, that keeps em coming for more.

The very first night our hunters arrive we have a gathering to calm the first time hunters, answer any questions they may have. We have charts to show vitals to make sure every hunter is sure of their hunt.  Every hunter meets their guide, and the guide answers any question they may have.  As a guide I try to do everything in my power to make sure the hunt is safe, and successful and I will speak for the rest of the crew to say they do as well.  We share any tips and tricks that we may have come across over the years.

I know every lodge does this dfferently but at our place we hunt twice a day, our hunters go out in the morning, we like to have all our hunters out in the stand before day break, then typically the hunters come home for lunch and a little break then head back out around 3 or 4 pm for the evening hunt.  Everytime and I mean everytime any hunter goes out a guide takes them to and from their stand.  Unless our trail cams tell us differently.

We place trail cams at all our stands… yes this is alot of maintenance and cost for us, but it helps us tremendously. We get to see routines, because bears are typically a creature of habit.  We get to see sizes and numbers, but the biggest perk of having the cameras out there, is that if there happens to be a sow with cubs we warn our hunters ahead of time.  They also help us determine the viability of the bait, it could be a highly active bait that just happens to be getting hit by everything but bears… like wolves, foxes, ravens and turkey vultures. If this is the case we can drop the bait early on and find a new site for a new bait.   

This is just a quick overview of what we do for our bear hunts….

The truth on running a lodge- its not all tree stands and fishing trips

There are so many jobs to do at the lodge that are considered behind the scenes that people don’t even know about, or even think about.

For one the paper work is never ending, like just when you think you are getting to the bottom of it, wham! another pile shows up out of nowhere.  I’m sure every small business owner no matter the business type can attest to this.

There is always.. and I mean always something that is in need of repair. Some are minor things that need fixing, some are larger ones.  Just picture things that need repair in your house and times that by 7. ( we have 7 cabins).  Just think of the vehicle you drive, well we have 3 trucks, a backhoe, side by side, atv, and our fleet of boats, that all at some point or another need something done to them.

There is general maintenance out the ying yang, acres of lawn to cut and trim, and it seems like that is never ending.  We purchased a larger lawn mower thinking , ah ha! Sure is cuts a little more but there’s still the same amount of lawn to cut! We have 7 cabins to kept stained, along with 7 decks to stain, picnic tables, 7 porches with screens to fix.

Our fish hut is cleaned daily, now this isn’t a standard practice throughout the industry, it’s just how we like to do it. We like things kept clean and tidy.  So basically we go in, dispose of the guts and skins off site, and go in with the pressure washer and have at it’!

Along the lines of keeping our place nice and tidy, we offer a dump service for all our guest’s garbage, well that is also something else we have to do at least a few times a week.

Another service we provide to our camping guest, is a sewer dumping system. Well really its a big vaccum that pumps it out of your holding tank. This is also done on a weekly basis, and is a horrible job, that someone has to do.  Luckily I get to run the office that day! I even volunteer to run the office that day.

On top of all the paperwork there is in the office, and all the normal stuff that goes along with owning a small business. We also have a convienience store with a bait shop. Now wether its busy or not, someone must be in the office, to serve the customers… wether it be bait, propane, gas, tackle, or a pop.  The busy days just fly on by and its fabulous, the slower more quiet days, well they are too be desired.  Considering the office is open for 14 hours a day, sometimes I end up going a little batty.

Now I haven’t even touched on what happens when we need to prep and help for our fall bear hunts, thats a whole post in itself.

Ive often heard wow it must be nice to run a lodge, you must get to spend the day of the water fishing, or out in the blind hunting.  Just think now.. all of the above needs to be done regularly, in the matter of 6 months a year.  So if you do see us out on the water, know that we have jammed packed our day, to make time to be out on the water.