What does it take to bird hunt Quebec?
Quebec, the largest province in Canada, is divided into 21 tourist regions and 29 hunting and fishing zones. The landscape, wildlife and the way game birds react can change a lot between one zone and another. Nearly 50 percent of Quebec’s surface is covered by forest and 92 percent of it is public land.
In southern Quebec and the St. Lawrence Valley there are some very good upland hunting opportunities on private wood lots and farmlands. The growing popularity of deer hunting in the past 20 years, however, has made it harder for bird hunters to obtain permission to hunt as owners started renting access to their land exclusively to deer hunters.
As you get away from towns and drive north through the mixed and boreal forests the hunting and fishing possibilities become endless. The further north you go the more you will see Ruffed Grouse which tend to be harder to spook and can be very abundant depending on the cycle. This can be a very good opportunity to expose a younger dog to wild birds that are a lot more cooperative than the sporty king of game birds we find near farms and areas more easily accessible from the cities. It is also legal to hunt Spruce Grouse in Quebec which can also be found in good numbers in certain areas. The migratory American woodcock arrives to her Quebec nesting grounds in the early spring. You can hunt woodcock from mid-September till early November, but the best hunting opportunities occur during the month of October while they are migrating south. In this article I will focus on ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting territories, but there are other upland game bird species present in Quebec. The Wilson snipe, sharp-tailed grouse, grey partridge and ptarmigan can also be hunted.
For the non-resident hunters there are three main options to hunt grouse and woodcock. You can either book a stay in one of the SEPAQ Wildlife Reserves (a government owned and managed territory), hunt on a ZEC (a privately managed but government owned territory) or book a trip with an official Quebec Outfitter to hunt on exclusive territory.
Quebec Wildlife Reserves
The SEPAQ Wildlife Reserve Network was founded in 1979 by the Quebec provincial government. There are 13 wildlife reserves that span over vast forests and wilderness areas across the province. Each reserve offers activities and services promoting the preservation of nature-related traditions, including hunting and fishing. Between September and the end of December, most reserves have long periods dedicated exclusively to small game hunting when it is possible to hunt ruffed grouse and woodcock without worrying about moose and deer hunter’s territories. You can either book a multiple day package and stay in a cabin, or purchase a daily access pass online or at the reserve’s entrance office.
Hunting on a reserve you will have access to miles and miles of logging roads and hiking trails where it is easy to hunt and explore until sunset, often without even seeing another hunter. It is easy to find good grouse and woodcock habitat on relatively flat and accessible terrain covered by a mix of young deciduous trees and alders on swamp edges and coniferous forests.
The cabins available for rent are rustic but very comfortable and well kept. Some are solar powered and some run on gas. The cabins are generally located on or near a lake where the views and surroundings are breathtaking. It is important to remember that dogs are not allowed inside the cabins and must sleep in their crate inside your vehicle.
For more info, visit the SEPAQ website here.
Hunting on a ZEC (Controlled Harvesting Zone)
ZECs are public territories where wildlife resources are managed by non-profit organizations. Each zone is headed by supervisors elected by paying members. There are 63 ZEC territories in the province which cover more then 11,861,058 acres. To hunt on a ZEC, you must register and abide by the dates, times and sectors indicated in the registration document. Every ZEC has different hunting rules and periods. You will need to research and find one that suits your upland hunting needs. Most of them allow small game hunting and have great grouse and woodcock habitats. To obtain additional information I suggest calling Zecs Québec at 1 (866) 567-0235. You can also contact the organization that manages the ZEC that you wish to visit, directly.
Guides Not Required by Law
It is not required by law that non-residents use the services of a guide to hunt small game in Quebec unless you travel and hunt north of the 52nd parallel. However, non-residents are required by law to use the services of a guide to hunt woodcock unless they are hunting on a Wildlife Reserve or a ZEC. For more information about the provincial rules for non-resident hunters, click HERE.
You will need to purchase a Quebec Small Game Hunting license to hunt non-migratory game birds with a daily bag limit of 5 birds. You will also need a Canadian Migratory Bird Hunting License if you want to hunt American woodcock with a non-resident daily limit of 4 birds. The ruffed grouse hunting season opens September 15 and ends January 15. The American woodcock season generally opens September 15 but opens earlier in certain migratory bird hunting districts ( See district map HERE ).
You are required to wear a blaze-orange hunting vest or jacket at all times when hunting small game and upland birds. The fluorescent orange should cover at least 400 square inches of the hunter’s chest, shoulders and back. Rules can always change so be sure to visit the federal and provincial websites for the latest hunting regulations.
Quebec has more than 600 outfitters who specialize in organizing hunting and fishing getaways. Booking a trip with a Quebec Outfitter at a hunting lodge is probably the easiest way for non-residents as you will be able to benefit from the services of a hunting guide who knows both the area and the regulations. A lot of the lodges offering upland packages are located in prime woodcock migration corridors where it is not rare to witness over 30 flushes a day. You will also be hunting on exclusive territory that has been exposed to lighter hunting pressure and where habitat has been managed to favor grouse and woodcock.
Crossing the Border into Canada
You will have to declare all of the firearms and ammunition you are traveling with at Canadian customs. You have to be 18 years or older to bring firearms into the country and can only bring in a maximum of 200 shotgun shells per hunter. Most hunting shotguns and rifles are considered non-restricted firearms and will only require you to fill out the non-resident declaration form and pay a 25 Canadian dollar fee for a temporary possessions license. You can download the form HERE to fill out in advance. It is also recommended to immediately mention that you are bringing in hunting firearms to the Canadian customs agent so he can direct you to the office. You will need your guns’ serial numbers to complete the form, but leave your firearms in your vehicle when going to the desk to finalize the declaration paperwork. You will then be issued a 60 day non-resident possession license valid for the declared firearms only.
Remember that most handguns and semi-automatic rifles are considered Restricted Firearms in Canada and will be more complicated to bring in. For more info visit the RCMP website.
You also need to declare your dogs and have a valid rabies certificate for each one of them.
Once in Canada and while travelling in Quebec you will have to abide by certain federal and provincial firearms rules. In the province of Quebec it is mandatory that all your firearms be unloaded, locked and out of sight at all times while traveling outside of a wilderness area. Your ammunition should also be stored separately. It is legal to have an unlocked and unloaded shotgun or hunting riffle in your vehicle while traveling on a wildlife reserve, ZEC or wilderness area where hunting is permitted.
With the immensity of the terrain getting lost could happen to anyone. Having a good GPS and analyzing a map of your area before leaving for a day afield is a necessity. There are wolves in many hunting areas on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River; I personally always put a bell and a GPS collar on my dog. It is also important to know that trapping season begins around October 24 and there are trapping zones on wildlife reserves and ZECs. The biggest threat for our canine partners are snares, so carry a good pair of wire cutters at all times.
Quebec is mostly a French speaking province, so knowing how to say please and thank you will help when asking for directions or for clues on where to find good grouse cover. Most people speak and understand English and will be more than willing to help.
With its abundant wildlife and spectacular landscapes I have no doubt that you will love visiting the province. Quebec will certainly create lifelong memories for you, your hunting buddies and your dogs. I hope this article helps and that you consider Quebec as a destination when you plan your next upland adventure. In the meantime, here are a few useful links:
The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit Hunting – Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs for the most up to date information on bird hunting in Quebec.
Max is from Montreal, Qc. He is fascinated with all bird species and is an avid ruffed grouse and woodcock hunter. He enjoys music, graphic design, craft beer and the great outdoors. Him and his brother Guillaume started the blog bonasaumbellus.com in 2015.