March 01, 2016
Dreams of hunting caribou or whitetails or fishing "internationally" for brook trout and salmon are usually inspired by intrigue and excitement. However, those motivations are often overcome by concerns about the hassle and, especially, the expense. If those concerns put you off the idea of hunting or fishing in Canada's Quebec province, you need to think again. World-class, no-hassle, and supremely affordable hunting and fishing adventures are waiting right next door.
Right now, the exchange rate of U.S. to Canadian dollars is the best it's been for American hunters and fishermen in more than a decade. Depending on who you listen to, it's entirely possible that by the end of 2016 the rate may be the most favorable it's ever been to U.S. visitors! So, if you've ever dreamed of heading to Canada to take a trophy caribou or fish pristine waters for trout, salmon or walleyes, Quebec offers all the options. And to sweeten the deal, you can now enter the Quebec Ultimate Destination Sweepstakes for a chance to win the ultimate hunting or fishing adventure.
From the exotic Arctic region of Quebec's Far North to the farmlands just outside of Montreal to the whitetail mecca that is Anticosti Island on the eastern side of the province, all regions of Quebec offer exciting, affordable hunting opportunities.
In the eyes of many American hunters, caribou are Quebec's big game glamour species. If you hit the timing right, it's possible to experience the spectacle of mass game migration rivaling Africa's Serengeti. For days and nights on end, you may be within sight and sound of caribou herds at all times. Even if you don't hit the peak of the migration, hunting on the sub-arctic tundra is an adventure every big-game hunter should experience at least once.
Caribou hunts run exclusively from remote fly-in camps. Quality outfitters maintain many camps to keep their hunters near the herds throughout the season, which generally runs from mid-August through September. It's an equipment-, personnel-, and transportation-intensive business. There's only one way in and one way out of any Quebec caribou campâ€“by planeâ€“and that means high overhead costs, which normally translate into an expensive hunting trip.
However, if you've previously considered a Quebec caribou hunt and written it off as too pricey, now is the time to take a second look. The favorable exchange rate to U.S. hunters right now knocks nearly a third off the price of the trip in Canadian dollars. Some outfitters offer additional discounts for young people in the group — kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and such. They see the age of caribou hunters steadily climbing and recognize the need to bring new hunters into the fold.
If you've hunted Quebec caribou before — or researched the trip before — some things have changed. Quebec has two caribou herds. The Leaf River herd, which inhabits the more westerly regions of Quebec's Far North, is in good shape. The George River herd in the northeast, however, has suffered major, and as of yet unexplained, declines. All hunting for the George River herd has been closed.
Quebec wildlife managers are applying an abundance of caution in maintaining the Leaf River herd at least until they can get a handle on what happened to the George River animals. Beginning in the 2016 season, the limit on caribou has been reduced to one animal per license. Hunters may purchase one additional license to take a second animal, but antler restrictions on that tag will limit it to non-trophy animals
To Quebec's residents, moose hunting is nearly a religion. They make annual pilgrimages to deep woods camps steeped in tradition. During the rut they hunt moose by calling, but during the rest of the season residents primarily hunt from elaborate blinds maintained by generations of hunters in secretive hunting areas.
Quebec moose hunting is open to non-resident hunters, as well, through outfitters in the forested regions of the province. Compared to hunting moose elsewhere in Canada, Quebec adventures can be a good value because many of the outfitters offer drive-to camps. Any hunter fortunate enough to bag a moose quickly learns it's a major expense flying all that delicious meat back home. A drive-to location eliminates that extra cost.
For non-residents in Quebec, the use of an outfitter is required to hunt big game. Even if it were not, this would be especially important for hunting moose. The hunting zones and licensing requirements are complicated. In most cases, a group of hunters applies for a single moose tag. Quality outfitters have the best handle on how this system works and where the best chances to draw a permit are found.
Black bear are plentiful throughout Quebec. Outstanding hunting is within an easy day's drive of much of the northeastern United States. Leave home in the morning and you can be hunting in the afternoon. To top it off, Quebec offers great spring hunting seasons in May and June. With Ontario closing spring hunting, Quebec is among the only easy "drive-to" locations for spring bear hunting in the eastern half of North America.
Though a few black bear are taken incidentally by caribou hunters glassing and stalking on the tundra each fall, Quebec's dedicated bear hunting is done over baits near treestands or blinds maintained by outfitters. Even if it were legal for non-residents to hunt bears without an outfitter, it's not practical to maintain dozens of sites scattered over hundreds of miles as quality outfitters do.
Quebec black bear can be hunted with modern firearms, muzzleloaders, bow, and crossbow. Quality outfitters offer hunting locations specifically set up for each discipline. Spring bear seasons, in particular, coincide with outstanding fishing for pike, walleye, and bass in the southern half of the province. Hunts are frequently based out of lakeside resorts with cabins and/or a lodge.
With the long late spring and early summer days, it's possible to spend morning to mid-day hours catching limits of fish. Following an afternoon nap and an early supper, you can be sitting in a bear stand for prime time from 5:00 p.m. until dark!
Bear hunting licenses in Quebec are sold over the counter in unlimited numbers, but non-resident hunters are limited to one bear per year whether taken in the spring or fall season. So, if your tag goes unfilled in the spring, you can return in the fall for a second chance.
While whitetail-hunting opportunities are to be found in many of the southern and eastern regions of Quebec, the most popular and well-known deer hunting in this province is on Anticosti Island. Thousands of hunters make the trip to the island each season to experience deer hunting unlike anything anywhere else in North America.
Anticosti Island is approximately 70 miles long and 36 miles wide across its center. It sits in far eastern Quebec squarely in the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Looking southeast from Heath Point on the eastern tip of the island, you are truly looking into the Atlantic Ocean.
On the island's western end is the small town of Port Menier through which all hunters arrive by air.
Though whitetail were not originally found on the island, they flourish there today. The original stock of 220 deer were brought to the island at the end of the 1800s by the French candy magnate Henri Menier to establish his own private hunting preserve. Today, nearly 200,000 whitetails inhabit the island. The history of the island and its deer is fascinating in itself and worth an added day or two stay in Port Menier to discover.
If you've dreamed of "big woods" whitetail hunting, Anticosti is your paradise. While traditional stand hunting is available, still-hunting and glass- and stalk-hunting on enormous bogs are why you come to hunt here. You can have a guide at your side at all times if you like, but you can also elect to hunt solo. Your outfitter will provide a map of your private hunting sector, a bag lunch, a ride to a drop off point â€¦ and a promise to pick you up there again at dark.
The deer season on Anticosti runs long — from the start of September all the way until Christmas. Early-season hunting affords a rare opportunity to take a northern buck in full velvet. The December hunts, particularly in years of good snow, create a one-of-a-kind deer-hunting scenario — glassing and stalking bucks on the beach! As snow piles up in the interior of the island, Anticosti's deer migrate to the seashore to feed on kelp washed up on the beach by violent Atlantic winter storms.
While the fly-in-only access to Anticosti needs to be considered in the value proposition, the island's outfitters offer a complete range of accommodations. It's possible to hunt Anticosti nearly on your own from a cabin to which you bring your own groceries and do your own cooking. At the opposite end of the spectrum are luxury lodge accommodations many of which include a private French chef and housekeeper!
Waterfowl, Upland Birds, and Small Game
Quebec is an underrated paradise for wingshooters, providing downright bargain-priced hunts for waterfowl and upland birds including world-class gunning opportunities. For example, the St. Lawrence in Quebec is the only place in North America you can experience duck hunting from a traditional sinkbox. A few hardworking watermen still offer this in-your-face diver and sea duck hunting.
There's also terrific hunting for a variety of grouse species including ruffed grouse, spruce hens, and willow and rock ptarmigan. But the bird that draws many hunters from Europe is the woodcock. Large numbers of timberdoodles migrate through Quebec and along the St. Lawrence every fall. They seem to hold here longer than in many other areas and can be hunted successfully even into early November.
Another outstanding spring hunting opportunity in Quebec is for snow geese. And these are not your run-of-the-mill lessers that are pursued in the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways. The St. Lawrence is a major stopover for Atlantic Flyway greater snow geese, which run 30 to 50 percent larger than their prairie cousins and are all white except for their black wingtips and rust-stained heads.
Any of Quebec's wingshooting opportunities can be enjoyed very economically as a long weekend via a number of quality outfitting services that are members of the Quebec Outfitters Federation.
Hunting License Information
The Quebec government site contains up-to-date information on hunting license fees and information.
The most recent edition of Quebec Outfitters magazine (a free electronic copy is available at http://quebecoutfitters.com) reveals outstanding fishing packages with quality Quebec outfitters starting at less than $100 a day CAN (about $65 US) per person.
So how is the fishing in Quebec? It doesn't matter if you fish with fly or traditional spinning/baitcasting gear, you make one trip, and you're going to find many reasons to keep coming back. Quebec offers a wide variety of species, which it defines as Warm Water/Predatory (walleye, pike, smallmouth, and largemouth bass) and Salmonids (brook trout, lake trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, Atlantic Salmon and arctic char).
Many great destinations are an easy day's drive from the Eastern U.S., while others are reachable only by air. In many cases, you can leave home in the morning and be in camp that evening.
Don't assume the best fishing is always the most remote. Thick-shouldered, 30-inch monster walleyes in excess of 10 pounds are to be caught in the St. Lawrence River just a few minutes from historic Old Quebec City!
But fishing Quebec's untamed North is truly any amazing experience. The rivers there run cold and pure, and teem with big brook trout, lakers and, depending on location and time, Arctic char and/or Atlantic salmon.
To make the search for an outfitter who offers the fishing/experience you crave, Quebec breaks the massive province into the following eight zones, all of which are unique.
The Abitibi region in the Southwest corner of the province boasts more than 22,000 lakes and rivers, and is home to several species including brook trout, walleye, lake trout, smallmouth bass and more. Great outfitters abound here.
This region includes historic Quebec City and the St Lawrence River as well and the famed Gaspe Peninsula. The province promotes the brook and rainbow trout fishing, but from personal experience, I can assure you there's more available. On my last trip here we caught walleye, catfish, and sturgeon as well.
Covering Anticosti Island, the north shore of the St. Lawrence and hundreds of miles to the north, this stunningly beautiful region is both wild and untamed. Salmonids dominate here, with incredible fishing for native brook or speckled trout, arctic char, sea trout, Atlantic Salmon and more. If you've dreamed of the classic Atlantic Salmon fly fishing experience this is one of the best places on earth to make it happen.
Located in south-central Quebec and within easy driving distance of Montreal, this region is both beautiful and fish filled. Both salmonids and warm-water fisheries are available here, and so are several superb outfitters.
Just east of Laurentides, the Mauricie region includes several great fisheries including massive Gouin Reservoir, home of great walleye and pike fishing. Most of my trips there produced limits of walleye from 16 to 18 inches and pike between 10 and 15 pounds. You'll have to work for big pike, but those who target them will find this fishery produces.
Nord-Du-Quebec (Eeyou Istchee/Baie-James, Nunavik)
Quebec's far north is hauntingly beautiful, with untamed waters and spectacular fisheries. On my last floatplane flight to an operation in this region, we spotted four black bears and literally hundreds of shed caribou antlers from the plane. Fishing for species like Arctic char, Atlantic salmon and brook trout is world-class; that's also true for the walleye and pike fisheries found here as well.
With more than 20,000 lakes and 12 rivers, the Outaouais region in Southwest Quebec is both accessible and stunning. Choose between drive-to operations and wilderness fly-outs for species including walleye, brook trout, landlocked salmon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow trout and more.
Located in South-central Quebec, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is home to five outfitters that offer excellent fishing adventures for brook/speckled trout, walleye and more. All outfitters offer inexpensive packages on top of amazing scenery.
Fishing License Information
For more information on license requirements, visit Quebec Fishing Licenses.
Extend Your Trip
For Quebec's hunting and fishing adventures that require fly-ins, the jumping off points are usually Montreal or Quebec City. Both cities offer myriad attractions, culture, and history that's guaranteed to be attractive to every member of the family whether they are into the outdoors or not.
Both cities also offer nearby hunting and fishing opportunities that could easily be tied into a family vacation. In fact, there's great fishing on the St. Lawrence River within the city limits of Quebec City, and outstanding waterfowl hunting in season within an hour's drive of downtown Montreal. Outfitters stand ready to provide everything you need for an economical daytrip added to your family vacation.