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Backgrounder: Harvest Allocation Policy



Wildlife managers use a variety of tools to manage and allocate the harvest of big game animals in their jurisdictions. These tools include laws, regulations, licences, allocation percentages, lottery systems, and the price of licences. This paper attempts to explain the very complex process surrounding the allocation of big game species in British Columbia (BC).

In general, both residents and guide outfitters in BC have longer seasons, more species to hunt, and greater opportunities to hunt than most other jurisdictions in the world. The Ministry’s recent allocation decision has been the result of exhaustive and lengthy discussions between the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF), the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia (GOABC), and the provincial government. While neither stakeholder was completely satisfied, in the long term, the decision is good for residents, guide outfitters, and wildlife.


In 2004 the provincial government started consulting with the GOABC, BCWF, and the BC Trappers Association (BCTA) about their desire to have a provincial, more consistent and more transparent Harvest Allocation Policy (HAP). The BCWF and the GOABC agreed in principle to a starting allocation of 75%:25%, between residents and guide outfitters, with demand/utilization adjustments to shift the share from one group to the other. The new allocation percentages ranged from 98%:2% (on antlerless) to 60%:40%, resident-to-guide outfitter respectively. Included in the implementation was a ‘hardship rule’ to limit any changes to 30% of existing share, which was a clear recognition that guide outfitters were going to be negatively impacted by the new HAP.

What was not expected, nor agreed upon, was for government to abandon long established practices in managing guide outfitter quotas. These practices included pooling of regional shares amongst all of the guide outfitters in a region, using a success factor to account for unsuccessful guided hunters, and to allocate the full regional share to the outfitters active in a region where there was unallocated territories. These changes had dramatic effects to guide outfitter quotas.

The GOABC first communicated the unintended consequences of the new HAP to government in a letter to former Minister of Environment, Barry Penner, in July 2010 that predicted $8 million/annual loss.

Government hired Chris Trumpy to conduct an independent review of the new HAP in December 2010. His report, the Harvest Allocation Policy Review, confirmed a similar estimate of the financial impact resulting from the HAP as predicted by the GOABC. “As is” implementation of the new HAP would result in a $6 million annual financial loss to the guide outfitting industry in BC.

In 2013, government established the Allocation Working Group (AWG) to examine the impacts of the HAP. Led by a neutral facilitator, the AWG brought together representatives from government, other experts, the GOABC, and the BCWF to address the financial impacts on the guide outfitting industry and the structural issues of the new HAP. The findings of the economic impact study completed by government for the AWG were consistent with the range of financial impact to guide outfitting industry predicted by the GOABC and the Chris Trumpy Report.

The decision by the Ministry on December 10, 2014 considered all the above data when making their decision. The Harvest Allocation Policy is a very complex matter. The questions and answers below are to provide factual information to help educate resident hunters and the general public.

Questions and Answers

Why did government implement a new Harvest Allocation Policy?
The old allocation policies were regional in scope and varied greatly from one region to another. Government wanted a consistent, transparent, provincial policy.

What does the allocation policy do?
The allocation policy divides the shares of Category A species between residents and guide outfitters in BC, after the needs of First Nations for social, ceremonial, and sustenance have been addressed.

What is the definition of Category A species?
These are species for which the harvest needs to be controlled or managed more closely. Most species in BC are not classified as Category A.

Are all big game species in BC Category A?
No, most big game species are managed through a general open season (GOS), where tags are purchased over-the-counter.

What species are managed through a General Open Season?
Mule deer, whitetail deer, big horn sheep, black bear, Rocky Mountain elk, cougar, bobcat and lynx are all managed through a GOS in BC.

What does ‘priority’ mean?
First Nations’ priority means their needs for social, ceremonial, and sustenance are accounted first. This is generally account prior to the HAP. For residents, priority means the larger share of the allocated species by percentage.

What is Limited Entry Hunting (LEH)?
It is the draw mechanism that government uses to manage resident hunters for species classified as Category A.

Are most of the guide outfitting business BC owned?
Yes, the significant majority of the guide outfitting businesses are owned by British Columbians. Approximately 10% of the guide outfitting businesses are owned by First Nations.

Are guide outfitters Canadian residents?
Yes, all guide outfitters must be Canadian residents.

How many employees does the guide outfitting industry employ?
The industry employs about 2,000 British Columbians - mostly as cooks, wranglers, and guides.

Are guide outfitters the winners in this allocation policy decision?
Historically the industry generally had higher quotas than today. With the loss of success rates (multipliers on base quota), and regional allocation (scale for which allocation is applied), the GOABC estimates this decision will have a net negative financial impact to the industry between $3-4 million/year.

For example, the harvest in the Skeena region has been reduced from 20 grizzly bears in 2006 to 11 grizzly bears in 2014; moose were reduced from 372 in 2006 to 293 in 2014. There are, however some instances where this decisions will have a positive effect, as with the increase in goat allocation in the Okanagan from 29% to 35%. This increase in allocation means one more goat for the guides in that region.

Can guide outfitters guide BC residents?
Yes, more BC residents use the services of a guide outfitter every year.

Are resident hunting licence sales increasing or decreasing in BC?
Since 2005/2006 BC resident hunter licence sales have increased from 85,633 to 102,113.

Who was involved in the allocation review process?
Government, the BCWF, the GOABC, and the BCTA have been involved in the review process since the beginning.

What timeframes do we use to compare the old Harvest Allocation Policy to the new Harvest Allocation Policy?
The new HAP was implemented in 2007. Evaluations need to compare allocations from 2006 to the current allocations.

Do BC residents have less opportunity to hunt than their counterparts in other jurisdictions?
No, some states have once in a lifetime draws for some species (i.e. bison or sheep), and other provinces have species on draw (LEH) for residents (i.e. mule deer in AB, Moose in SK) that BC has on GOS. Some states you must chose the weapon for your hunt; archery, muzzle loader or rifle (elk in WA) and only allowed to hunt in that season, if drawn. Other regions make the draw applicant pay significantly more for an application. BC resident hunters have more opportunity to hunt a wider variety of game, than hunters in most, if not all other jurisdictions in North America.

Will guides that are on GOS for big horn sheep harvest all the sheep in the Kootenay?
No, big horn sheep are protected by a horn restriction to control harvest levels. Both residents and guides are on GOS. Guide outfitters also have marketplace and infrastructure limitations. Historically guides have harvested about 20 sheep per year and we expect that harvest to be similar in the future.

Is it true that this decision will result in “…5,000 fewer hunting licence sales for BC residents?”
No, most of the licences are sold over-the-counter, and will not be affected by this policy change. It is highly unlikely the Ministry’s decision will have any impact on the average resident hunter, and there is no evidence to suggest that this decision will significantly affect the number of resident hunting licences in the future.

In 2013/2014, 102,113 resident hunters bought hunting licences. The top 5 species tags sold in BC were:

  1. Mule deer - 81,596
  2. Whitetail deer - 52,346
  3. Moose - 39,049
  4. Elk - 24,748
  5. Black bear - 21,836

Is it true as a result of this decision “…British Columbians will go without the opportunity to hunt moose?”
No. If a resident hunter is unsuccessful in being drawn in the zone they apply for LEH, they are able to hunt in a general open season for moose in another region. All regions, except the Cariboo Chilcotin, have some form of a GOS for moose.

Is it true this decision will provide “…non-resident hunters the best deal in North America?”
No, some jurisdictions have a lower allocation for non-residents, while some have higher (Quebec, Yukon, NWT). However, the important point is that this decision will not significantly affect the hunting available to the resident of BC.

Will the new allocation reduce my odds of being drawn for an LEH tag in an area where guide outfitters have an increase in their allocation?
There are many factors that are incorporated into the number of LEH permits issued. There could be a small reduction in the number of LEH permits available to residents in some circumstances.

Do all jurisdictions measure the allocation percentages in the same manner?
No, most jurisdictions allocate percentages based on opportunity (i.e. licence sales) for both residents and guide outfitters. This is not the case in BC, where resident ‘opportunity’ is compared to guide outfitter quotas. In our opinion, the allocation should compare the total guide outfitter opportunity to the total resident opportunity, including both GOS and LEH authorizations. The true comparison of allocation in BC, if the allocation was based on opportunity, we would be close to 90:10 for most species (see chart in next question).

Are Category A hunts managed the same for resident and for guides?
No, guides will receive an annual quota but residents will have their share multiplied by a success rate to provide the LEH tags drawn.

Moose in the Cariboo Chilcotin:        
  Allocation (%) Base Allocation Success Rate Opportunity
Residents 79 913 2.53 2,314
Guides 21 243 n/a 243*
Moose in the Omineca:        
  Allocation (%) Base Allocation Success Rate Opportunity
Residents 80 1,528 1.9 2,902
Guides 20 382 n/a 382*
Grizzly bear in the Omineca:        
  Allocation (%) Base Allocation Success Rate Opportunity
Residents 64     1,529
Guides 36 26 n/a 26*
*Guide outfitters do receive an administrative guideline on their annual base quota but the 5-year quota is a hard cap (without any overrun).

What is the main benefit of the Ministry’s decision?
The decision should eliminate the competition between stakeholders in the previous ‘allocation calculator.’ The new fixed allocations should be good for wildlife. Now wildlife managers and all stakeholders can focus on growing more wildlife.


The Ministry’s recent allocation decision has been the result of exhaustive and lengthy discussions between the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) and the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia (GOABC). With the loss of success rate, regional allocation, access to vacant areas and no other compensation, it is estimated that the guide outfitting industry will lose between $3-4 million per year. While neither party was completely satisfied, in the long term, the decision is good for residents, guide outfitters, and wildlife.

Please call Scott Ellis, Executive Director of the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia, at 604-541-6332 for more information.