Searching for big game at night
When you have shot a big game animal, you must allow a certain amount of time before starting your search, depending on the part of the animal that was hit.
This allows time for the animal to bleed out. It will often be found dead a few hundred metres from where it was shot. However, your search may have to continue until nightfall, after legal hunting hours.
How to search legally for big game at night
The following explanations do not cover every possible circumstance. However, if you follow these rules, you can be sure that your search is legal.
The Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife defines hunting as “to pursue, chase, worry, stalk, mutilate, call, follow after, lie in wait for or search for an animal or attempt to do so, while in possession of an arm, or to shoot, kill or capture an animal or attempt to do so, except by trapping it.” The Act also stipulates that “no person may abandon the edible flesh of a big game animal he has killed while hunting, except bear’s flesh.” The Act also prohibits hunting big game at night with a spotlight, and using a spotlight at night to detect the presence of an animal in a place frequented by big game.
A night search for an injured big game animal must comply with these legal provisions. Consequently, the search cannot be conducted using a spotlight, or when you are in possession of a weapon. Since a searchlight cannot be used, the use of another low-intensity battery-powered portable lighting unit is appropriate in these circumstances. This will allow you to follow the tracks of the injured animal, and possibly find it if it is dead or too weak to flee.
To facilitate the task, the use of a flashlight or headlamp whose power source is a direct current of not more than 6 V is permitted during a night search.
If, during the search, you realize that the animal is fleeing ahead of you, you must wait again. In this case, you should note where you last saw signs of the animal’s passage and turn back, even if this means waiting for sunrise to resume the search at the site.
If a search must continue after the end of the hunting time, the same principle applies: the search must be conducted without weapons.
Using a dog to locate an injured big game animal
You may have difficulty finding a big game animal that you have shot, or worse, you may have to abandon your search because the injured animal has not left sufficient traces for you to follow it.
In cases such as these, can you use a trained dog to find an injured big game animal?
As we saw earlier, the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife defines hunting as “to pursue, chase, worry, stalk, mutilate, call, follow after, lie in wait for or search for an animal or attempt to do so, while in possession of an arm, or to shoot, kill or capture an animal or attempt to do so, except by trapping it.”.
The Act states that you must not allow a dog to roam in a place frequented by big game. In addition, the Regulation respecting hunting only allows a dog to be used to hunt small game. The legislation and regulations make no mention of using a dog to search for a big game animal that has been injured or killed by a hunter. However, the search is not deemed to be a hunting activity if the participants are not in possession of a weapon.
In addition, a dog used in a search is not roaming, because it is following its master’s orders to perform a specific task, i.e. finding a big game animal that has been injured and is probably dead. Consequently, a dog trained for this purpose may be used in these circumstances.
You may also use a dog at night or after the end of the hunting season, provided you comply with the rules set out in the section entitled Searching for big game at night.
Last update: March 25, 2021
The information published on this website has been simplified and provides a summary of the main regulatory provisions. It does not replace in any way the official texts of laws and regulations. For more detailed information on a specific rule, refer to the Regulation respecting hunting in Québec , the Regulation respecting hunting activities or the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife , which are all available on LégisQuébec.