by Lorraine Payette, written September 2, 2013
“I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow…”
– “the Hunting Song”, Tom Lehrer
(GANANOQUE, ONTARIO) September has begun and with it comes the sound of shotguns along the river and near small ponds in the open countryside as hunters and poachers get ready to go out and pursue ducks and geese.
Every one of them prefers to be thought of as a hunter, but there are definite differences between these two types of people.
Hunters follow the law and understand that the regulations are in place to protect not only the wide variety of animals available for hunting in the province and people living in the areas where they like to hunt, but also the hunters themselves and their privilege to hunt.
Poachers don’t really see a reason for any of this. They feel it is their right to go out with various weapons and kill whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. The idea of having to have a permit from the government, or permission from landowners strikes them as ludicrous, too expensive, or beneath contempt.
“It is an offence under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 for anyone to trespass for the purpose of hunting or fishing,” says a message posted by Conservation Officers in the Hunting Regulations 2013-2014, p. 82.
Legitimate hunters take the time to study and learn the regulations concerning the game they wish to pursue and the area in which they prefer to hunt. They then go out of their way to follow these regulations. They knock on doors and ask permission to hunt on private land, and do not harass or otherwise trouble owners and/or tenants if they are turned away. They purchase the necessary permits, file the needed reports, and stay specifically in the areas allotted to them.
Poachers don’t care. They see that their preferred game are on or near a particular property, and they simply go there and start killing the animals. Real life experiences of people finding poachers on their properties include finding gutted carcasses on the ground not far from their houses with the skins and “choice” portions removed; finding beer bottles and other trash littering the ground beneath deer blinds that were never allowed to be erected; duck blinds erected without permission on their shorelines, strewn with spent shotgun shells; and waking up to find cars filled with people decked out in camo and war paint, brandishing guns and/or bows, telling (not asking) them that they are going to hunt there that day. When told to leave, one such party responded with “We could have come in by the back way, you know, and you would never have known we were here…”
“The guy across the road” or “the farmer over there” cannot give permission to anyone to hunt on another person’s land.
“A person is trespassing if the person enters onto property or engages in an activity on property where notice has been given that entry or the activity is not allowed,” reads the 2013 Ontario Hunting Regulations Summary available at http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@fw/documents/document/239841.pdf . “Notice may be given in a variety of ways; some of the common ones are verbally, signs, symbols or fences. Lands under cultivation are also considered to be notice against entry. A hunting licence does not give a hunter the right to enter private property.
“ALWAYS ask for permission and obey signs. Signs may be in three formats:
• Red or yellow markings of such a size that a circle of 10 cm (4 inches) can be contained wholly within them. Red means no entry is permitted. Yellow markings mean no entry is permitted except for activities that may be allowed.
• Graphic representation of a permitted or prohibited activity.
• A written sign.
“If it is not evident what activities are allowed, ask for permission from the landowner or occupier. Not all land is signed. Unsigned lands may be private land as well. (For example if the property is fenced, no access is permitted without permission of the landowner.) It is your responsibility to find out who owns the land you wish to hunt on and obtain permission. If unsure, stay out. If a wounded animal runs onto private property where you do not have permission to enter, you must seek landowner’s permission to retrieve the animal. Positive landowner or occupier/hunter relationships are important to the future of hunting in Ontario.
“Be sure you are familiar with the Occupiers’ Liability Act and the Trespass to Property Act before entering private land. (You may obtain these two acts from Publications Ontario or online at ontario.ca/e-laws.) If you are on private property for the purpose of hunting or fishing and the occupier asks you to leave, if you do not do so immediately, or if you do not obey signs prohibiting trespassing, then you will also be violating the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997.”
In order to keep hunters and property owners working together in harmony, remember to always check the regulations for your area, get the proper licenses and permissions, and always check with the property owners/residents prior to entering private lands to hunt. Whether hunting for sport, food, or other reasons, following these procedures will help to keep hunting available as a legal activity in Ontario. Poaching will only serve to destroy the rights and privileges so carefully fought for and kept by the legitimate hunters in the province.
Many of the regulations as well as places to purchase “Outdoors” cards and other hunting/fishing permits may be found at http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/Publication/MNR_E001275P.html and are downloadable in pdf form.