What was once a thriving business has all but dried up.
Steve Overguard and his wife Debbie understand why – but they are still sad to see the livelihood they’ve built up over the past 40 years evaporate so quickly.
The Overguards, owners of Alberta Adventures, a hunting and fishing guide outfitter based out of central Alberta, have lost more than 80 per cent of their business due to Canada’s border shutdown with the United States.
There seems to be no promise of it reopening any time soon, and by September, it could mean an end to a long line of outfitters.
“It’s really a shame. Debbie and I have been doing this for 40 years, and really, if something doesn’t happen, it’s our only source of income,” said Overguard from Tapawingo Lodge, where he runs a fly-in fishing outfit near the Northwest Territories boundary.
Overgaard is frustrated that they’ve had to continue to pay allocation fees to the Alberta government, and that they also haven’t had much help from the federal government, either.
All the while, they have been unable to access their main source of income: American tourists.
He said the number of guests visiting Tapawingo Lodge has been cut by more than half in the past few months since COVID-19 hit.
They have been social distancing and keeping things as safe as possible on those trips.
“We had a tremendous amount of cancellations.
“We used to take a couple hundred of people. Now, we’re maybe 50. It’s not even paying our fuel bill… it’s a tough go,” Overgaurd said.
The rest of his family are also in the business. His daughter Jenna and her husband Jason help run Big Bear Outfitters in the Sundre area.
They are the only outfitters in the region and own all the tags in a season that usually lasts from mid-May to late June. That typically brings them between 30 to 40 hunters, and they can earn as much as US$100,000.
Another branch of the business is Trophy Horn Outfitters, which offers archery deer hunts in September, as well as cougar and wolf hunts in December and January.
Overguard said he understands why things are the way they are as a result of COVID-19, but he fears for the future of the business he has built.
His family has run outfits as far back as 1900, and if things don’t improve rapidly, the 60-year-old is worried his daughters and grandchildren won’t be able to keep the business going.
“If this doesn’t open by the end of August or September … I’ll be wiped out, 100 per cent. I’m not a quibbler. I just want it to be fair,” he said.