Outfitter convicted of Wildlife Act charges

Convictions relate to hunting without a licence and hunting out of season in West Country in 2015

A Cardston guide outfitter was convicted of eight hunting-related Wildlife Act charges in a Red Deer court on Monday.

Richard “Todd” Bunnage and his company, Rugged Outfitting, were convicted of hunting without a proper licence and hunting out of season for incidents in the West Country dating back to 2015.

Bunnage and his company were initially charged with nearly three dozen Wildlife Act charges but some were dropped by the Crown prosecutors and the judge dismissed the others.

The convictions were for hunting without a proper licence and for hunting out of season.

Bunnage’s lawyer, Richard Fritze, argued at trial in April that the regulations are unclear and do not exclude using bow licences out of that season.

The government adds to the confusion by issuing bow licences after bow season has ended, he said.

“If that (licence) isn’t valid, the government is selling an invalid licence,” Fritze told Red Deer provincial court Judge Bert Skinner on Monday.

He questioned why the government can sell someone an invalid licence and then prosecute them for it.

In sentencing, Skinner said with Wildlife Act charges the Crown prosecutor only has to prove that the offence occurred and it is up to the defence to show that the accused did their due diligence and is not liable.

Since Bunnage did not testify in his own defence, it is difficult to determine if an “honestly held belief” played a role, the judge said.

Outside court, Bunnage disagreed with the ruling.

“The judge found, I believe wrongly, that the government can sell invalid licences.”

Bunnage said the government should not be selling bow-only licences outside of that season if it is not legal. Those who buy them also have no way of getting their money back.

All of the hunters that Bunnage was guiding had licences and the government only laid charges two years after the fact, he said.

“This was not a poaching thing. It was simply a disagreement over the validity of the licence.”

The government needs to change the way it handles hunting licensing, he said.

Sentencing has been set for July 11. These kinds of charges usually result in fines.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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