Outfitter facing Wildlife Act charges

It is alleged archery-only hunting licences used out of season

A Cardston outfitter is facing more than 30 charges, mostly under the Wildlife Act and in relation to out-of-season-hunting allegations.

A trial began in Red Deer provincial court on Tuesday for Richard “Todd” Bunnage, owner of Rugged Outfitting, who is facing charges related to the 2015 hunting season in the West Country west of Rocky Mountain House.

Crown prosecutor Peter Roginski alleged that Bunnage used archery-only hunting licences outside of that season. At least one licence was purchased the day after the season closed on Sept. 23.

It also alleged that Bunnage led hunting outside the Wildlife Management Unit where the licence applied.

Rugged Outfitting routinely guides hunters from outside Canada, who are known as non-resident aliens in hunting regulations.

The first day of the trial mostly featured testimony from Alberta Environment and Parks experts on the province’s complicated hunting regulations, which are applied to nearly 180 Wildlife Management Units.

Depending on the animal, Alberta has two or three hunting seasons and a wide variety of licences are available for each of the wildlife units and are subject to a variety of seasonal or weapon restrictions.

Defence lawyer Richard Fritze closely questioned the government witnesses as to why the government’s system allowed an archery-only licence to be purchased when the season had already closed.

Stuart Nadeau, an Alberta Environment and Parks data management staffer, said because of the complexity of hunting regulations, which can vary between wildlife units, the licence-issuing system does not track hunting seasons.

“The system does not enforce date regulations,” said Nadeau. Big game licences are sold from Aug. 1 to Dec. 1.

If a hunter makes a mistake and buys an expired licence they can get their money back from the vendor within 12 hours. After that, they have to go to a fish and wildlife office to fill out some paperwork and return the licence and tag.

Nadeau said the province issues hunting regulations before each season, which lists all of the licences and seasons. Outfitters and guides have access to information through the Alberta Professional Outfitters Association, which represents nearly 2,000 guide-outfitters and guides.

Fritze questioned why licences do not have the season printed on them.

The court heard an archery-only licence has that printed on it but season dates are not included.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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