The ducks and geese are returning to the Prairies now and as waterfowlers, we look forward to this time of year.
However, the prospects of enjoying the fall hunting season are diminishing year by year as the competition from guided (mostly American) hunters increases.
We believe this competition is one of the reasons why mentors are reluctant to take young hunters into the field, so difficult is it now to obtain shoots.
And without young hunters, the legacy of waterfowling that we would like to pass on to future generations will die.
The huge increase in guiding has made it very difficult for the average hunter to take his son, grandson or neighbour’s kid out hunting because, in the limited time available, shoots are nearly impossible to come by.
Many of the hunts booked by outfitters are not even shot because the bird numbers do not build up to fulfil an outfitter’s desire for a limit shoot for his clients.
This same shoot would have been perfect for a father with his son before school or on a Saturday morning.
In our opinion, bird outfitters who tie up the land base are contributing in a major way to the decline in hunter numbers, so evident in the licence sales over the past decade.
The outfitting industry will claim it brings money into the economy and supplies jobs to locals, but all reports show that it is the resident sportsmen who bring the most money into the local economy.
We recall many a small Alberta town bar in days past, full of non-guided Canadian hunters staying in the hotel, eating and drinking, and spending money in the local economy.
This no longer happens.
After talking to some of these hunters, it is apparent that they no longer patronize the small towns because they cannot get shoots, as the permission is tied up by outfitters.
We urge hunters who have experienced difficulties in obtaining access to private lands to hunt public birds to write the Hon. Robin Campbell, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Request that he implements regulations to curtail the number of days an outfitter can operate in the field. This could be done through restricting the seasons for non-resident alien hunters (as both Saskatchewan and Manitoba do), allocating a finite number of “hunter days” to each outfitter or using tags or punch cards to account for the birds that are shot.
and Ross Hodgetts