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ONT, CAN: Illegal hunting a dangerous game

November 9, 2009

Illegal hunting a dangerous game
Orange Fever struck the Niagara Region.

This annual pandemic strikes at the same time every year. It is selective about who it strikes. Some have only mild symptoms while others are hit hard. Those afflicted with this yearly malady are, however, easy to spot.

They are usually wearing bright orange vests, coats and hats. They tend to travel in groups and can often be seen in trees, along wooded areas and country roads.

They are the shotgun hunters and it is deer season.

These brightly coloured hunters are participating in what is called a controlled hunt. Only individuals who have applied for and received a controlled deer hunt validation tag can take part in this hunt. For many hunters, this is the only time they head out into the field. Locally, there are two one-week shotgun hunts. The first took place last week from Nov. 2 to 8 and the second hunt will take place from Nov. 30 to Dec 6.

It is important to note the dates for the controlled hunts vary across the province and it is the hunter's responsibility to know the correct time for the wildlife management unit (WMU) they are in.

While most hunters refer to this as the "shotgun hunt," this is not exactly accurate. Once again, different WMUs have different rules. Everything from rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loading guns and even bows might be allowed. Check the regulations for your area.

Conservation officers of the Ministry of Natural Resources find this to be an especially busy time of the year. Believe it or not, there are individuals out there who don't abide by the rules and regulations. Ignorance of the law is pretty much the same as ignoring the law. While a majority of the hunters participating in this hunt do so legally, there are some who blatantly ignore all the rules.

I experienced first hand how some so-called hunters can let the 'fever' take over their moral and ethical compasses.

I and two other hunters had asked for and been given permission to hunt a farmer's field. Long before daybreak, on opening day, we went into the property and set up.

We left our vehicle along the dead end road, so anyone coming in later would see someone was hunting the area. Ethical hunters will respect other hunters and not intrude. Shortly after daybreak I started to see orange-coated hunters popping up all across the wooded area and along the road.

It wasn't long before I heard a large number of hunters calling and whistling as they pushed through the corn field on the other side of the woods. They walked right through our location. Several deer were taken. Two were shot by one of the members of my group, but the intruders claimed they were theirs.

When we asked why they were hunting here and if they had permission, they said they had hunted here for the last three or four years. They said they had permission, but when I asked them the name of the owner of the property they didn't know it. They claimed their watchers, standing on the road, had shot the two deer. Considering there was only one shot taken on the road I have to assume this guy was good.

They proceeded to move and field dress the one deer while we watched. (No tag anywhere to be seen.)

They then proceeded to head onto the property next door tracking the second deer. This property was clearly posted. These guys broke so many regulations I lost count. I took photos of them with the deer on the road and also their vehicles. They were not amused. (Yes, I have spoken with the ministry.)

These types of individuals, whom I will not call hunters, are they type who spoil it for all the rest. They trespass and ignore any regulation that does not suit them. They destroy positive landowner/hunter relationships and create dangerous hunting conditions and confrontational situations. It is not hard to understand why many farmers and landowners simply post their properties and refuse real hunters access.

On the more positive side, a majority of the hunters participating in this controlled hunt do so legally and with permission. The older, more experienced hunters teach the younger hunters the skills and rules they need to know. It is essential they be taught how to control the orange fever that overwhelms the reason of some. The second wave of orange fever hunters will be hitting the woods at the end of the month.

My advice to them is the same as always: Know the regulations, ask for permission and respect other hunters. If you are going to show by example, make it a good example.

Orange fever will have run it's course by Dec. 6. There is no known cure and it will be back again next year.

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