Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

I'm taking aim at hunters who break the law

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I cringe whenever I hear about hunters breaking the law. There are a number of reasons for my reaction.

First, in some circles, hunting already has a bad rap. It doesn't help when a few bad apples start getting attention for their antics. The naysayers quickly start to categorize all hunters as irresponsible and dangerous. Second, hunting laws are in place for safety and there's really no argument for that. And finally, some laws are there to support a sustainable and healthy wildlife population.

As we step into the busiest hunting stretch the year, let's have a look at which offences are most common. Gerry Rosset of Manitoba Conservation walks us through the top 10 infractions during deer hunting season.

1. Having or carrying a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle: The most common cause of hunting accidents involves firearms being discharged accidentally when they're being removed or placed into a vehicle. It is unlawful to have a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle and this includes leaning the firearm against the vehicle.

2. Hunting private land without permission of the owner: In Manitoba, hunters are required to obtain permission from landowners before hunting on private land. Be sure to ask for permission each season because lands can sometimes be sold to new owners who have different ideas.

3. Discharging a rifle from a road: Driving around looking for deer and then shooting from the road is an unethical way of harvesting big game. Rosset says that wildlife decoys are regularly used to apprehend those who chose to hunt and shoot from roadways.

4. Hunting in a manner dangerous to other persons: Most hunters are graduates of a hunter safety course. Unfortunately, some need to be reminded of the safety rules. Only discharge a firearm when you are certain there is nothing in range behind the intended target.

5. Failing to tag a big game animal: Every deer hunting licence includes a tag that must be notched immediately after harvesting the animal, then attached to the animal. Rosset said attaching the tag can be delayed if the hunter is in the process of dragging the animal out of the woods before loading it onto a vehicle. Note: be sure to carry a knife, flashlight and cord or string for this job.

6. Failing to retrieve or abandoning the meat of a big game animal: The whitetail deer is a prized big game animal and deserves our respect. Venison is a valuable meat and should not be wasted. Hunters are reminded to make every effort possible to locate an animal after it has been shot. Tracking wounded game is difficult without snow and it takes considerable effort and skill. Once an animal has been recovered, it's important to field dress it immediately to help cool the carcass and preserve the meat.

7. Improper party hunting of big game: This offence occurs regularly either from deliberate intent or from a lack of understanding of this rule. A deer hunter who has tagged an animal may continue to hunt if he or she forms a party. Sign the back of each other's licences. You can only form a party of up to four hunters once each deer hunting season. All hunters must have the same type of hunting licence. The party hunt can continue until the last tag is notched.

8. Discharging a firearm a half hour after sunset or a half hour before sunrise: When it is too dark to see the target or what's beyond it, don't discharge your firearm. It's that simple. Check your GPS or the Manitoba Hunting Guide for sunset and sunrise times.

9. Hunting in an unauthorized area: As a hunter, it's your responsibility to know where you can legally hunt. There are wildlife refuges where no hunting is allowed. Some areas, such as the Canadian Forces Base at Shilo, no longer allow hunter access. Other areas are closed to rifle deer hunting. The Manitoba Hunting Guide lets you know where you can and can't hunt. If you're unclear, contact a natural resources officer before you head out.

10. Baiting of ungulate big game animals: Placing bait for the purpose of hunting a big game animal is illegal (excluding black bear or grey wolf). Similarly, hunting deer within 800 metres of any area posted as a "baited area" by Natural Resource Officers is also illegal.

Wildlife managers are very concerned about the spread of disease among whitetail deer. This can occur when numerous animals congregate at bait feeding sites. Chronic wasting disease is believed to be transmitted by the transfer of saliva among animals. That's why officers are strictly enforcing this regulation.

Before you hunt

The 2011 Manitoba Hunting Guide is handed to you when you buy a hunting licence. Read it to refresh your memory about what you should and shouldn't do this hunting season. The guide also includes changes in regulations and those handy sunrise and sunset tables. Keep it with you throughout the season.

Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at shel@shelzolkewich.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2011 C16

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