By Dianne Cornish
As a Greensville area man fights to have hunting times expanded in Hamilton, a Sheffield area woman is touting the need for greater restrictions on hunters in rural areas.
Charlie Bois, who hunts deer, rabbit, partridge and duck, appeared before Hamilton’s planning committee Nov. 20 to ask the city to join with about 160 of its counterparts across Ontario in permitting gun hunting on Sundays. Hunting with other weapons, such as bows, is allowed in Hamilton on Sundays, but gun hunting is prohibited and will only be allowed if city councilors agree to permit it.
The committee received Bois’s presentation without acting upon it, but sent out an email the following day denying the 36-year-old carpenter’s request. Bois told the Review last week that he intends to further pursue his request by circulating a petition to area farmers and local hunters. He is also receiving support from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), which is sending a letter to Hamilton council asking that the issue be opened up to broader public debate.
Meanwhile, Anne Dudman, who recently spent a month at the John Bayus RV Park at Sheffield and Safari roads in northwest Flamborough, is questioning whether too much freedom is given to hunters.
While she admits that her knowledge of a recent incident at the park is based on second-hand information, she was distressed to have learned from another park resident about three weeks ago that hunters had shot a white doe with a crossbow from their truck on Sheffield Road.
The story has been widely circulated around the park and has saddened many residents, who enjoy seeing the small herd of deer that inhabit the park.
The doe was reportedly inside the gate of the park at the time and the hunters did not have permission from the landowner, as required by law, to hunt on the property or enter the park to retrieve the slain deer.
Dudman, who recently began a lengthy vacation in Florida, expressed distress and outrage in a recent email, saying that she had often encountered the white doe and her fawn while out walking with her dogs. “I am appalled at this act of inhumanity,” she wrote. “The deer that roam on this property are practically tame because no one bothers them.” She described the killing as “heartless.”
“It scares the heck out of me,” said park owner Bev Bayus, when asked about the shooting, which she also heard about from other park residents. “In a residential area, you cannot be shooting bows,” she said, noting that the year-round, adult living park accommodates about 200 people, including some children, and she is concerned for their safety.
Bayus also stressed that she will never give permission to allow hunting on her property and that residents of the park are all “saddened and sickened” by the event. “What the hunters did was dangerous, reckless and ruthless.”
A representative at the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) Information Centre in Peterborough advises any landowner who sees hunters on their land without their permission to contact the MNR tip line at 1-877-847-7667 or their local police force. If they wish to remain anonymous, landowners are encouraged to call Crimestoppers.
Bois, who has no connection with the Bayus Park incident, hunts in Flamborough on Crown land and on private land with permission. “I don’t see any negative aspect to it,” he said of his request to allow Sunday gun hunting in Hamilton. Bow hunting is allowed on Sundays and people can also target shoot with guns on Sundays, he explained.
Bois said he left the recent committee meeting with the impression that city staff had been directed to do some research into his proposal and was surprised and disappointed to receive a staff email denying his request the next day.
While staff at the meeting indicated a willingness to look into Bois’s request, Ward 14 councillor Robert Pasuta said there was no motion from the committee directing staff to do so. Instead, it chose to receive the presentation and take no action. “There wasn’t an appetite for it,” Pasuta said of the committee’s response to the request for expanded hunting.
The email sent to Bois the following day by the committee’s legislative coordinator Vanessa Robicheau was simply to acknowledge his presentation and advise him that it had been received.
Bois is the first resident in his ward to request the hunting expansion since Pasuta became a councillor six years ago, the councilor noted. In the week following discussion of the proposal at the committee, Pasuta said he received one email from a ward resident supporting the idea.
Explaining that much of Flamborough is a “rural suburban area” inhabited by city residents who have moved to the country, he said many often hike through the surrounding countryside on weekends. They see Sunday as “a family day,” he said. “It’s a day when they can go for walks with their family and pets.”
The compatibility of Sunday hunting with hiking was also questioned by planning committee chair and Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark, who told Bois that hiking is one of the most popular pastimes in Hamilton and hikers have a tendency to go off the trails.
Bois said most trails are situated in areas where firearm discharge is prohibited.
Greg Farrant, manager of government affairs and policy with the OFAH, said the Peterborough-based, non-profit fish and wildlife conservation organization will soon be sending a letter to Hamilton asking the city to broaden the discussion about the call for Sunday gun hunting.
“We’ll be asking to be placed as a deputation on the agenda of a future council meeting,” he said, adding that they would have requested deputation status at the committee meeting had they known Sunday gun hunting was to be discussed.
Farrant said the OFAH supports the additional day of gun hunting for a number of reasons, including the need to cull deer populations for public safety. “There are 15,000 deer-vehicle collisions in Ontario every year,” he noted.
He also noted there are 440,000 licensed hunters in Ontario and their record of safety is commendable. During the past 10 years, there has been one accidental death of a resident attributed to a hunter and that hunter was subsequently cleared in court of any wrongdoing, Farrant said.