KAGAWONG – Billings Township is encouraging hunters—for this hunt season only and to help keep the COVID-19 pandemic at bay—to gather in reduced numbers at camps, and they will allow hunters to bring their own separate accommodations such as tents, trailers or separate buildings.
“One thing we’ve been talking about is the current hunting season, and there is a concern,” Billings deputy clerk Megan Bonenfant told members of council. “We have thousands of hunters that come to the Island every year and they for the most part all gather in hunt camps.”
Ms. Bonenfant said (in using information from the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit directly for hunters) the township posted a message on its website and Facebook page that due to the rising COVID-19 cases in the province, hunting groups at one camp be limited to 10 people or less to comply with Ontario’s indoor gathering limits. The exception would be if people can divide into groups of 10 or less, each with its separate accommodations such as tents, trailers, or separate buildings (and each of which would have its own specific indoor gathering limit). In this case, the maximum number of people allowed on the entre camp property would be up to 25 people (as per Ontario’s limit on outdoor gatherings).
“We realize this is a little contradictory to our trailer bylaw, to be asking hunters to bring their own trailers and stay in them, but in light of COVID-19 it would be better than have all the hunters staying in one camp,” said Ms. Bonenfant. “And our bylaw enforcement officer is on board with all of this,” she said, stressing, “it would be for this season only.”
As noted on the township Facebook and website, “the township realizes that this advice is, in some cases, inconsistent with existing prohibitions on tents/trailers. This is a compromise, for this hunting season only, to support everyone’s best efforts to protect themselves, their friends, family and community from COVID-19.”
“Due to rising COVID-19 cases in the province, Ontario’s medical officer of health is urging everyone to limit trips outside of home for only essential services like work, school, groceries, medical appointments and outdoor physical activity. In addition, travel to other regions of Ontario—especially those areas with high rates of COVID-19 transmission to places with low COVID-19 transmission rates—should only be for essential purposes as well. Please keep this in mind before deciding to go hunting.”
The notice goes on to state, “do not put other hunters or individuals at risk. If you’re sick with COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and self-isolate. Use Ontario’s online COVID-19 self-assessment tool to see what to do next or call the health Uuext. 5020. Ensure physical distancing on the drive to the hunt camp/site. Stick to two people per vehicle. The second person should sit in the back, passenger-side seat to ensure proper distance from the driver. Masks should also be worn on the trip. The only exception to this two-person limit is if travelling in the same vehicle with people from your own household.”
Hunters should, “pack supplies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Take soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, face coverings/masks and cleaning/disinfectant supplies.”
At your hunting site/hunt camp: “Keep your distance from others. While camp life is often communal, try to maintain two metres (six feet) from other hunters who are outside your household.”
“Bring your own tent/trailer in which to sleep and cook,” the notice continues. “This reduces your exposure to others. If physical distancing isn’t possible, wear face coverings/masks. This applies at camp or in hunting blinds (especially if enclosed).”
It is also recommended to socialize outdoors rather than inside buildings and avoid buffet-style meals. “Have people prepare/cook their own meals, ideally in their own tent/trailer. If eating a meal together, have one person make/serve the meal and have them wear a face covering while doing so.”
It was pointed out that conservation officers with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have the power to enforce and issue fines for breaches of COVID-19 gathering limits and other rules.