MNRF  focuses on hunter safety during annual deer hunt

MANITOULIN—“Our focus is on safety. Hunter safety has always been a priority but has become more of a priority provincially,” stated Peter Koskela, a conservation officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, on the eve of the Manitoulin Island deer gun hunt next week. “With hunter safety courses we attend, and courses, we remind hunters that accidents can happen to anyone, at any time. This can be the case for older more experienced hunter as well as inexperienced hunters.”

“Our theme this year is based on safety during the annual hunt,” said Mr. Koskela. “What we have seen provincially is hunting accidents are on the rise over the last few years.”

“Manitoulin Island is always very busy during the deer hunt,” said Mr. Koskela. “And because of this there is always the potential for someone being charged for infractions like shooting across roads for example when they are not supposed to. We are asking hunters to be sure of their targets, that it is indeed a deer they are shooting at, and keep in mind what is behind the area they are shooting at.”

“It is very important for hunters to be wearing the proper clothing during the hunt,” said Mr. Koskela. “Every year we lay charges for hunters who hunt with full camouflage clothing and not the required hunter orange hat and vest. Lots of people, for example, don’t wear the orange hats, even though it is a law. It doesn’t make any difference to the deer, they are colour blind, but it helps the person who is hunting in an area and thinks they may have a deer in front of them. If they see a hunter in orange clothing they know it is not a deer.”

“At the hunter safety presentations we attend we tell people, for instance, if they are not wearing full orange clothing they can be charged,” said Mr. Koskela. He said the MNRF checks for hunters who have a firearm in their vehicle, and reminds them that a loaded magazine cannot be attached to the gun, when they are travelling in a vehicle or walking.

Mr. Koskela said COs look for unencased firearms at night and several charges are laid every year with hunters for instance walking through the bush with an unencased firearm.”

“Hunters have to treat every firearm like it is loaded,” said Mr. Koskela. “We find cases where people wave guns around that are loaded in the area of other people. This is very unsafe, and a hunter can be subject to careless use of firearm charges on the spot.”

Mr. Koskela noted that alcohol and firearms are never a good combination.

Trespassing is another concern with the deer hunt every year, said Mr. Koskela. “Hunters need permission slips (as it is a requirement under their hunting licence). If you don’t have a permission slip for hunting on a particular property it is the same as not having a proper hunting licence. That is why the charge for taking part of this is so steep. I’ve seen charges and fines of $1,000 paid by hunters who are found trespassing and hunting.”

“You require written signed permission from the landowner to hunt, and has the current date on it,” said Mr. Koskela.

Tagging harvested deer properly is another important thing to keep in mind, for hunters, said Mr. Koskela, noting that the tags for Wildlife Management Unit 43B (from Burpee and Mills East) has been increased from 4,500 to 6,000 this year, and having the proper game seal to tag their deer, and not reusing tags is paramount for hunters to keep in mind.

“And hunters need to make sure they are hunting in the right wildlife management unit,” continued Mr. Koskela. “And, for instance, hunting three days and then leaving a camp, and a tag, for the camp to fill is a big no-no. The hunter who leaves their tag will be charged.”

Hunter tree stands need to be inspected to make sure they are still safe before someone uses them, said Mr. Koskela.

“Our first priority is that everyone is safe, and hunts saying and have an enjoyable hunt. We are not there to ruin anyone’s day, but we want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Mr. Koskela.

Mr. Koskela said although the MNRF will have between 7-10 COs patrolling the Island during this years hunt, “if anyone knows of any violations being committed we ask that they call the MNRF TIPs line at 1-877-847-7667. We appreciate the help we receive through these extra eyes.”