DAN ANDREWS/Niagara Outdoors
My Son and I were walking a hedgerow checking “No Trespassing” signs when their guns erupted.
We knew there were at least four of them but if we wanted to hunt this property we had to police it.
A couple years before the woman of the house was told by a trespasser with a gun to get in her house before she got hurt and when the man of the house confronted him the trespasser claimed “No English” and carried on hunting. This enraged the couple and the police could do nothing if the men were gone by the time they arrived.
This is an extreme case of boldness but cut fences, open livestock gates and litter are common complaints about the hunting community.
We spotted the blaze orange vest near the end of the hedgerow. As we approached waving our arms and hats high in the air a large buck came between us and one of the trespassers.
My son and I are both still here to tell this story instead of being the headline but it easily could have been tragic.
We called the MNR enforcement hotline and monitored these men until they tried to exit the rear of the property and with no MNR in site we called the police who were quick to arrive.
In the meantime these bold trespassers became the focal point for my camera which reduced their egos substantially as they searched for safe passage to their vehicles which were parked in front of a No Trespassing sign.
For some reason they suddenly realized what they were doing was wrong and maybe even a little illegal.
This is an unfortunate scene that had been reproduced year after year in this neck of the woods until this day. The police did not seize any weapons and would not lay any charges but these men were forced to confront the landowners and use a lot of very fluent English to convince the landowners not to press charges.
Then my pictures were uploaded to social media where their coworkers recognized them. We haven’t had a problem since but they have simply moved on to lands beyond to play the same dangerous disrespectful game. Problem is this crew isn’t known to everybody. They’re just known as hunters which puts me in the same category as them.
When a police officer came to my door for my statement he mistakenly called them hunters so I corrected him. The proper term is poachers. A hunter is someone who the landowner gave permission to hunt on the property.
Trespassing for the purpose of hunting is very dangerous because if they believe no one is using the property then they won’t be hesitant to shoot when they see a deer.
If you are behind that deer you could be killed. By law gun hunters have to wear blaze orange so they can see each other but what about other people participating in outdoor activities that aren’t expecting hunters?
Hunters are well known for trespassing but they are not the only ones. Snowmobilers, and off road vehicles are also wearing out their welcome by cutting fences and tearing up the landscape on peoples properties. Last year a local farmer left a soy crop in the field because hunters and recreational off-roaders damaged his crop with ATV’s to the point it wasn’t worth cropping.
That farmer has never had a problem with hunters on his land until now and his gates are now well posted with “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs. The countryside is starting to resemble a commercial area with these signs popping up everywhere.
Fall is a great time for watching migratory birds stopping over on their way back to warmer climates. It’s also a good time to go horseback riding which are commonly large brown animals which are rode through farm properties where hunters are anxiously awaiting game animals.
Trespassing for the purpose of horseback riding can be equally dangerous for this reason. There are plenty of outdoor activities we enjoy in the fall that can end in tragedy if communication is not exercised by all. Rabbit, coyote and deer hunters should also have consideration for equestrian riders and livestock before discharging a firearm.
My hunting friends do not trespass. Most of them play the same role as I do. Reporting poachers should be at the top of everyone’s priorities especially law abiding hunters. Poachers are few and far between but they have a huge negative impact that affects us all.
They are hated by ethical hunters and even more so by landowners and people who already disagree with hunting. Unfortunately the threat of large cash fines, violently angry landowners or getting shot by other hunters isn’t enough to deter poachers.
Even if you do have permission to hunt a property never assume you are alone. Always wear blaze orange to your blind or stand and back. If hunting until dark be sure to whistle or make some other obviously unnatural noise until you reach a safe destination.
If poachers don’t follow some of the rules they likely won’t care that it is illegal to shoot after dark. Almost every hunting accident that has happened was because someone was breaking the law.
There are ways to deal with these people and the best way might surprise you. Invite an archer to hunt your land. If my son and I were not invited to hunt this property those poachers would surely still be creating havoc.
We were not even hunting at the time but it was in our best interest to ensure no one else was. Even uninvited all terrain vehicles could have spoiled our future attempts to get close to the wildlife. We called the police and followed up with MNR. We provided pictures and license plate numbers.
Adding this information to social media caused the poachers to be shamed by his friends and acquaintances. They haven’t returned for three years now and if they receive the same treatment by other members of the community they might rethink this strategy of trespassing altogether.
The shotgun season for deer only runs for two weeks in Niagara and only the southern half of the peninsula (WMU 89) can be hunted by gun. The first week ran from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11 and will resume this Monday Dec. 3 to Dec 9. The archery hunt will continue in the northern half of the peninsula (WMU 88) but will take a break in the areas of the controlled (shotgun) hunt. On Dec. 10, the archery will resume in these areas until the end of the year.
Hunters should remember that not everyone using the outdoors is wearing blaze orange and to be vigilant as our hunting areas are shrinking and more people are using the outdoors for other purposes. Permissions are just as much a legal requirement as tags and licenses and in many municipalities the bylaws require permission in writing while you hunt.
Bagging a buck in Niagara isn’t as hard these days as the deer are plentiful and those of us that worked to gain legal access to local land have our choice of deer to add to the freezer.
Ben Leger, a Conservation Officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources said that “During the controlled deer hunt in November 2012, Conservation Officers patrolling the Niagara Region and Haldimand County found the compliance rate in excess of 90 percent amongst hunters.” Common offences included not wearing enough blaze orange, forgetting to notch and attach their game seals immediately after a kill and hunting without their deer license and validation on their person. One misconception hunters have is that it is legal to trespass in order to recover a game animal.
This is not true and if a landowner refuses you access to recover an animal you dispatched before it entered their property you have no recourse.
Province wide statistics taken from the Ministry of Natural Resources website:
2010/2011 Enforcement Statistics
(as of April 19, 2011)
Total Charges: 6,162
Total Fines: $1,263,883.40
(Statistics for period April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011)
Conservation Officer Leger advises landowners and occupiers are encouraged to call the Ministry of Natural Resources TIPS line (1-877-847-7667) in order to relay the information of suspected or occurring trespass to hunt offences on their property. If it is an occurrence where they fear for their immediate safety then Police should be contacted.
Safe hunting, hiking and riding this week and as long as everybody is informed we should all be able to share the outdoors without any problems.