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 with Rob Miskosky

It's a Fine Line

“I’m not allowing hunting this year,” he said, looking genuinely disappointed.

“Why?” I asked, clearly shocked that one of my favourite landowners was denying me permission. Not that I had ever taken an animal from his land but it was a good spot to bring a partner with a mule deer doe quota licence, introduce him to Dan and fill a doe tag. I’d done this twice over the past five years, including the previous season after he’d pointed us in the right direction.

“We had too many problems last year. A couple of guys shot a moose right next to the house and somebody else shot a cow elk that died in my backyard. Neither had permission,” he replied. “I had to get Fish and Wildlife involved.”

I could tell he was uncomfortable. Over the years we had shared a beer and exchanged stories. He once even gave me and another hunting partner the use of his dad’s workshop to hang a couple of deer we had tagged—one from his land and the other from a nearby neighbour’s. His wife, Rebecca, is also a pleasure to talk to; they are good people and I send them this magazine each month in appreciation.

He apologized and offered that I should stop in again. “Things change,” he’d said.

Losing the opportunity to hunt their land wasn’t a huge loss but it bothered me. The actions of others had affected me personally and that didn’t sit very well. Hell, I’d never even fired a shot on their land in five years but was now being denied access.

Something wasn’t right.

I’ve spent the vast majority of my hunting life on Crown lands. To this day, my “home forest” is Crown land and it will remain that way. But I’ve enjoyed my yearly forays into the Peace Country. This part of Alberta has become a part of me that I can’t deny. The vast, rolling coulee’s and mixed forests that rise up to meet golden fields is a sight to behold. It truly is a wondrous place.

And there is an abundance of game, not so much now because of the “killing winter” of 2006, but more than can be seen in most parts of this province. But give it time.

Hunters are the best option for game population management.
Because of this, area landowners asked Fish and Wildlife for help—too many animals were being killed on highways and night-lit backroads in vehicle collisions, crops were being damaged and they posed a serious threat to possible human injury.

And with this help comes the hunter, those of us who love the outdoors, who cherish the time we spend afield and who enjoy the taste of wild game—we are the management tool.

And so we need each other.

And because of this need many friendships have been made between hunters and landowners.

But not all has been rosy.

Not only in this part of the province but province-wide there is a problem, and it is a serious one that needs to be addressed.

Honest, legitimate hunters, of which the majority of us are, I hope! are being tarnished by the acts of slob hunters, poachers and those who use hunting as a reason to vandalize by shooting signs and buildings, trespass and leave gates open, with alcohol being a primary factor—hooligans.

These people can also be rural residents close to the action when the season is right. People are people, regardless of where they live—urban or rural. These slob-hunters, poachers and hooligans have invaded our ranks and are making it difficult to create a situation where landowners and hunters can provide the service both require—the honest farmer, who needs or wants game control and the hunter who can provide that possibility have no chance as long as hooligans exist.

And Fish and Wildlife, who need a peaceful existence between hunters and landowners, are stuck in the middle of a situation created by the lack of ethics that exists within the ranks of a few.

Landowners are very dependant on the land that they own and in most cases make their living from this same land. So it is easy to see why a landowner would be concerned about allowing the use of his land for hunting purposes, especially if they have had a previous bad experience.

But many landowners are also very proud of their land and how they manage it and appreciate the opportunity to showcase that land to the general public. Why shouldn’t a landowner be proud—and protective—of what he has built for himself and his family?

Landowners also recognize the fact the hunters are an important tool for controlling game populations that can impact agricultural practices. But it is a fine line. Hunting seasons fall during that time which landowners are at their busiest. Greeting the hunting public on a regular basis can be tiresome at best. So it is easy to see how allowing the use of their land to hunters can be a high risk, high reward situation.

So, how do we create a situation where the hunter and landowner can exist together in harmony when there are hooligans out there destroying the hard work put in by both parties? That is the question that needs to be answered and answered soon.

There will always be the honest hunter who has to carry in the back of his mind—as he seeks permission—that fear of whether or not a previous hooligan has already ruined his chances at gaining access.

And there will always be that landowner who wonders whether or not that vehicle pulling up in his yard is hooligans or hunters.

It is a tough situation.

Is there hope for hunters and landowners?
“Tell them I want to take them out for dinner,” Alex said to Debbie over the phone. Alex Skoworodko is a local landowner who owns the Blueberry General Store, a store noted for catering to hunters. Alex works very hard at trying to maintain good hunter-landowner relationships.

And take us for supper he did. Both myself and hunting partner Pierre Frigon spent an enjoyable evening with Alex. We discussed several issues including hunter access, the current state of farming and different crop types and the way they are planted. You could tell Alex is very proud of his land.

He also puts up a big sign each year at his store welcoming Blueberry hunters. There is always hope, but it is a fine line that has to be treated with respect on both sides of the fence. If not, the many hunter-farmer friendships that have been created over the years will suffer greatly. We need each other... for many reasons. ■

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