SUNDAY HUNTING – PROS AND CONS (December 1/15)

Reading all the information floating around out there pro and con on Sunday hunting, I found a remark made by a long time hunter and outfitter that really strikes home:  “To me,” the hunter said, “it (Sunday hunting) does not come out as a conservation effort.”

Now, opening for only two Sundays during the hunting season may not negatively affect wildlife populations but does it make sense.  Is it a good move when it comes to game conservation to add extra days to the hunting season, especially this hunting season when, according to recent reports, the deer population appears to be in trouble?

Also, by opening Sundays for hunting the Department of Natural Resources appears to be catering to a minority group, big game and small game hunters, and this isn’t a good move either.  In addition, the Department likely is fostering more anti hunting sentiments than now exists by opening the woods and fields on a traditional day of quiet and rest.

Let’s look at this “catering to minorities” to determine if it really is the case.  In 2014 the population of Nova Scotia was estimated to be 921,727.  The number of general deer licenses purchased in 2014 was 26,781, and the senior general deer license sales 11,667 for a total of 38,448. In other words less than one percent of Nova Scotians hunt deer and if Sunday hunting was implemented solely for them then it was a classic case of a tiny tail wagging a really big dog.  Even when you add in the number of small game hunters in the province, about 25,000 according to Natural Resources, Sunday hunting still favours a minority. Keep in mind also that those 11,667 senior hunters who purchased a license would have six days a week to hunt and normally wouldn’t need Sundays.

Anyway, the question is, why cater to this minority, this tiny segment of the population since as suggested, it may be an anti-conservation move to allow Sunday hunting and it definitely adds more tarnish to the hunter’s public image.   Further, the record keepers and statisticians at the Natural Resources wildlife division prepared a “public consultation report” on Sunday hunting which can be found on their website.  Some 21,118 people responded to an online questionnaire – Are you in favour of lifting the ban on Sunday hunting? – and 53.8 percent said no.  It may be a cynical observation but I bet all of the 46.2 percent of the respondents who said yes are hunters.

On my own I did a telephone survey of farmers in Kings County, an area where there is heavy duty pheasant and waterfowl hunting on agricultural land.  All of the farmers I contacted were against opening Sunday for hunting, dead set against it, in fact.  As one major landowner succinctly expressed it, “Hunters are a burden (to us) now, why give them more opportunities to hunt on our land.”

With so many people firmly against Sunday hunting, and with the potential of Sunday hunting to harm the hunter’s image, why did the Department of Natural Resources decide to go ahead with it anyway?  Perhaps one of the reasons can be found in the Department’s mission statement.  One of the Department’s goals reads the statement, is to “provide equitable opportunities for Nova Scotians to use and share the benefits afforded by wildlife species.”  In defense of its decision to allow Sunday hunting the government also said that this “strikes a balance that reflects and respects the wishes and needs of people on both sides of the issue.”

In other words, the minority that wanted Sunday hunting got it; to appease the majority opposed to it, only two Sundays were opened for hunting. Until this year, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were the only provinces with no Sunday hunting.  This may also have been factored into the government’s decision.  Note, however, that in provinces where Sunday hunting has been a fact for nearly a decade, most people still appear to be vehemently opposed to it.

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