Georgian Bay reignites Sunday gun hunting ban discussion

·3 min read

When Alan Sallows thinks about hunting, these words come to mind: bonding, memories and tradition.

“[I like] getting out in the outdoors, spending time with my grandfather, enjoying the harvest we can take at that time,” he said.

Sallows has been a hunter for over 25 years. It’s a pastime his grandfather passed down to him while he was growing up in Waubaushene.

Now, a resident of Georgian Bay, Sallows has shared the practice with his teenage daughter, Annie.

“She’s been coming with me since she was five years old,” he said.

Sallows and his daughter hunt ducks and deer starting in the fall, using either shotguns or rifles. He takes a week off from work to hunt — if he’s able to — or he hunts on Saturdays. However, being able to hunt on Sundays would be ideal, he said.

“[It’s] just to give the working force an opportunity for a day out to spend with their family and keep the tradition of hunting going.”

He said the hunters he knows would be in favour of it too, in spite of the opinion of some local seasonal cottagers, who, according to Sallows, look down on hunting.

“I’m not saying all seasonal people, but a few seasonal people can make it not-so-welcoming for Sunday hunting,” he said.

The township is reigniting discussions about Sunday hunting rules. At council’s next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters will deliver a presentation arguing in favour of opening up the township’s rules.

Councillor Cynthia Douglas said she and other councillors received emails in mid-December from people asking if the township would discuss introducing a bylaw to permit Sunday hunting with a firearm.

Douglas said she’s not sure how accurate the information provided in the emails is and wants to hear more feedback from people on all sides of the issue, including from the federation.

“I think this is an important issue,” she said.

Provincial regulations prohibit Sunday gun hunting unless a municipality chooses to allow it. As of Sept. 1, according to the Government of Ontario website, Georgian Bay, made up primarily of Crown land, is the only township in the District of Muskoka prohibiting Sunday gun hunting.

In 2014, Georgian Bay council held a discussion about permitting Sunday gun hunting. Douglas was on that council for the last term.

“I think we heard from a lot of people in public that were for and against,” she said. Council, in the end, voted against endorsing the activity in a “very close” vote, Douglas said.

The topic came up at council’s first meeting of 2021 on Monday, Jan. 11. Councillors, like Douglas, shared their perspectives on Sunday hunting and the next steps the township could take, including consulting with the Georgian Bay Hunters and Anglers Inc.

“It’s not a simple black-and-white question,” said Mayor Peter Koetsier.

The Georgian Bay Hunters and Anglers Inc. did not return a request for an interview in time for publication. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters did not respond to a request for comment.

Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Zahraa, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star