Parry Sound, Almaguin hunters say new firearms ban didn’t alter hunting season, but COVID-19 did

·3 min read

Parry Sound-Almaguin hunters say they feel targeted by a federal firearm ban that came into effect in May, but they don’t believe it influenced the recent hunting season.

Bruce Hatt, a member of the Parry Sound Hunters and Anglers Association, said that the association supports safe hunting, gun handling and shooting sports.

“The regulations that are out (now), do not do anything for safe hunting, they do not do anything for crime — they do not do anything for anybody, honestly,” said Hatt. “The guns they’re banning are as dangerous as the people that are using them.”

On May 1, 2020, the federal government prohibited nine types of “assault-style” firearms as well as placed new restrictions on muzzle energy, which determines the damage a bullet can do, and the bore diameter, which is the calibre of gun.

“If you’re a safe gun handler, there’s no reason those guns should be banned — there’s no justification for it,” he said.

Asked if the new firearms ban had any effect on the recent hunting season, Hatt replied, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Most of the guns that were banned are target rifles used for recreational shooting — the guys I hunt with use the same rifles they’ve used for the last 20 years,” he said.

However, the pandemic did impact the hunting season, according to Hatt.

“We have people from all over the province come to our camp. A lot of people decided not to come; a lot of us stayed in different locations, met in the morning and social distanced in the field, which was easy to do,” he explained. “But it did impact it — there was a lot people that opted out.”

In Sundridge, the Eagle Lake Gun Club has been operating for over 60 years and has over 550 members.

Peter Turnbull manages membership for the club and has been hunting in Almaguin for years. He said that in the Parry Sound-Muskoka region, the federal gun ban doesn’t have a big impact; however, the issue, according to Turnbull, is it doesn’t target the right group of people.

“There’s about 2.3 million people that are lawfully licensed to have firearms — we’re not the problem,” said Turnbull. “We go through extensive training just to be able to have that privilege.”

The firearms ban didn’t affect the hunting season in his opinion, as he said not many hunters would consider hunting with the calibre of rifles listed in the prohibition.

“For the most part, the AR-15 are .223 calibre, which isn’t suitable for bear hunting or any big game,” he said. “But there are cases in places, especially up in the far north, where people are using stuff like that.”

Echoing Hatt’s sentiments regarding the pandemic’s effect on the 2020 hunting season, Turnbull said there were less hunters at his camp.

For both Hatt and Turbull, the emphasis is on the safe handling of guns.

“We have to go through courses to get firearms, it’s very regulated, it’s very safe,” said Hatt.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After seeing a release about a recent federal firearms ban, our reporter wanted to find out if hunters in the Parry Sound, Almaguin region found the firearms ban to alter the hunting season. With the pandemic entering the second wave during the hunting season, she thought it was important to find out if hunting had seen a decline.

Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star