Hunters and landowners are weighing in on the debate over possible changes to trespassing laws in Saskatchewan.
The provincial ministry of justice began seeking input on ways to address trespassing laws through an online questionnaire this fall.
Darryl Crabbe, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, has been involved in discussions with the province about how to find a compromise to address serious issues raised by rural landowners while still encouraging responsible hunting.
As a rural-based organization with 98 per cent of members living in rural areas, Crabbe said the wildlife federation is certainly aware of the legitimate concerns raised by landowners and is supporting the need to address those issues.
“If rural crime is the number one issue, and I think most people would agree that it is — that enhancing or strengthening the trespass laws are probably not going to have a really big impact on that,” Crabbe explained.
Crabbe pointed to Alberta as an example where some work has been done using phone apps to help provide hunters with access to contact information and ways to gain permission from landowners.
Several callers to John Gormley Live on Tuesday called it “disrespectful” and “downright dangerous” to not ask permission from a landowner to hunt or access their property for any reason.
A hunter named Christine said she sides with landowners on requiring permission before hunting.
“Cattle are getting shot, they’re letting cattle out because they’re not doing up gates, people are cutting fences or wrecking gates or driving on winter wheat,” she commented.
She said the situation can be quite dangerous when hunters don’t know where they are going or who else is out there.
“It’s almost scary to be down here and on land that isn’t posted because there could be four or five people on the same plot and nobody knows,” Christine said.
A landowner and hunter from the Hanley area named Lane called in to describe his frustration when people don’t understand or respect private property. He also raised the point about safety.
“Last year somebody shot a deer right behind my parents’ and my parents didn’t know they were there and they didn’t know my parents lived there,” he said.
Another landowner near Saskatoon named James called in to explain his family needs to have some form of control over who gets on their land because they raise bison which can get riled up by nearby hunting.
A few other callers disagreed with the need for change, arguing trespassing laws won’t curb the bad behaviour of some people who do stupid things and won’t respect laws anyways.
A hunter named Robert from Regina suggested an alternative system that he has seen work in Montana where land is presumed to be private and closed unless it’s posted as open to hunting.
“Where the area is posted open you pull up and there’s a sign-in box. You can see if somebody else has been on that day, you sign in with your hunting licence and you have access to the map that’s on that box.”
He added the landowners then get paid a small sum based on the number of people who have signed hunted on their property. He suggested that provides an incentive to landowners and to responsible hunters.