Small game season opens this weekend in many areas and the big game seasons will open soon. This means that there will be many hunters travelling the back road and rural areas in the coming weeks, and the Ontario Provincial Police urges hunters to ensure that hunter safety and being prepared are kept in mind when venturing out for the day.
“Our detachment members will be working closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) conservation officers throughout the hunting season to ensure that hunter safety and ethical hunting practices are in the thoughts of all hunting enthusiasts using Sudbury and Espanola area forests,” said Sudbury/Espanola OPP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Garry Mills.
Following are some things to consider when planning your day in the bush:
-Ensure that you have the appropriate hunting licences for the game that you will be hunting. It is your responsibility to know the game possession limits for your hunting area, as well as the hunting season dates for your wildlife management area.
-Check your Firearms Licence (Possession/Acquisition or Possession Only) to make sure that they are current. You must have a current licence to carry a firearm and have it with you.
-When transporting your firearm and ammunition, ensure that both are secured properly. It is an offence to have a loaded firearm in your vehicle, ATV or vessel. All firearms must be unloaded and encased between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise.
-Hunter orange is a must. All hunters must wear a hunter orange garment and a hunter orange head covering of some sort. The more visible you are, the safer you will be. Check the regulations regarding these requirements.
-Tell someone where you will be hunting and when you expect to be back. Take a cellphone with you if possible. If you are walking, let someone know where you will park your vehicle. If you become lost or injured, this will save searchers a great deal of valuable time if they know where to start.
-Dress for the weather and wear proper footwear. Fall weather can often change quickly.
-Be prepared. Pack items such as water, snacks, matches, a first aid kit, map, compass, knife, flashlight and perhaps extra gloves/socks and a wind-breaker. If you are lost, run into bad weather or are injured, you can look after your immediate needs and stay warm. A GPS is always a good idea. If you are using a vehicle, be prepared for breakdowns. If you are with others, FRS “walkie talkies” can be handy, too.
-Hunt only where you are permitted and stay off private property unless you have written permission from the land owner.
-Hunting by night (jack lighting) for big game species such as deer, moose and bear is not permitted and is very dangerous.
-Practise safe firearm-handling practices. Treat all guns as if they are loaded. Ensure that you safely carry your firearm. Never let your firearm “cover” anything you are not willing to destroy. Keep the safety on and finger off the trigger until you are actually going to fire. Be sure of your target and beyond. If you are not sure of either, do not fire and wait. You are responsible for the rounds you fire, so make sure of what is beyond your target and what your target is. There may be others in the forest close by.
-Unload and “prove safe” your firearm before you put it away or get into your vehicle. This means unloaded, with the clip/ammunition removed and the safety on.
-Alcohol/drugs and hunting do not mix — period. Be alcohol/drug free while you are hunting and ensure that all members of your party do the same. The consequences can be tragic.
-When using an Off Road Vehicle or ATV, it is your responsibility to abide by the relevant legislation pertaining to its operation and the carrying of a firearm while travelling.
-Show consideration for others using the forest. If someone approaches you, unload your firearm as a courtesy. If the area is busy, consider a different area to hunt.
Hunter safety is everyone’s responsibility. The OPP encourages all Ontario residents to practise safe and ethical hunting practices when using Ontario’s forests.
For more information about hunting regulations go to www.mnr.gov.on.ca or contact your local MNR office.