Hunters would need written permission before their next trip onto private agricultural land, if the Manitoba Beef Producers gets its way.
MBP will be lobbying to extend signed landowner access rules for hunters and require written permission from landowners.
The province currently requires hunters to get permission before hunting or retrieving game animals, regardless of whether property signs are posted. The 2018 Manitoba Hunting Guide, however, makes no specific mention of written permission.
Why it matters: Farmers have become increasingly irked about hunters trespassing on agricultural land. Now, Manitoba Beef Producers is arguing that written permission rules might help enforcement.
The issue came before the Manitoba Beef Producers during its annual general meeting Feb. 7, gaining majority support. The late resolution asked MBP to reach out to local governments and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and, through the association, lobby the provincial government for the regulatory change.
Fred Tait, who brought forward the motion, argued the change would make it easier to catch those hunting without permission, as well as reduce the risk of retaliation, which he says farmers currently face by bringing charges against trespassers.
“It has been known that a gate can get left open; something can happen to a tire or piece of equipment. You think twice before you lay a trespass charge, because you have to prosecute it, really,” he said. “You have to go in court. You have to testify.”
Written permission would make the process more automatic, it was argued. Any hunter failing to produce written permission could then be automatically charged by the conservation office, rather than requiring the producer to formally press charges.
Tait is not the only beef producer frustrated.
Similar issues made headlines in 2017, when the discovery of gut piles in a Reston-area field sparked a provincial investigation.
At the time, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation pointed to a lack of conservation officers compromising enforcement.
Ramona Blyth, a producer from MacGregor and recent MBP director, spoke in favour of the motion Feb. 7.
“I think it’s important that we move forward with this so that we as landowners know who is out on our places and that officers have the right to charge these people who are not hunting with permission and written permission,” she said. “There’s really a difference between written permission and verbal permission.”
Former MBP president Heinz Reimer, however, argued that the resolution painted all hunters negatively and that most hunters are respectful of landowners.
“I think probably the ones who are doing the trespassing, you’re not going to get them to change their minds by getting them to have a signed piece of paper,” he said.
Get it in writing
Verbal permission is not sufficient, the motion’s supporters also argued, saying that such verbal permission is too easy to bluff, while cellphones and texting should limit the inconvenience of collecting written permission from a landowner.
One producer relayed her own, independent, experience with the issue. Neighbours had confronted hunters shooting at deer on her farm’s land, she said, only to be told they had received verbal permission by the landowner. After being sent a photo however, she confirmed that the hunters were strangers.
“It’s really easy to say, ‘Christian said I could,’” she said.
Written permission could be faked, Tait admitted, but maintained that such deception would add an extra layer of severity to anyone caught in the lie.
Tait says he has heard of several instances where producers faced retaliation after pressing the issue with uninvited hunters and that he, himself, has land that is ripe for such issues. Tait has named 125 acres to a conservation agreement, land that he says is now prime land for hunters as areas around it are broken for annual crops.
“It’s becoming more concentrated because that’s the only place where there’s game and habitat is where we cattle producers are,” he said, adding that written permission would be a “tremendous deterrent.”
MBP general manager Brian Lemon likened the argument to the organization’s long-standing efforts around informed access rules for Crown land.
“This is about a sort of respect of people’s property,” he said. “We would suggest that it only makes perfect sense and it’s a common courtesy that if you were going to walk on somebody’s property that you would at least work with that producer and talk to that producer and get permission from that producer.”
MBP argues that specifying written permission adds an official layer to that permission, he said.
MBP has also been called to reach out to the Keystone Agricultural Producers to garner its support on the issue.
Tait says he expects it will be several years before any meaningful action takes place.