Curtis Gervin wants more action on informed land access after he says one of his cows was shot in the head on his southwestern Manitoba farm.
Gervin, who farms near Reston, noted blood and swelling on the face of the animal after going out to feed his cattle one morning, soon after the start of hunting season. He immediately took pictures to document the incident and to consult with a veterinarian.
The animal has since been treated with pain medication and antibiotics and is mobile and eating. She still had swelling around the wound as of the third week of November, and Gervin says he is monitoring the cow, but is reluctant to expose her to the stress of being brought in from the herd and transported to the veterinarian 100 kilometres away if she appears to be recovering in the field.
The cow’s head has not been X-rayed and no bullet has been recovered, although Gervin says he, his workers and his brother, who is a veterinarian, have all concluded that only a bullet could have caused the wound they observed.
Gervin posted the incident on social media, garnering a wash of similar stories and frustration from producers having to “run people off” their land for improper hunting.
Why it matters: Hunters must ask for permission to access private land, and most do, but the few rule breakers have sparked bubbling frustration from farmers, who say they want more enforcement.
Gervin draws a sharp line between the many hunters he deals with, who he says are overwhelmingly respectful, and those he suspects shot his cow in what he calls a, “random act of stupidity.”
“I don’t blame hunters,” he said. “The hunters that I know, who hunt on our land. They’re great people. They ask. They don’t go where they’re not supposed to go. I don’t want to paint hunters that way.”
The timing of the incident does not take into account the similar problem that plagues rural Manitoba throughout the year, he argued, although he admitted that the problem may intensify during hunting season due to the increased number of people with guns in the area. At the same time, he argued, bins and signs turn up with bullet holes throughout the year.
All of those incidents underscore a larger issue with enforcement, Gervin argued, pointing to the relatively few conservation officers responsible for wide swaths of land.
“Let’s concentrate on the bad apples and figure out a way that we can eliminate them,” he said.
Gervin suggested that an apprentice program, which might require new hunters to hunt with an experienced hunter for a certain number of years, or stiffer fines might help address the problem.
Land access for hunters has been a long-standing file for organizations like the Manitoba Beef Producers. Last year, the group passed a resolution pushing for the province to add a written permission requirement for hunters accessing private land.
Beef producers, including Gervin, have argued that a written requirement would make enforcement easier and take the onus off of landowners when it comes to charging those hunting on land without permission.
“We know there are some challenges out there on the landscape,” Manitoba Beef Producers general manager Carson Callum said. “We just continue to advocate for policies and practices to try to, again, ensure the safety of people and livestock when you think about hunting.”
There has been no policy change from the government to date, he noted, but said MBP is still lobbying the province on the issue.
Producers have argued that texting and email makes it relatively simple to gain written permission, even if a landowner lives on the other end of the province or is away from home.
Manitoba Wildlife Federation managing director Carly Deacon wholeheartedly agrees with the need for respectful relationships between hunters and landowners, although she argued that the logistics behind a written permission requirement are more complicated than proponents consider.
“As a hunter myself, I completely understand where the landowners are coming from,” she said.
A written permission requirement would encourage relationships between hunters and farmers, help eliminate misunderstandings and confrontation and put more responsibility on both parties, she said.