© Gary Kean
Ron Hicks, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitter's Association would like to see the big game hunting age lowered.
CORNER BROOK — While there are concerns about the dwindling big game population in the province, the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitter’s Association would like to see more younger people allowed to hunt.
Ron Hicks, the association’s president, said lowering the legal age to hunt could help the industry in the long run. Right now, a person has to be 18 years old to hunt big game and must be 16 to for small game.
Those age requirements are among the highest in the world and the association, in conjunction with the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation, has a proposal submitted to the provincial government to lower the ages.
“That’s the voice of the resident and non-resident hunter,” Hicks said of the support within the hunting community for this change.
“There are so many advantages to it, even from a management point of view.”
Hicks said with an aging population, it is important to instill good hunting practices in the younger generation if animals are going to continue to be harvested.
“We need hunters to take so many animals and we need young people participating,” he said.
Under current regulations, anyone who is 18 can apply and possibly get a licence, regardless of skill or experience. Under the association’s proposal, hunters under 18 would have to hunt with an experienced, licensed guardian or parent and be trained in marksmanship.
Lowering the age would be just one component of a sound management plan for big game. Caribou numbers have declined at an alarming rate and outfitters have already expressed concerns about the increase of 7,000 moose licences and an extension to the moose hunting season by four weeks introduced the last couple of seasons.
Without action to ensure successful rates for moose hunting excursions, Hicks said the outfitting industry and residential hunts will both eventually be in jeopardy.
He noted how in other areas of Canada where moose numbers are low, there can be as many as nine or 10 people per licence or a big game hunting season that lasts only three days. He said there is no reason why the vast wilderness available in Newfoundland and Labrador cannot have its moose population managed to where the traditional hunt can carry on for residents and outfitters alike.
“It seems so wonderful to be able to hunt longer, be easier to get a licence and to have more either-sex tags in the mix, but that is in the short term,” said Hicks. “The bigger picture is that, in short order, they will have to hunt harder, longer, spend more money and the whole experience won’t be what it was.”
The association, which will wrap up its annual general meeting today, was hoping to hear from Environment and Conservation Minister Tom Hedderson as its keynote luncheon speaker today, but the minister informed the group Thursday that he will be unable to make it.
Hicks said there will not be a replacement speaker and the association will use the time to continue addressing issues and concerns its members bring up.