by Don Graham
Grizzly bears will soon emerge from their winter dens, and you will shortly see them lolling about on the grassy roadsides nibbling on wild flowers.
A proposed regulation would make it illegal to shoot grizzles during the spring hunting season within 30 metres of the centre line of a highway in southwest Yukon. But the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board has come out against this plan. Here is what I told the board when it requested input on whether new restrictions should be put on shooting these animals.
I would agree that it is a very good start to changes that will eventually have to take place in these changing times and our growing population and safety responsibilities. I do not think the 30 metres is wide enough when considering the range of a high-powered rifle, and I can see no reason why it should not be in effect for both spring and fall hunts.
I have lived in the Yukon for over 50 years, and have mainly hunted sheep and moose for 25 of those years. My bear encounters have been numerous and all favourable.
Now I only hunt mallard ducks by canoe for the challenge and grouse with my dog; I get just as much excitement stalking big game with my camera. My experience gained hunting bear many years ago was abruptly stopped when I viewed a kill site and the bear resembled a human being when it was skinned out.
It also seemed like a complete waste, as we only kept a small portion for consumption. Though it was quite good eating, the fellow that shot the bear took the skin home and likely never looked after it properly, as the hair fell out and he subsequently threw it in the garbage.
All I remember of that hunt was as we approached by riverboat what looked like a really large black bear, light brown in colour, stepping out from a thicket of large black poplar trees on the river edge and stood broadside to us. With a brilliant evening sun shining on him, his fur simply glowed. What a picture that could have been!
Of course, when we landed, it was only a small two- or three-year-old lying there and did sort of resemble a human. Thankfully I didn’t pull the trigger. No, the only bear I would have shot after that wasteful encounter would have been a bear charging within 50 feet of me with the first shot over his head, if I kept my nerve. That bear pelt I sure would hang on my wall and tell my great grandchildren (I have six) the exciting tale. Now, that’s what I would call a trophy.
It is not a trophy when you shoot a bear who is minding his own business in the ditch on the side of the road eating his favourite wild flowers. You step out of your vehicle, placing your elbow on the hood of your vehicle so you won’t wiggle too much, look through your 10-power scope and pull the trigger. Then to have the audacity to complain about bending over to skin the bear out because your poor muscles are so sore from sitting in your vehicle for the last seven boring, boring hours.
Upon reading some local newspaper articles last fall and also a Maclean’s magazine with a similar article, what I have observed is that the hunting lobbyist’s argument is that, “it’s their right” and “bears are public property.” It brings to mind our southern neighbours’ problem that they will never solve, “American gun culture.” It is a sad situation with their uncompromising determination to not change with the times. It may have been justified back before the Boer War but it isn’t justifiable in the 21st century.
I would suggest the Yukon Fish and Game Association take a low-profile stance and not force what they consider their rights or entitlements. And don’t go around showing a picture of yourself standing by your so-called trophy moose kill or any other wild game kill. I did this to my niece many, many years ago and got quite an earful from her.
We as hunters have to understand that the vast majority of Canada’s population, including the Yukon, simply frown on this sort of activity. And I always say: if you don’t eat what you shoot, don’t shoot it. That means bears and wolves too.
Don Graham lives in Whitehorse.