The importance of safe hunting practices for the hunter and the public

            (EDITOR’S NOTE: Lindsey Leko has been a conservation officer with the Ministry of Environment for more than 25 years in Saskatchewan. Leko contributes a column to local papers on a variety of topics related to hunting, fishing, and other resource-related issues. Leko may be contacted at lindsey.leko@gov.sk.ca.)

            With hunting season now in full swing, it is a good idea to discuss some of the safety issues related to hunting in Saskatchewan. Hunting regulations are common sense and nothing in this column should be a surprise. Regulations are put in place to ensure safety for the hunter as well as the general public.

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            For the purposes of hunting in Saskatchewan, a firearm may be a rifle, shotgun, pellet gun, air gun, pistol, revolver, spring gun, longbow or crossbow. Most know it is unlawful to carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle, yet it seems to be one of the offences that officers deal with the most during the fall season.

            If a loaded firearm in a vehicle is an offence, then shooting from a vehicle including an ATV or snow machine is also an offence.

            If a hunter is one of the more traditional types who likes to hunt with a horse, remember that it is also unlawful to carry a loaded firearm on that horse.

            Knowing when and where to shoot is an important step to safe hunting. Ask any person living in rural Saskatchewan how he or she feels about someone who shoots too close to his or her home… there isn’t normally a favourable response.

            Shooting around occupied buildings, stockades or corrals is not allowed and is pretty inconsiderate to those inside the building, so unless the hunter has the owner’s permission, the hunter must be a minimum of 500 metres away from an occupied building or corral when he or she pulls the trigger. The animal that the hunter shoots at also has to be 500 metres away.

            Remember the fifth point in the 12 Commandments of Firearm Safety, which is to make sure of a target and beyond. A high-powered rifle has a dangerous range of more than four kilometres, so be sure the area beyond the target is clear.

            The ministry gets a lot of questions regarding hunting colours and what a hunter is required to wear when hunting. The best way to look at it is asking what the hunter is licensed to hunt at that time. Having said that, let’s look at October 1 in Zone 18 as an example.

            On October 1, there was a draw rifle moose season (rifle, bow, muzzle loader, shotgun and crossbow), a white-tailed season (bow, muzzle loader and crossbow) and an upland and migratory bird season. If a hunter has a licence to hunt white-tailed deer with a muzzle loader, he or she can wear camo even though there are people out there hunting moose with a rifle.

            When a hunter must wear colours is during a designated rifle season, much like the white-tailed deer season that opens on November 20.

            If a hunter is hunting moose and white-tailed deer during a designated archery, muzzle loader and crossbow season, then the hunter can be in camo. If he or she is hunting moose with a rifle, then he or she has to be in colours.

            In summary, if a hunter is hunting with a rifle, accompanying a person who is hunting with a rifle or is hunting in a designated rifle-only season, the hunter most wear lawful hunting colours. Lawful hunting colours include a vest of scarlet, bright yellow, blaze orange or white, or any combination of these colours or a high-visibility safety garment with a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) label stating CAN/CSA 296. Headwear (such as a hat or toque) of scarlet, bright yellow or blaze orange must be worn.

            I recommend the hunter wears colours that are visible to others for safety reasons.

            Lastly, alcohol and hunting don’t mix in any situation. As with boating, there is no room for anyone to be out hunting and drinking at the same time. Some feel that it is an offence only if the hunter is impaired, but the regulation only states that the hunter has to be intoxicated of under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The consequences to this are severe when a hunter gets caught and worse if something happens.

            What if I shoot an animal and I cannot find it when legal time has expired?

            If you happen to wound an animal and legal time has passed, contact the Turn In Poachers line which will arrange for an officer to get hold of you. Remember to put your firearm away until you have direction from the officer because carrying a firearm is proof of hunting and you do not want to be doing that when it is dark.

            The same goes with any animal that runs onto posted land. If that happens, you must get permission to set foot on the land. If the landowner doesn’t want you on his or her land, simply contact the Turn In Poachers line.

            If I am hunting in a designated rifle season and my spouse and kids come along, do they have to be in colours too?

            Any person accompanying a big game hunter must also be dressed in the legal colours and be wearing a hat of any of those colours.

            Even if your spouse has no desire to get out of a vehicle, he or she still has to be wearing the right colours.

            Is it legal to shoot from a road in Saskatchewan?

            It is unlawful to shoot along or across a highway or municipal road; this definition also includes shooting from a road. You may shoot from the ditch (one step off the road itself) provided you are shooting away from the road, it is safe to do so, you are properly licensed and you have access to the land on which the game is located.

            This regulation applies to all highways in the province as well as to all municipal roads as shown on the most recent version of the Saskatchewan Official Road Map.

            Can I use electronic calls for big game, or two-way radios?

            Use of electronic calls for hunting big game is completely legal as is the use of two-way radios while hunting or pushing bush.

            Are crossbows legal to hunt with in Saskatchewan?

            Yes. In the Regina and Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Prince Albert Wildlife Management Zones (WMZs), a crossbow can be used in all open seasons. In all other zones, crossbows may be used during the muzzle loader and rifle season only.

            People with further questions regarding regulations may consult the 2016 Hunters’ and Trappers’ Guide or contact the nearest conservation officer.