Cousins by colonisation, Australia and Canada share a fair few similarities. Except when it comes to the practicality of what game hunting offers as a resource for sustainability. Canadian politician and Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus chair Blaine Calkins told Madeline Fogarty he believed hunting should be used as a tool for management.
Blaine Calkins had every right to a little grizzle — his flight to Australia was just pulling away from the gate when the latest bushfire update forced him to can his appearances Down Under.
But he still had plenty to say about his hunting agenda.
While he couldn’t comment on the direct cause of the bushfires he used them as an example to shift the focus to proper management of both land assets and wildlife, quoting several examples of how ‘environmentalist’ intervention had negatively impacted animal populations and in some instances caused increased risk to humans.
They covered everything from animals declared off limits to hunters (leading to increased interactions between British Columbian grizzlies and humans) to the decimation of wild fish populations and other environmental impacts.
“There seems to be a large voice of armchair environmentalists that visit rural areas from time to time, thinking they know best how to manage those spaces,” he said.
“Environmentalists in Canada advocate for the protection of wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions, all the while blaming oil and gas exploration and forestry for the decline in caribou numbers.
“It’s nonsense, human activity has already affected the balance (of mother nature), we must always actively manage that influence now, not pretend human activity is somehow not part of the natural environment.”
He said the most recent example in Canada was the government decision in British Columbia to eliminate the grizzly bear hunt.
“With a thriving population, the relevant Minister admitted publicly this decision was based on emotions and not on science.
“Now, British Columbians are seeing increased human-bear interactions, as well as seeing other species of animals in the decline due to no apex predator controlling the grizzly population.
“The fact human development has made it easier for predation, now means we have to actively manage predator populations.”
Mr Calkins said there was a familiar threat hanging over the heads of sustainable hunters in Australia.
Without recreational hunting, farmers, landholders and others whose livelihoods are dependent on management of deer to reduce impact to their land, crops and animals will be negatively affected.
“It doesn’t matter what area you are in with regards to animal use, medical research, farmer, rancher, hunter, fisherman, we are all in this together,” Mr Calkins said.
“The first to be attacked is hunting and fishing, and if we ever lose those farming and ranching will be next.”
Mr Calkins called for unity and organisation to protect the outdoor way of life and preserving its traditions is important, something sustainable hunters in Australia are working to achieve.
“Hunting is an incredible tool for wildlife management,” Mr Calkins said.
“Active management of fish stocks, wildlife, forests and lands are vital to the long-term sustainability of our natural areas.
“As governments in Canada are responsible for ensuring viable populations of all fish and wildlife, fundamental to that success is the ability to use hunting or fishing to keep stocks in balance.”
Similar to Australia, in Canada wildlife conservation efforts are funded by the hunter’s voluntary time and money — with Canadians subscribing to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
“(The model) ensures wildlife will be here for future generations to enjoy,” Mr Calkins said.
“It is an important model as it means wildlife and fish in our environment are considered a public resource — a shared resource for all.
“They are publicly managed rather than everything belonging to private landowners.
“Many hunters and anglers also join conservation organisations and volunteer their time and after-tax dollars to assist in these efforts.”
He said while Australia in theory has a comparable egalitarian approach, the practical implementation comes up short.
With the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan entering its final year it is hoped it will lead to bigger and better things for recreational sustainable hunting.
And could be the start of Australia putting this untapped resource to use.
“The great thing about the North American model of wildlife conservation is we can argue who gets what fish, not who gets the last fish,” Mr Calkins said.
“Nobody respects wildlife more than those of us who invest greatly in the tools, time and knowledge to go out and sustainably harvest food for our families, and this is a misconception everyone who lives the outdoor way of life needs to help change.
“For me the ability to provide food for my family is meaningful, that’s why I have invested time and energy into its harvesting.
“The Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus is a collection of politicians who believe in, and live, the outdoor way of life, or represent rural areas that have many hunters, anglers and trappers.
“As a group, one of the biggest successes we had was when we were able to get the Liberal government to vote against one of their own backbenchers who had tabled animal rights legislation as a private member’s bill. This legislation could have resulted in many hunters and anglers facing criminal charges if they wounded or harmed an animal.”
Mr Calkins said he didn’t only preach sustainable ethical hunting, he practiced it.
“The most important rule is once you pull that trigger, everything after that is a consequence of that action,” he said.
“I always make sure when I take a shot, it’s an ethical clean kill, as well as a safe shot.
“If I make a mistake, it ruins it for everybody.
“So, ensuring you know your firearm, know your distance, know your target, and know what’s behind your target is crucial.”