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Make Hunting Season Safe for All!

By Doug Collicutt

November marks the start of rifle season for deer hunting in Whiteshell Park. Please be careful out there. Report unsafe hunting to the TIP line (below).

September 2022 Update: As of September 15, 2022 the inaccurate map of the no-hunting areas in Whiteshell Park remains on the government web site at the link below:

Whiteshell Park No-Hunting Map

This map suggests that the Hydro transmission line south of Star Lake is WITHIN the allowable hunting area. It is not, as I have demonstrated with the map below. Despite this issue being raised last year nothing has been done to correct this map and protect local residents and cottagers from harm. If anyone witnesses hunting within the 300 m buffer zone established by our government they should contact the TIP line immediately:

Turn-In-Poachers (TIP)/Forest Fire Situation 24 hours, in Manitoba: 1-800-782-0076

Hunters, please pass this information along to your fellows; the Hydro Line is not open for hunting until you are past the 3rd set of poles westward from the Blk 4,5,6 access road. And, please, remember that shotgun "blasts" and rifle "cracks" close to homes and cottages are very disturbing and disconcerting to local residents and cottagers. The Whiteshell is a big park and there are lots of areas well away from built up areas for you to hunt.

If you choose to hunt just outside the "300 m buffer zone" please be aware that folks use the trails, roads and snowmobile trails just south of Star Lake year-round for hiking, biking, dog-walking, berry and mushroom picking, bird watching, etc. They have a right to be out in the woods, just as you do, but it's up to hunters to keep others safe. While I encourage folks to wear high visibility clothing in the woods it is not acceptable to expect folks to stay out of the woods for the 3 months of hunting season.

Please review the Manitoba Hunting Guide 2022

[Hey, here's something to think about: A hunter reviews Park's current, inaccurate map and, in good faith, assumes he can hunt on the Hydro transmission line, whereupon an errant shot injures or kills someone walking near their cottage, or sitting in their cottage. What do you think a good lawyer would make of that?]

October 8, 2021 Update. Tragic hunting death a reminder to us all. Please read the response from Parks to my email of Sept.1 at the bottom of this page.

I have been a hunter, a trapper and I am still a fisher. I AM NOT OPPOSED to Manitobans taking from nature to feed themselves, so long as it is done safely and with conservation in mind. What I AM OPPOSED to is the ridiculously narrow so-called “safe buffer zone” for hunting within Whiteshell Provincial Park. That is the sole focus of this essay: SAFETY IN OUR PARK.

(Though this essay is primarily regarding the south end of Star Lake, I'm sure there are other cottagers and residents at other lakes facing the same issue.)

300 m is Safe?
Did you know that it is legal to fire high-powered shotguns and rifles 300 metres from a cottage development? In my case, at the south end of Star Lake, that is literally 300 m from my cottage. Modern high-powered shotguns can send pellets over 1 kilometre; rifle bullets can travel over 5 kilometres (Check the National Rifle Association's website for projectile ranges!). How can a mere 300 m be considered a “safe” separation of hunters from hikers, cottagers and residents?

When hunting was re-instated in the south part of Whiteshell Park in 2013, I and other Star Lake cottagers learned about the change the hard way, by running into people with guns on the trails behind our cottages. Parks did not see fit to ask or inform cottagers of the impending changes. There was some anger and media coverage at the time, but not enough people voiced their opposition back then; largely because the impact of opening south Whiteshell to hunting had little effect on many cottagers and residents. However, it had a major impact on those of us in areas like the south of Star Lake which hosts a great array of old roads, trails and a Hydro right-of way (ROW), all of which provide easy access for hunters.

(Depending on how your browser works you may have to open the PDF files below outside the browser.)

Maps of the Area
On the crude (and inaccurate) map provided on the Park website (Download the Parks map here 17 Mb PDF) the Hydro ROW is shown as OUTSIDE the NO HUNTING area. A more accurate map that I prepared using Google Earth (GE) shows that much of the ROW south of Star Lake is actually within 300 m of cottages! (GE measurements are accurate to several metres over a distance of a km or more.) On the map I prepared I've included the regular paths used by folks who enjoy getting off the gravel roads for a walk. (Download the map I prepared 5.4 Mb PDF.) (At the very least Parks must update their map!)

Here's the old map showing the former "No Hunting in Game Bird Refuge" area. That map was still on Parks' website for several weeks after they changed the rules without telling cottagers.

Text on the Parks' map states: “300 metre NO HUNTING areas exist on both sides of highlighted highways, access roads and trails (official Park designated trails only)”. It is legal to hunt on back roads, snowmobile trails and Hydro ROWs, so long as they are beyond this 300 m limit. Hunters are not allowed to shoot such that their projectiles pass through or enter the buffer zone. But that is exactly what I and others have witnessed on several occasions: shooting within 300 m of cottages and firing towards the buffer zone.

What happens if . . .
So, what if someone on the ROW or further out fires towards the cottages, won't the trees stop any bullets? I have stood on the ROW in late fall and winter when the leaves are off the trees and you can see light through the forest. I estimate there is at least a 5% chance of a rifle bullet making it through to cottages.

What about people out walking, skiing or snowmobiling on the trails? Lots of cottagers and residents in the south side of Star Lake use the trails (see map above) and roads on a daily basis, year-round, including during hunting season. Just as in the case of the CLISS controversy last year, where Parks made the assumption that we don't use or care about the area south of Star Lake (and were proved wrong!) it seems they are ignorant of the dangerous situation being promoted by a mere 300 m “safe buffer zone”. Because the trails we walk on every day are not “official trails” they are open to hunters. Hunters that drive in the Block 4,5,6 road and stop at the old road south of the Hydro line may have no idea how close they are to cottages and homes.

I'm including the video I made last year in relation to Parks' Cottage Light Industry Storage Sites proposal as it highlights the use of the trails and roads south of Star Lake. Ironically, had this development proceeded the area would be off-limits to hunting.

Hunting in Our Parks
The concept of allowing hunting in Parks largely stems from 1960's attitudes to Parks. Back then, when cottaging began in Parks, people's use of their “summer cottages” was largely restricted to summer. Nowadays many cottagers use their cottages year-round and there are many folks that now live permanently in Parks. And people's attitudes to using the “back-country” near their cottage is also much changed. Today's cottagers ride bikes, hike, walk dogs, pick berries and mushrooms, ski, snowshoe and snowmobile on trails and bush roads surrounding cottage developments. And they continue these activities year-round, thus overlapping with hunting seasons. All of us have the right to use our back-country areas in safety.

Firearms use in Whiteshell Park runs from mid-September until mid-December. You can download the Manitoba Hunting Guide to see when hunting seasons open in Whiteshell Park, which is located in Game Hunting Area 3. It is interesting reading for those unacquainted with hunting in Manitoba, but remember the issue here is strictly safety.

Why is hunting even allowed in our Provincial Parks? Turns out it is only allowed in so-called “wilderness parks”, those with large areas of natural lands where supposedly hunters can be well away from built up areas. The Whiteshell, because of its size, is considered to be such a “wilderness” park, but the notion that the south Whiteshell is a remote wilderness area is nonsense. On weekends the population of the south Whiteshell can be more than Brandon!

Why Raise this Now?
It is only this year that I thought to re-raise the issue of safety because of mounting hunting activity at Star Lake and discussions I've had my neighbours relating to troubling incidents they have experienced with hunters. I know the majority of hunters are responsible and careful, but, sadly, instances of careless and irresponsible hunting are mounting in our area.

I know Parks is concerned about the safety of park users, enough to have shot 7 or 8 bears in the Park this year when they were deemed to be a threat to people. It seems odd to view close encounters with bears as a threat and not view hunting close to cottages as a danger.

I think it's time to demand that a truly safe buffer zone be established in Whiteshell Park. Precisely what that should be needs to be determined, I know. I truly pray that it doesn't take a tragedy to bring about action on this issue, but I think it's only a matter of time. Government and hunting groups may spin it as a “freak accident”, or even blame victims for being in the bush at the wrong time, but I know it is “an accident waiting to happen”. I am voicing my concerns now so that my conscience will be clear that I have made an effort to avert a tragedy.

To Finish
Let me restate: I DON'T OPPOSE HUNTING and I don't have a problem with it going on in truly remote areas of our Provincial Parks. But my cottage is not in a remote area and I don't think I should have to dodge bullets whenever I choose to take a walk in the woods.

Thanks for reading this, I hope it at least stimulates some discussion on this issue. Please feel free to forward the link to this essay to whomever you choose. This isn't just a Star Lake issue, it's something for all Manitobans who use our Parks to think about.

If you witness illegal or dangerous hunting call the
Turn In Poachers (TIP) line immediately: 1-800-782-0076

Your Feedback

Got something to say on this issue? Then get in touch with the Minister of Conservation and the Director of Parks:

Jeff Wharton, Minister of Environment, Climate and Parks: 204-945-3730,
Rob Nedotiafko, Director, Parks and Protected Spaces:
Keith Hood, South Whiteshell Park District Manager: (204) 349-6015

Feel free to reference this essay, but your own words and experiences may be more effective.

There is no reason that we cannot establish safer “No Hunting” zones in our park. We have the right to demand that. If you don't speak up for safety in Parks then we all have to accept the crack and boom of hunting season and worry about our loved ones every time they visit their cottages in the autumn and early winter.

If you'd like your comments posted to this page then send them to me at the link below, but you must agree to having your name included with your comment (I don't tolerate anonymous trolls.). And, please, limit any comments to the issue of hunting safety in our parks. A discussion of the ethics and morality of hunting, and aspects of wildlife management belong elsewhere.

Star Very SmallGot something to say on this issue? Send it along via this Email Link.

On October 6 I received this email from Manitoba Parks:

Response to Doug Collicutt (PDF Email of Sept. 1)

My reply was as follows:

"In a tragic coincidence I received my government's reply to my email of Sept. 1 regarding hunting safety in our parks the day after a fellow lost his life to careless hunting just west of Whiteshell Park. I was disappointed, but not surprised by the content of the reply. This has only hardened my commitment to continue to advocate for the safety of my family, friends and neighbours, especially those at Star Lake where we are disproportionately at higher risk owing to increased ease of access for hunters to trails and roads used daily by cottagers and residents for recreation. I will be advocating for a return to the former designation of the south Whiteshell as a no-hunting zone.

There remains the issue of the inaccurate map on Parks' website depicting the Hydro transmission line south of Star Lake as outside the no hunting zone. The map I prepared with Google Earth (see above) and later ground-truthed is accurate. The posted map, at least, must be corrected. Even some local hunters have stated that an accurate map must be available to ensure their compliance.

I have posted Parks' reply on the Star Lake Cottagers website ( with additional comments and will circulate the updates to all my neighbours in the park."

CBC Report: Manitoba man dies after being shot by hunter, police say

CTV report: German hunter charged with manslaughter in death of Manitoba man

I know our government and Parks specifically will resist any changes to current hunting regulations in parks. I also know that, in a democracy, numbers count. Changes that make our parks safer will only come if large numbers of Manitobans demand them. If safety in our parks is important to you please don't be silent.

The folks to contact are listed above.

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