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Manitoba Tries to Reverse Hunting Decline

There are now only one-quarter as many bird hunters in Manitoba as there were two decades ago.

There are many different viewpoints about hunting - with perhaps the majority of people, particularly those who live in urban areas - being opposed to it. But several facts are indisputable. In most areas, the number of people who participate in hunting is declining. And that hurts the bottom line of government departments responsible for managing wildlife.

In the province of Manitoba, the number of resident game bird permits issued has dropped from 40,000 to 10,000 in the last 20 years. Tougher gun-control laws, peer pressure from people opposed to hunting, busier families and a generation of hunters who did not bring their kids along are all cited as reasons for the decline.

The Stony Mountain and District Wildlife Association, based in a community on the outskirts of Winnipeg, is trying to reverse that trend. In mid-September just as the waterfowl season was getting nicely underway in the province, they held a weekend introduction to hunting for young people. In Manitoba, people aged 12 to 17 can get a licence to hunt accompanied by an adult for $10.

Twenty-five young people participated in the weekend, which stressed safety and respect for wildlife and landowners. Experienced adult mentors are paired with the teens one-on-one, handing them shotgun shells one at a time and always staying within arm's reach.

On day one, it was primarily discussions, safety lessons, clay pigeon shooting, and demonstrations, including pointers on the art of duck calling by a former world champion. On day two, the young hunters went after the real thing, gunning for geese and ducks in the Oak Hammock Marsh area, which attract tens of thousands of waterfowl every fall.