• MP a voice in the wilderness

    Rifle season for whitetail deer is underway in local wildlife units this week. There is no doubt that more hunters partake in this annual hunt than any other open hunting season. This is a time when family and friends take to the deer camp, finding camaraderie among those who enjoy the hunt. This is a time when the lone hunter can find solitude while on stand, pondering mother nature at it’s finest, forgetting about the stresses of work and the rigors of life. This week of rifle season will see many vacation days and doctor’s notes for local employers, sick days for children at school, and the unmistakeable symptoms of “buck fever” for those who have been anticipating the joys of early November since the previous season.

    Some of the hunters at the Miller hunt camp for deer season, from left,
    are Jake Forrest, Dan Banfield, James Forrest, John Burt, Cole Miller and Larry Miller.

    Earlier in the year, I was invited by local MP Larry Miller to visit the “Miller Hunt Camp” during the November rifle season. I took Larry up on the offer this past Tuesday as I stopped in to the shoot the breeze with the Conservative politician, his family and friends.

    The rugged cabin, located north of Hepworth, was adorned inside with the racks of whitetail bucks from previous seasons, a big bear rug, numerous framed photos and a magnitude of hunting memorabilia that only an outdoorsman can appreciate. Not all members of the Miller hunting group were present, as his father (at 80 years old) and a few other individuals were still on stand waiting out a deer. The mood in camp was still upbeat despite the fact that the “meat pole” out front of the cabin was barren of hanging deer.

    This moment with the local MP in his family hunt camp afforded me an opportunity to sit down and share stories and better understand an individual who represents Grey-Bruce on a federal level. Dressed in camo and enjoying a morning coffee, Miller explained to me the joys of the outdoors and the importance of hunting not just on a local level, but across the entire country. The Millers have been residents of Grey-Bruce for five generations, growing roots originally in the village of Clavering, raising families in a rural setting, working farms and building homes. The Millers are also ardent hunters, and Larry is a staunch supporter of hunting, fishing and conservation in the political scene.

    The topics thrown around the hunt camp table ranged from political hot potatoes like pipelines and education, all the way to familiar ground like outdoor recreation and gun control. When I asked Miller what he felt were the biggest threats to local hunting and fishing opportunities, he noted that “urban sprawl” was slowing taking up rural land. “Tourists from larger city environments visit Grey-Bruce and fall in love with the area. Many of these individuals then purchase land here and often post the property and will not allow hunting. This in turn limits rural land that was once open to hunting. Many folks who are new to the area may not be familiar with hunting, the importance of wildlife management, and the importance of available hunting opportunities”. He also stated that to many people “hunting is foreign” and without proper knowledge of the activity many people just oppose it. This is a sad but common theme with many anti-hunting advocates I have shared conversations with. Miller went on to highlight the importance of anglers and hunters as “stewards of the land” who take care of the resource that they enjoy.

    I quizzed Miller on his personal opinion on numerous topics, nearly all dealing with the outdoors. I asked what his thoughts were on the massive cutbacks in the works for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Miller, who has been a critical of the MNR in the past noted that he was “not happy” with many aspects of the ministry, but gave great praise to the Conservation Officers who enforce fish and wildlife laws. Miller suggested that MNR approvals for such things as water systems, aggregates and numerous other applications were being bogged down by the “politics” within the MNR. This is a concern shared by a vast majority of local outdoorsmen I know.

    When the talk turned to guns, Bill C68, and the death of the long gun registry I could see passion in Miller’s eyes. Larry, his hunt camp companion, and I discussed firearms licensing, education, and gun crime. He assured me that as of last week, the Federal Gun Registry documents were destroyed, aside from the muddling of the record in the Province of Quebec.

    Miller also went on to describe issues he believes still need to be tackled. One such issue was the purchase of ammunition. Miller believes that a licensed hunter in Ontario should be able to purchase ammunition for hunting without providing any additional licensing, aside from a valid outdoors card. He would also like to see the renewal period for PAL cards be extended to ten years as opposed to the five-year renewal terms with current cardholders. I wholeheartedly agree with this idea, and hope it gains popularity. Miller ensured me it was on his radar, even if he must introduce a private members bill to get it done.

    In Grey-Bruce, a rural lifestyle goes hand in hand with farming and an overwhelming percentage of local farmers hunt and own guns. This is a common ground for a large portion of the population locally, yet it is something that seems to be lost on people who do not understand rural life and hunting at all.

    Unfortunately, I myself do not have a “family hunt camp” at which to spend my week of rifle season. Most of my small family is located in the big city, and few of the remaining members are hunters. Spending time in a hunt camp is actually quite foreign to me, but I can see why it is such an important part of hunting season for many families in our region. As Miller put it, “Hunting is commonly misunderstood, and this week is not just about the kill, but more about the chance to get outdoors with family and friends, enjoying the hunt, and the joys, and nightlife a hunt camp provides.” A bonus is filling the freezer with the finest red meat in North America.

    I tend to avoid voicing my ideas on politics in my outdoors column, yet I find it hard not to applaud Miller for his dedicated work for outdoorsmen like me and you. It puts a smile on my face to know that someone who is familiar with hunting and fishing has a seat as my MP. Hats off to Larry, here’s to hoping that the Miller hunt camp has a few deer hanging on the meat pole at the end of the week, and maybe he can share some choice cuts venison with a few political friends at work who may have missed this extraordinary chance to enjoy the outdoors!
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