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Hunters shooting blanks in search for grounds

Most of the shooters snow geese see in Richmond these days are holding cameras. - file photo
Most of the shooters snow geese see in Richmond these days are holding cameras.
— image credit: file photo

Local hunters are discovering the most challenging prey in Richmond isn't the a sneaky snow goose or crafty Canada goose—it's land to hunt on.

Hunters are permitted on the farm fields of east and south Richmond, and only with a landowner's permission. But hunters are shooting blanks when it comes to tracking down owners as more farms are being bought up by holding companies.

"Now the owners are all in Asia someplace and impossible to contact," said Coun. Harold Steves, who raised the issue at a recent committee meeting of city council.

Steves said farmers should make the decision whether to allow hunting on the lands they lease.

"I've referred it to staff. I think we should amend the bylaw so they can just deal with the lessees rather than the owners."

Years ago hunters were permitted to bag snow geese and ducks feeding off the West Dyke. But following complaints, the city closed the area to hunting. Steves, who opposed the closure at the time, said that's contributing to the growing inland invasion of snow geese.

"It's all because of the hunting ban we have geese in the parks," he said.

Hunting in Richmond has nearly ground to a halt in the last few years because of changing ownership and city rules, according to Mike Thorne, president of the Richmond Rod and Gun Club.

"In the last few years a lot of our farmlands have been sold and bought up by holding companies and groups hoping that down the road they can get them out of the Agricultural Land (Reserve) to build condos or whatever," he said.

"Now where does a person go to get permission? Not even the farmers know, because it's gone to a holding company or a group."

The changing use of land, including the growth of berry farms in the east, which don't attract geese, further restrict hunters.

Thorne, who hunted outside the dyke decades ago, believes the land should be open to the sport once again. Hunters hold multiple licences, are well-trained and make significant investments in their sport, he said. With restrictions on direction and distance to ensure safety, Richmond would become a destination for hunters and give the city an economic boost, he said.

"It's safe. There's absolutely no reason it should be like this."

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