Hikers on the local mountains have voiced their concerns over run-ins with hunters on area trails.
Hiker Heather Kaye said her group was on the marked “blue” trail on Maple Mountain earlier this month when they ran into a hunter, complete with face-paint and camouflage, carrying a rifle and a knife.
She said the man was surprised to see people “way out here” but didn’t seem the least bit worried when told he was on a well-established trail and only a half an hour from the Maple Mountain Road parking lot.
“It was for sure an unusual and somewhat frightening incident to encounter somebody who clearly was unaware of where they were and who also didn’t seem very concerned that there were lots of people out and around him,” Kaye said. “I wasn’t clear on the boundaries myself at that point so I didn’t say much…but we decided to cut our hike short because we didn’t feel safe.”
Minutes after they parted ways with the hunter, they heard a shot.
“That was scary,” Kaye recalled. “We all dropped to the ground.”
Say said another woman related she’d also run into the hunter around the same time and was told she shouldn’t be sitting where she was because he could have shot her.
Kaye said they passed yet another group of hikers who were just setting out and stopped to explain the situation. That group opted to skip their hike altogether.
“It’s a safety issue,” Kaye explained.
When she got off the mountain, Kaye reported the encounter to the Municipality of North Cowichan. Staff there directed her to the RCMP, who in turn pointed her at the Conservation Officer’s Service. Nobody could be reached at that office.
The incident has left her, and others, leery about returning to Maple Mountain.
“I need to do some more investigating but it certainly does make me think twice about using areas that you think are free of potential gun use, particularly with kids and dogs and that kind of thing,” she said. “Maybe there needs to be more signage or more public notices or that sort of thing.”
Kaye said she understands the issue isn’t unique to Maple Mountain either.
Reports of a hunter using a bow and arrow on Mount Tzouhalem have also emerged.
“If this is becoming an increasingly common issue then perhaps there needs to be more public awareness,” Kaye suggested. “I have nothing against hunting and certainly would think that the majority, if not all, of hunters are extraordinarily responsible and are hunting within the proper marked areas and following all of the safety protocols. It’s just when you’ve got someone who is unaware they are in a designated recreation area, that’s not designated for hunting, that’s where the issue lies.”
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP spokesperson Krista Hobday said despite the perceived threat to public safety, it isn’t a police matter “at this point.”
“… where the boundaries are for hunting is best asked and answered by Conservation,” she said.
The Citizen is waiting on a return call from the B.C. Conservation Service.
North Cowichan Parks and Recreation director Ernie Mansueti said it’s “definitely on the radar to review areas and existing bylaws.”
“The Forest Advisory Committee, at a recent meeting, were reviewing hunting activity within the Municipal Forest Reserve and where firearm and bow discharge is permitted within North Cowichan,” Mansueti noted. “The committee discussed a number of areas within the forestry reserve. Staff and committee members want to meet with the local conservation officer and bring back a recommendation to the committee.”
North Cowichan’s firearms bylaw currently shows Maple Mountain as not permitted for firearms discharge.