Cottage Q&A: Hunting rules in cottage country

Published: October 21, 2020

A hunter and his dog in a pine forest By ShusterKarl/Shutterstock

We have heard hunters shooting in the woods near our cottage. We’re now afraid to go out for walks. Are there rules around how close hunters can go to cottages?—Paulette Claybourne, via email

For the most part, yes. “Hunting is very heavily regulated,” says Brian McRae with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. “At the provincial, federal, and municipal level.”

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Nobody can hunt on your private property without your say-so. And many provinces’ hunting laws limit how close a hunter can discharge a firearm to occupied buildings or dwellings, at least without special permission.It varies: in B.C., it’s 100 metres; in Alberta, 183 metres; in Newfoundland and Labrador, 300 metres. On top of this, many municipalities have their own “discharge of firearm” bylaws that could restrict hunting in close proximity to houses, churches, schools, parks, or entire residential areas. To find out about your local bylaws, check your municipal website. (They’re almost always posted online.)

We get why you were freaked out. Guns are loud. “And it can be very difficult to determine where gunshots are coming from,” says McRae. But that means the actual shooting may have been farther away than you think. And it may not have been hunters at all. “This could have been someone shooting clay pigeons down on the farm,” says McRae. “Repetitive shooting is a telltale sign of that.”

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But if you’re scared that a gunshot injury is in your future, the data just doesn’t back it up. “Statistically speaking, hunting is one of the safest activities out there,” says McRae. (We checked. Stats say that more people are injured playing baseball, tennis, soccer, or volleyball; or while golfing, cheerleading, jogging, or swimming. And more people die from falling, choking, or while walking around. In the city. Not in the woods.) The incidences of hunters unintentionally shooting non-hunters are so rare that “they’re practically non-existent,” says McRae. “People really don’t need to have that fear.”

Got a question for Cottage Q&A? Send it to answers@cottagelife.com.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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