The continuing saga of Sooke’s firearms and bow bylaw has taken another unusual twist.
Terrance Martin, a representative of the Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association, wants any bylaw passed by Sooke council to provide for an exemption on RU1-zoned land which many of the association’s members hunt on.
The area, owned by the Timberwest Forest Corp., has been available to licensed and insured members of the association for hunting and fishing since 2017. More than 500 hunters have registered access to the lands.
The ill-starred Sooke bylaw would prohibit this activity — a bylaw that has been before council five times without resolution — is unreasonable and ill-considered, Martin said.
“The area in question is remote from any populated area and access is controlled by a locked gate on Butler Main,” Martin said.
“This is not an area where the general public is permitted, and our association have invested time and money to arrive at this agreement with the owners.”
Martin pointed out a few additional salient facts he claimed have been either overlooked or ignored by the drafters of the proposed bylaw.
“The Municipal Act says that bylaws have to be consistent with the [official community plan] and the OCP says thatthe district should work to maintain the rural character of Sooke. Few activities define rural character more than hunting,” he said.
Martin said the bylaw may be unnecessary, given most of the concerns raised by the bylaw are already governed by provincial regulations.
That’s a position supported by Coun. Al Beddows.
“I think that maybe what we need to do is remove the bylaw entirely, or at least slim it down to address only those things that provincial regulations don’t address,” Beddows said.
“This whole thing (the proposed bylaw) has morphed into something it was never intended to be, and needs to be totally reworked.”
Martin also made a case that bows should be removed from the bylaw.
“Bows can be an effective tool in wildlife management and represent a very low risk of harm to people. In fact, we invite people to contact us for help in managing deer, geese, and other animals that are doing damage to their property.”
In response to those who would decry the concept of hunting on ethical grounds, Martin said the management of deer populations are best done through hunting.
“You have a problem with urban deer and every year people are injured and vehicles are damaged when deer are hit on our highways. Other methods of controlling deer are just not as effective and are hugely expensive,” Martin said.
“Take that money and spend it on other social issues. When we hunt the bucks, we’re preventing that buck from inseminating maybe 20 does. That is effective management.”
Council heard both Martin’s presentation and supportive presentations by a series of other hunters, but did not make any decision.
The firearms and bow bylaw is not expected to return to council soon.
“I think we realize that the whole bylaw has some flaws, and I anticipate that we’ll be directed to engage with this group (the Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association) and others before we return with any bylaw recommendations,” Sooke chief administrative officer Norm McInnis said.