Bowhunting not a threat to public: hunters

Whistler council votes to explore options to outlaw the practice

Hunters in the Whistler area spoke out this week against a resident's proposal to ban bowhunting within municipal boundaries, saying the arguments for introducing the ban are based on misinformation.

Clarke Gatehouse, a hunter and president of the Pemberton Wildlife Association, said hunting accidents in general are very rare and he's never heard of a bowhunter hitting an innocent bystander.

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"(Hunting) is actually one of the safest activities," Gatehouse said on Monday (Aug. 2). "There's no statistics that show there's any sort of danger posed by bowhunters."

Last week, The Question reported that local resident Sylvia Dolson is lobbying Whistler's mayor and council to outlaw bowhunting in town. In a letter to council, Dolson wrote that bowhunting "presents a huge safety risk for residents and visitors" who could be using parks and recreational trails alongside hunters.

At Tuesday's (Aug. 3) regular meeting, Whistler council referred the issue to staff members to explore options to ban bowhunting within municipal boundaries.

Mayor Ken Melamed said he thought all forms of hunting were prohibited in Whistler and he was "surprised" to learn recently that bowhunting is allowed.

Curtis Christian, a longtime Whistlerite who has been bowhunting in the area since 1976, said the suggestion that mountain bikers or other backcountry users could get hit with a hunting arrow is "fear mongering."

He said after doing some research a few years ago he didn't find any cases of archery incidents in Whistler's past. He's also participated in group archery shoots with more than 300 people in the bush and there's never been an accident.

Christian said bowhunters typically try to stay away from mountain bikers and other backcountry users who often scare wild animals away. Plus, bowhunters need to be within about 25 metres from their target to get a good shot, and they can hear mountain bikers coming from more than 100 metres away.

"You're not just going out there shooting wildly," he said.

In her letter to council, Dolson also wrote that animals shot with bows "often suffer a slow and agonizing death" -another argument that Gatehouse refutes. He said a good hit from a bullet and a bow can be almost identical in the amount of time it takes for an animal to die.

"Today's modern bows are very efficient," he said.

Gatehouse said he suspects the people who might support a ban on bowhunting are simply against hunting in general. Many hunters are interested in conservation and responsible use of natural resources, he said, and hunting is a sustainable method of sourcing food.

"It's a good source of healthy meat," Gatehouse said. "If you eat meat or fish it has to come from somewhere."

Christian said his hunting practices are ethical and sustainable. He considers himself to be a steward of the Whistler area.

Whistler is one of the only areas in B.C. where bowhunting is permitted but using firearms is not, he said, and if bowhunting is banned here he'll have to drive to Pemberton or an area some 18 hours away for a similar experience.

However, Christian said he would support a ban on the use of crossbows in Whistler. Crossbows use a mechanized action similar to a rifle and do not require the skill and practice of archery, he said.

Christian said he invited members of Whistler council to have an archery demonstration at the practice area he's set up near his home in Creekside.

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