Teaching youth responsible fishing and hunting

Brian Atherton has been the president of the Smithers Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club for the past 4 years. The club is approaching 94 years and in the past has been active in activities such as stocking lakes and introducing Pheasants into the wild. They have worked with several outfits, including the BC Wildlife Federation, to promote conservation and safe, ethical, and responsible fishing and hunting.

For the past three years, Brian has spearheaded several programs to get the youth in the community involved in the Rod and Gun Club and to learn about safe gun use. As president, Brian wanted to make the Rod and Gun Club a fun and safe place to be. He wanted to create a safe learning environment that parents could bring their children to and know that they would be led by responsible people.

Here are a few initiatives Brian has worked on with several other volunteers at the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club in Smithers.

School involvement:

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Students learning to trap shoot.

In Brian’s second year as president of the club, he started reaching out to several local high schools to have the students try out trap and .22 rifle shooting. Hunting and fishing are the cultural norm in Smithers so these programs were well received by the school board, principal, outside educators, parents and students. The club has also hosted .22 rifle shooting programs with the Wet’suwet’en First Nations high school. On one occasion the club brought Pan-American games gold medal trap winner and ladies trap shooting event from Alberta to do work with the high school students in preparation for a trap shooting event.

Girl Guides:

In the summer of 2017 the Girl Guides of BC had their SOAR (Spirit of Outdoor Adventure Rondevu). This event brought over 2,000 Girl Guides to Smithers. The Rod and Gun Club was able to take 150 of the girls and showed them how to shoot .22 rifle and trap, they saw how a trapper skinned and mounted a marten on a board, and the girls helped with some projects around the club property. In April, the Rod and Gun club will be hosting a regional Girl Guide event.

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Girl Guides 2017 Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous at the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club.

.22 Rifle and Trap Shoot:

During the winter months the Club runs an indoor .22 rifle shoot for youth once a week. The club is able to host as many as 10 kids at a time. They put an emphasis on teaching the kids safe, responsible, and ethical use of firearms in the indoor environment. Currently the club is starting a youth trap shooting program. This comes after a generous donation from a club member of 7 brand new shotguns. The club is working on subsidizing the cost of shells in order to make this program affordable for youth. Brian hopes through this new program they can teach youth how to shoot trap and get them involved in competitions, while building an enjoyment for the sport.

Other Events:

Family Fishing day is always a big event. Volunteers take youth out to the local lake to show them how to bait a hook and cast a line. The club also hosts an annual Easter egg hunt. This years egg hunt is not cancelled, but will be delayed due to snow.

What the Future Holds:

Brian says he’s recently been contacted by a local elementary school with a request to bring in  grade 6 and 7 students to learn about .22 riflery. A program is in the works to educate the elementary students on proper gun safety. In addition, the club is looking into putting together a willow hinging project for moose habitat on crown land. This project will hopefully help the moose populations, which have drastically decreased.  Brian hopes down the road the club can do more programs in the way of conservation and restoration in order to echo the club’s motto: Protect to Enjoy.

Brian says their goal with these programs is to offer youth an opportunity to not be intimidated and to have a chance to get into a sport that members at the Rod and Gun Club find enjoyable.

“As I sit back as club president and reflect on, are we doing a good job in terms of what we’re offering our members and what we’re offering the community, I feel quite comfortable that we are offering something very solid in terms of introducing and enforcing safe, responsible, ethical use of firearms, whether it is in sport shooting or hunting.”

Brian says all of these initiatives aren’t without the support of the community. Local sporting goods store, Outdoor Essentials donates all the ammunition for the .22 rifle shooting programs and they also donated two firearms to the club. McBike and Sport of Smithers also assist the club’s activities. Parents and club members invest a lot of money to support the youth programs. Not to mention, the dedicated volunteers who give hundreds of hours of their time to make these programs possible.

“All volunteer organizations are built on the backs of the members and the enthusiasm, energy and dedication of the members, so the more of those we can get the more that we can do.”

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~By Cheyenne Bergenhenegouwen

Words from a past president

DSCN1414Les Husband currently, and has been for ten years, the Fire Centre Manager for the BC Wildfire Service and he manages the Prince George Fire Centre.

With the Federation, Les is Vice President for Harvey Andrusak. Indirectly, Les has been a club member since 1980 and directly as a board member from 1993 to 2003.

“I’m very much interested in fish, wildlife and habitat. I’m an avid hunter, angler and trapper. In 1993 there was an opportunity to run for the board. I thought for myself I could bring some very much needed qualities to the board. For me it’s a chance to be involved at a higher level.”

Les hoped by being more involved he could have a bit more influence. He wanted to make sure that number one: the Federation is moving forward, and number two: to extend some of the advantages he had to work on some partnerships with the government, so they could work to build some of the fish and wildlife resources in the province.

“That was it, to get on the board, to be part of a higher level of decision making and then eventually, when I became president, to lead an organization that I thought did a lot of good work. I’d rather be part of the solution and be a part of trying to look towards the future and make sure that there will be resources for us down the road, rather than sit back and do nothing. I’m not that kind of guy, I like to be involved, I like to be hands on.”

Les says, as a whole the Federation and the clubs that make up the Federation put in hundreds of thousands of hours of work on the ground.

“At the end of the day, there isn’t another group around that puts as much time and dollars into work to actually improve fish and wildlife in their habitat. You hear some of these cliches of the Federation being one of the oldest and largest  conservation organizations in the province, and I believe to this day that that is still the truth. Our organization does a lot of good work, but it’s not as much now as it was in the past due to a lot more restrictions being in place. ”

For Les, he was always interested in doing work on the ground with fisheries and wildlife.DSC00845

“I grew up in Revelstoke and our club did a lot of work on little projects. And that was always the interest, to get hands on and actually make a difference.”  

As things progressed Les got on the board, and his role with the Federation became structured in influencing other organizations, especially the government; to hold them accountable for the responsibility of handling the fish and wildlife resources of the province.

Les was president of the BC Wildlife Federation from 1998 to 2000. During that time he believes the Federation did some really good things.

“I think we did a lot of really good things, a lot of improvements and a lot of issues that were part of the province at that time, and I think we came up with some good solutions. From my perspective, the influence that our board had and that I had as a president was very positive.”

In the late 1990s, a lot of anti-hunting movements become very vocal. Les and the rest of the BCWF Board of Directors spent  a lot of time deflecting issues that were being brought forward by anti-hunting organizations. The Federation was also involved in land use planning during the 90s and took a lead on gun control with new gun regulations that were presented in Bill C68. On many of these matters the Federation maintained a working relationship with the government.

“Our opinion from the Federation prospective has always been respected by the government, because we bring a balance and a position that is often defensible and we don’t come and criticize, we bring solutions. I always thought the government really respected that and the way that our organization and membership operates.”

As a  past president, Les will continue to be involved in the Federation, to be there for support and advice for future board members and he will continue to do what he can for fish and wildlife in the province.

“I think that most of the people that have moved up through the ranks of the Federation from the regions to the board to the executives, even to the presidents have a  really vested interest in the fish and wildlife in this province. It’s not just the fact that they hunt and fish, it’s all the other pieces that go through being outside. The outdoors are something that they value and I think that is the main reason why folks get involved. They respect the outdoors, they respect what we have in this province for diversity, and I think that is what draws a lot of folks in and they want to be apart of solving some of the issues.”

Les says the Federation is not just for a single interest.

“We have such a broad stroke of fish and wildlife committees and issues that we deal with on a daily basis. I feel there is always going to be something there for somebody, as long as they are interested in the outdoors.”

~ By Cheyenne Bergenhenegouwen

Guardians of B.C.’s Wildlife

IMG_0072Allen McEwan is the president of the Pemberton Valley Wildlife Association. He is a fourth generation Pemberton valley resident. Allen got involved with the Pemberton Valley Wildlife Association as a child.

“It’s been a lifetime involvement for me. I’ve served with the club in various roles. It’s the fish and wildlife interest that brought me to the club and that is why I am still here.”

Allen was lucky enough to start tramping in the woods in Pemberton with his grandfather and his father when he was barely old enough to stagger along behind them.

“Prior to 6 years old, I was out there. It’s become a part of my life. I don’t feel satisfied looking out the window. I want to go out and hear the birds, see the tracks in the snow or mud, see the deer on the hill sides, hear the wolves, and see a grizzly bear track. It’s part of our fabric. It’s something we grew up with and it’s really, really important to us.”

Allen says for the most part the club serves as guardians for the local fish and wildlife resource. Everything they’ve been  involved in revolves around protecting the local fish and wildlife resources.

“When the club was still very young and so was I, there was an issue with moose conservation here. We have a very small population of moose on the southern boundary of moose habitat in the province. The club called the provincial government to stop the hunting season because they felt it was unsustainable. We’ve done our part ever since to speak up for the moose and put signs up to warn people not to hunt them.”

Allen says the most important land use decision in the valley that the club has been involved in is the decision to set aside a major tract of land for deer winter range. The biologists that work for the government identified the land and pushed the planning for it to be conserved. The club was behind it from the start .

“We feel pretty darn good about having that deer winter range really well protected now through a legislated wildlife act plan.”

The club has also worked with ministry biologists on collaring projects with both deer and mountain goats.

“Rather than having a government employee for months trying to collar deer, the biologists had confidence in us and asked us to put the collars on. Those projects have been really satisfying because we had a lot of people go out onto the land and got some first hand experience with some wildlife capture, collaring and what not, but also to sit back and see the results afterwards. To marvel at some of the distances these animals migrate, the fact that they can go back and  find their home range when the time comes.”

Allen and the club also have had a long connection with salmon and steelhead resources in Pemberton.

“It’s been discouraging in many respects because we’re slowly losing them. We had some amazing years when I was a youngster fishing for chinook salmon and steelhead. Those days are gone, we’ve lost  that opportunity.”

Allen believes there are two important points to push forward. One is that the BCWF and clubs associated with the BCWF should work to build stronger relationships with the local first nations and work together on common interests. The other point is to highlight the term guardian:

“I think the term guardian is a very important concept for us to continue to put forward. A lot of us are hunters and anglers, but the more important role is that of the guardian, to make sure those populations do well and any fishing or hunting that is done is sustainable.”  

~By Cheyenne Bergenhenegouwen

A Fisherman’s Passion

Dave Carleton 10

David Carleton is president of Region 8, Okanagan BCWF and is president of the Summerland Sportsmen’s Association. He has been with the federation for about 26 years. He first came into the federation so he could find out more about the area and to meet more people.

Dave was born and raised in the Similkameen Valley, and has spent all his life hunting, fishing and being outdoors. He is passionate about protecting our outdoor resources, and
promoting conservation and sustainable use to ensure that these important resources are available for future generations.

“I love what I do. I am a fisherman and I love the outdoors.”

Dave Carleton 8At the 2018 BCWF AGM in Kamloops, Dave was elected as a Vice President of the BC Wildlife Federation. Through his involvement in his local club, the Region and the BCWF, Dave does a tremendous amount of volunteering. He looks after the archery division of the Summerland Sportsmen’s Association, represents both the club and the region at numerous meetings, committees and working groups, as well as continuing to spearhead club projects. With Dave’s help and leadership, the Summerland Sportsmen’s Association have successfully completed several notable projects, including the Garnet Valley Habitat Restoration Projects (ongoing), Mule Deer Habitat Projects and wetland restoration projects at Ritchie Lake and McCollough Lake.
While Dave has been involved in many projects, he is most proud of the wetlands projects he has helped with. These projects entailed restoring areas that had been impacted by recreational use back to their natural state.

“We’ve brought lots of areas to their natural state. These are some of the projects that I’m most impressed by. If I can keep doing projects like that, I would.”

Dave continues to dedicate his time and energy to volunteering because it is his passion.
Dave believes that the BC Wildlife Federation is about looking after wildlife, habitat and
conservation. He feels strongly that the BCWF is the only organization that looks after the resident hunters and anglers, and that is why he continues to focus his efforts and dedicate his time.

Dave is proud to be a part of the BC Wildlife Federation and looks forward to continuing to support the federation projects and initiatives.

~By Cheyenne Bergenhenegouwen