- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Reader Don Mace, who lives in the Richmond area, sends an interesting comment about our recent cautions concerning Canada's zeal to disarm its citizens.

Not only are Canadians turning in their guns, or paying tough registration fees so the Ottawa government always knows who has firearms and who doesn't, but American hunters are being affected too. American hunters, who make up a large majority of the customers who visit Canada in search of moose, deer and bear (to name only three game species), have to pay registration fees just for the privilege of bringing in a shotgun or rifle (handguns are verboten) and then taking it back to the United States.

Mace writes, "I have just returned from a hunting and fishing excursion to Canada, and I can confirm the government's attitude there against guns and us.

"There were four of us traveling from International Falls, Minn., to the tiny hamlet of Red Lake, Ontario. From there, we flew with Canadian Fly-in Fishing (CFF), a small but good operation run by an American, to a group of lakes north of there. It was just us four Americans fishing for walleyes and hunting waterfowl.

"Two things struck me about this experience. Since last year, the climate of government control has turned hostile toward sportsmen. Last year we were practically waved through by Canadian customs. This year, with a new requirement to fork over $50 [Canadian] for each gun brought in, we were detained for about 45 minutes while customs agents ran our names through some sort of security clearance and one of them had each of us open our gun cases to match serial numbers with our paperwork, as well as to actually measure our gun barrels to see if our descriptions were accurate. I don't have a clue what they would have done had we carried spare barrels [charged us another $50 for each barrel?] or had found that one of us had claimed to have a 28-inch shotgun barrel but instead found a 24-incher.

"I mean, what's the point?

"We could have had a van full of other weapons and they never would have known. None of them bothered to actually look inside our rented van.

"Next came the news that the limit for walleyes in that remote region of Ontario was four. With nauseating clarity, the Ontario fishing regulations book explained that four meant four, whether on a stringer, on a plate or in a freezer. The idea, the authorities explain, is to make sure of an "abundance" of fish available to fishermen for 30 years to come! 'Abundance?' If you are allowed to take only four fish the entire trip [ours was seven days], where does 'abundance' come into it?

"Finally, as we drove through the countryside up there it was painfully apparent that the Canadian economy needs help. I helped with my patronage. But next year I might just opt for a more Southerly venue away from ridiculous regulations and interference."

What's so sad about Mace's experience is that American hunters and anglers will indeed be thinking of punishing Canadian businesses that for many years have catered to our outdoors sports tastes. All of them, without exception, are very much opposed to their own government's heavy-handed gun taxation and making life tougher on Americans who come across the border to spend money. It's a shame, because these Canadians are our friends and they feel just as we do. There's just not enough of them to throw the current bunch of bureaucrats out of office at least not yet. Give them time.

Belated freebies Maryland's chief of Freshwater Fisheries, Bob Lunsford, says the state has approved an emergency regulation to declare Oct. 13 and 14, 2001, as free fishing days when no license will be required. The only problem with this notice is that we didn't receive it until Oct. 14, hence were unable to pass it along in a timely fashion. So as you read this, and if you're 16 years or older, be sure to have your fishing license on your person. The "freebie" period has gone largely unnoticed.

Hey, I have an idea for the Department of Natural Resources and the rest of you Annapolis folks. Let's have a bunch of those "free" fishing days throughout the year. You know, say that the entire month of June is a license-free month, but don't tell anybody about it until July. That way you'll look good, being the Samaritans that you are, and you won't lose any money on license sales because the free days actually will never be used.

•E-mail: [email protected]

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