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Not like it use to be


Dear editor, I’m writing this letter to you to try and find some sense and reasoning as to why this new group of Inland Fish and Wildlife officers and department came to be.

Are these people some sort of FBI agents who couldn’t make the cut, and our government hired them to harass and make miserable the lives of rural Newfoundlanders such as myself?

Now it’s not beyond our government to come up with departments to do this. Anyway, I am an outfitter here in central and for the past 24 years have conducted and ran a decent business.

Two years ago, the government of the day saw fit to take away all but two of our 20 caribou tags. It reduced our business by 50 per cent. We weren’t the only outfitters hurt by this move, but for argument’s sake, I will stick to my own personal situation.

I am trying to find other ways to keep my business going and have employment for myself. Last year, I was hired by a gentleman from Nova Scotia to guide him on the Exploits River, a river on which I cut my teeth and have fished for over 40 years. This person and I were enjoying a beautiful day on the river, and as I was showing him where to cast his fly, I hooked a fish. I played it to the boat and released it. After our day was done, we proceeded to the shore and upon arriving there was greeted by Mr. Inland Fish and Wildlife officer, who charged me for fishing too long while employed as a guide — it states this in the guide act, no disputing the facts.

He asked for my guide license, which wasn’t on my person, and again I was charged for this.

In fairness to this officer, he did send me a warning only for the fishing too long infraction, but I paid an $80 fine for the guide license deal. There was absolutely no cordial talk, no congratulations for my client who had caught his first salmon, and no niceness whatsoever from a government employee.

Now lets go back six years, same scenario, I came ashore with a client from New Jersey who had landed his first Atlantic salmon. Again, an officer from the old department known as just Fisheries, asked to see the fish, and after inspecting it, shook my clients hand, welcoming him to Newfoundland.

He took our fishing license numbers and then asked to see my guide license, and again, I had it home in another piece of clothing I was wearing the day before, so guess what happened? Wrong answer.

The officer, who I knew personally, said when you get a chance, drop by the office and bring your license just so I can jot down your number as protocol would have it. This officer knew at the time I had been a license guide for 25 years at that point, and there was no need to embarrass me in front of a paying client.

Kudos to the old days when you knew the local boys and they were all about fairness and respect for the people they had to deal with.

Fast-forward to today, May 7: I left my house today for some bear baiting. With the quad all loaded down with sweets and meat for our upcoming spring bear hunt, I left for the country wearing my helmet and rain gear.

Once I got to my first tree stand site, off came the helmet and I placed it in the storage box. Carrying 50 pounds of sweets and meat down over bogs and stumps, it gets too warm, and the helmet only gets in the way when you get back to the quad.

Again I proceeded to the next site with just a ball cap on, after all, I am 20 miles back in the country working to try and make a day’s pay and enjoying the day. I spent about six hours at this, and left to come home when all of a sudden another Inland Fish and Wildlife officer stopped me.

He showed me his badge and began by telling me all the things that I was doing wrong. No helmet, no license plate and no registration. He proceeded to his truck, started writing tickets, and detained me about 20 minutes, after which I tried to make conversation by telling him I was working my bear baits and that my helmet was in the box and when my job was over it would be placed on my head for the ride home.

Well you guessed it again, no socializing, no asking me about the upcoming hunt, no talk about the weather, just getting down to giving me tickets.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not above the law, nor do I deserve any special treatment, but come on folks, if you live in the town where I do, how come these people or the police can’t get a handle on the kids at 4:30 a.m. speeding down the back roads on quads and dirt bikes and bursting through my fence or tearing siding off my neighbour’s house as they hit it with their quads?

I just can’t get past the fact that as I am back in the country trying to make a living, these guys are there at every turn to make life more miserable for me than the government already has.

I didn’t know we lived in a communist country or under a dictatorship. Rules are rules, and I have lived within them for all my life except for a few mistakes along the way — but you know we all make mistakes.

There needs to be some understanding when it comes to doing your job, and when things are really wrong, then do your job. Other than that, leave the common man alone and let him do his job.

I don’t know who trains these officers, but a little compassion and forgiveness thrown in wouldn’t hurt. Oh for the good old days when you knew all the fishery and wildlife officers, and they all knew you.

In today’s world, like my buddy always says, “if it’s got a gas engine or you buy a license to hunt or fish, you are a criminal when you start it, drive it, or when you sign your name.” I will be taking this helmet ticket to court just to have my say.

Tony Stone

Mt. Peyton Outfitters

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