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Hunters, Canadian outfitters, are penalized by hysteria, over-reaction

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2003

It's like shooting your best hunting dog because you fear it will die from rabies -- even after its been vaccinated.

Perhaps you could also use the analogy of our ex-Gov. Tom Ridge who fell into the over-reaction plague when he suggested we cover our homes with plastic and duct-tape them to the point where anyone inside would suffocate to death -- because we might again be attacked by terrorists.

A couple years ago, the savvy politicians who were trying to discredit the Fish and Boat Commission employed the scare tactic of contaminated PCB-filled trout -- when in fact, no tests had been performed on the hatchery fish.

Now, the United States Department of Agriculture is cranking down the thumb screws on anyone who will be hunting moose, caribou, deer, elk, bison or mountain goats.

Hunters for those species can not bring the meat back into the United States. Black bear meat from north of the border is, however, legal for entrance into the United States -- but who wants to eat a worm-infested bear anyway?

While hunters who travel to Canada this fall can't bring back meat, they will be allowed to import up to two sets of antlers, the skull plates and the cape/hide from big-game they harvest, under a policy change announced this week by the Department of Agriculture.

The cape and hide from the animal, however, must be scraped clean of all traces of red meat. Any part with excessive amounts of meat or tissue still intact can be refused entry into the United States.

As a result, some hunters who had booked Canadian hunts for this fall might be canceling their trips.

Fish being brought back into the county, like the black bears, are acceptable.

In late May, in response to the discovery of mad cow disease in Alberta, the USDA banned the import of all ruminant animals from Canada, as well as all parts of ruminant animals. Prions -- the mutated protein thought to cause chronic-wasting disease and mad cow disease have not been found in beef or venison, even in animals that carried the disease.

The ban, although aimed primarily at domestic livestock, also included big-game animals from Canada.

Often, rules are important and needed -- but other times, they are just stupid.

For example -- and perhaps this is an almost-warranted vendetta against the USDA by the Canadian government for the meat ban -- when I passed through customs at the Canadian border I was told that "no potatoes can come into Canada -- even cooked potatoes in prepared and frozen stew."

I asked why -- half laughing at them. While they didn't respond to my question, they did ask me to pull the truck over to be searched while we were questioned briefly inside the building.

OK, they have no sense of humor at the Customs gate. So keep that in mind when you head up to Canada to go fishing. Answer only their questions, and don't laugh at them.

If you follow that tidbit of advice, and carry a photo identifcation card, you'll get into Canada without a problem.

Southern Canada is a great place to hunt for moose, and northern Canada -- especially Quebec -- is a caribou hunter's paradise.

Trophy hunting seems to be the trend in Pennsylvania, with much emphasis placed on trophy-sized deer antlers.

Many Keystone State hunters head into Canada to hunt -- we're the ones that spend the most money there on non-resident hunts in the eastern Canadian proveniences.

Trophy hunting now will take on an expended meaning, with the thousands of hunters who head north for moose, caribou and other big game species. All you will bring home are the antlers, so pick out some big caribou and moose if you have a hunt booked for this fall season.

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