Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hound dogs have their day

...while local huntsmen hope for return of legal hunting with wildlife surplus

“W e still have hounds to take care of and we still have an organisation whose members are as law-abiding as ever. We all look forward to this time each year to showcase the health and prowess of our hounds.”

Buddie G Miller, president of the Confederation of Hunters’ Associations for Conservation in Trinidad and Tobago, was speaking at their annual Hound Walk.

Huntsmen brought vans loaded with choice hounds from a cross-section of areas across the country, including Guayaguayare, Cedros, Blanchisseuse, Valencia, Paramin and Tabaquite, to enjoy an afternoon of sporting competition at the Preysal Recreation Ground in Couva.

Despite the disappointment of not being able to practise their legal sport and the frustration of not knowing if the moratorium on their season would be lifted, huntsmen paraded their hounds before the judge, with eager anticipation of winning in the various categories of competition.

There were male and female beagles, male and female foxhounds, male and female mixed breeds and what is now an additional category, puppies six to 12 months old.

Three puppies placed first, second and third, respectively, winning a trophy and bags of chow, though each has never been on a real chase. One owner spoke hopefully that his puppy will get the chance to be trained and so replenish his old stock come this October.

“When I see so many men hunting illegally in the bush, I wonder what is really going on. My neighbour’s estate is being ravaged by agouti and my neighbour’s neighbour’s estate is being destroyed the same way. Too much agouti coming to eat farmers’ crops and it is the illegal hunters who are scoring big from this.”

Hiking groups are also complaining about the illegal means of hunting at present. One leader spoke of the rise in the pipe-gun menace along hiking trails. He had to dismantle one on a popular trail in the Heights of Guanapo.

This column has run into several such traps, both on trails and in the bush. The trouble now is whereas certain signs were put in place to mark the area around trap sites, this is no longer so. Trappers don’t bother to warn anyone else. This has resulted in two or three of these men injuring themselves in the past, having ironically forgotten where they had set their pipes.

Illegal operations such as these flourish in our forests because there is a lack of patrol operation in areas that are known to be thus vulnerable. Officers in our Forestry Division lament on a daily basis that manpower is being stretched to a snapping point. There are just not enough game wardens to cover all areas during one day or night. The few who work tirelessly to get the job done are too overworked and tired to fill the shoes of five to ten men at a time.

What the huntsmen are saying is while there is a surplus of wildlife at present spilling onto agricultural lands and backyards, they are the ones who should be enjoying their legal sport, instead of lawbreakers running rampant in every field.

Miller had some words of consolation to participants and supporters at the Hound Walk.

“The matter is still in court so I cannot speak on it. However, I can tell you that we are essentially asking the court to reopen the season. Nothing has changed in law.

Since September 2013, the minister’s team has been unable to present a case. They have requested an extension of time and have been given until September 8. If they do manage to present a case, then we have until September 19 to respond. The court will then sit on September 22 when the main case will be heard.

I think that we have an excellent chance to win this case.”

Miller then advised huntsmen to be prepared for the flurry of activity in obtaining permits, should things go in their favour.