The Manitoba Wildlife Federation is calling on the province to ban spotlighting during nighttime hunting after a bullet tore through a bedroom near Winnipegosis and just missed a woman's head.
"My in-laws getting their house shot at has got me very frustrated," Wayne Lytwyn said at a press conference in Winnipeg. "Hunting at night is not a safe practice."
On Sept. 10 last year, Lytwyn's in-laws ranchers Victor and Doreen Sliworsky were asleep in their home, near Winnipegosis, when a rifle bullet ripped through their window frame at 4 a.m.
It missed Doreen's head by a half-metre, according to the MWF.
"Allowing anyone to hunt at night in populated areas of the province flies in the face of universally accepted safe hunting practices and puts people in danger," said MWF board member and hunter education instructor Fred Tait.
"How many more tragic incidents have to happen before government will act?"
Spotlighting is a method of hunting nocturnal animals by using high-powered lights. In many provinces, it is against the law but in Manitoba, night hunting and spotlighting is only banned for non-aboriginals.
Traditional hunters, such as indigenous people, are allowed to hunt any time of day, according to the MWF.
Enhanced enforcement by Manitoba Conservation is badly needed to stop the practice of spotlighting in order to protect people, pets, farm animals and private property, the MWF said.
The federation also cited the death in January 2010 of a 35-year-old man from Sagkeeng First Nation. He was shot while out hunting with friends at 2:30 a.m. The bullet that hit him came from another hunting party, according to RCMP, which said both parties were unaware of each other.
Hunters use spotlighting because the reflective glare from the animals' eyes gives them away. Also, the light causes many animals to freeze in a daze, making them easy targets.
But hunters are unable to see for any distance beyond their target, which has resulted in numerous livestock being killed or maimed over the years, the MWF said.
"One of the fundamental principles of safe hunting is knowing your target and what is behind it. But how can you possibly be sure of your target at night," said MWF managing director Rob Olson.
For most licensed hunters in Manitoba, the discharge of any firearm is permitted only half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. Spotlighting overlaps with those times, which poses a danger, the MWF said.
When hunters are walking in and out of their hiding places in the dark, they can be mistaken for big game.
"From our early discussions we strongly believe the aboriginal community understands the problems with spotlighting in populated areas," said Tait.
"We are calling on the province to seriously commit to conducting the necessary consultations with indigenous hunters to make rural communities safer."
The Southern Chiefs are concerned about the finger-pointing.
"If a bullet went through a house, number one, clarify that. Who actually did it? Who was charged? And don't paint all the First Nation people irresponsible in terms of their hunting," said SCO Grand Chief Terry Nelson, adding he has done spotlighting if it was safe to do so.
"It's got to be done in safety and we do it on our reservation. But you know you don't go chase where people are living. You have to do it properly."
Joining the MWF are the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, Manitoba Beef Producers and Manitoba Natural Resource Officers' Association, who have all passed resolutions supporting the ban.
Nineteen individual Rural Municipalities have also passed anti-spotlighting resolutions, according to the MWF.
The province issued a statement today saying, they "will continue to work with all parties on this file in order to keep Manitoba families safe. Unsafe hunting anytime, night or day, is illegal for everyone, i.e. residents, non-residents, Metis, First Nations or anyone else."