By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
As the days get shorter and the leaves turn from green to shades of red and orange, many residents of Haldimand-Norfolk look forward to the start of hunting season and fall fishing.
I have met many hunters and anglers over the years and been impressed with their commitment to conservation. Hunters and anglers have been responsible for the recovery of multiple wildlife species since the late 1800s and are still actively working to improve the environment.
Locally, there are countless examples of conservation leadership. The evidence I see most often is the wild turkeys in my backyard and in fields throughout the riding. With Thanksgiving around the corner, this seems totally apropos.
The last indigenous wild turkey was recorded in Ontario in 1902. The birds were plentiful but unregulated hunting by early settlers wiped out the population. Determination to bring back the wild turkey traces its routes to Norfolk County.
Couples Dave Ankney and Sandi Johnson and Joel Hopkins and Ann Marie Green had a tradition of annual hunts that usually involved travel. In 1979, when they went to Virginia turkey hunting, they were hooked. Ankney and Hopkins pushed for the reintroduction of wild turkey in Ontario. Ankney involved the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, of which he later became president. They also involved the National Wild Turkey Federation, which later provided the expertise for trap and transfer programs. Ankney, Hopkins and their spouses didn’t live in Norfolk County at the time, but both had cottages at Long Point.
When the pair heard Ministry of Natural Resources budget freezes were delaying the reintroduction, Hopkins walked into the regional MNR biologist’s office and pulled out his cheque book to pay the cost. The cheque was never cashed, but it helped provide the motivation.
Wild turkeys from Michigan were released in the Bay of Quinte area in eastern Ontario on March 6, 1984. Later that month, birds from Missouri were released in Norfolk County. Today, a monument stands at the site of the release to commemorate the efforts of those who helped bring this magnificent bird back.
Many are familiar with the fundraising banquets held by groups like Ducks Unlimited (DU), Delta Waterfowl, the Ruffed Grouse Society and Canadian Wild Turkey Federation (CWTF). What they may not know is the concept for these banquets in Canada traces its roots to Long Point Bay.
Back in the early 1970s, likely around a table after duck hunting at the Turkey Point Company marsh, Hazard Campbell of Buffalo convinced several of his Canadian counterparts to come to a DU fundraising dinner in Buffalo. One of those making the trip was Dr. Duncan Sinclair of Aylmer.
Returning home, Sinclair enlisted several friends, and they hosted the first DU fundraising dinner in Tillsonburg in 1974. That chapter moved to Port Rowan and proudly carries the chapter #1 designation. Since then, tens of millions of dollars have been raised for conservation using this format.
Today, both the Norfolk chapters of Delta Waterfowl and CWTF can boast being the top Canadian revenue generators. That’s an incredible accomplishment for Norfolk County, when it’s compared to larger centres across the nation. Haldimand County also has chapters of these organizations that produce respectable results.
On top of the national conservation organizations, local fish and game clubs across the riding are always involved in hands-on projects that benefit both wildlife and fish. I think of clubs in Dunnville, Caledonia and Long Point as examples.
I wish all our anglers and hunters a bountiful fall and hope you enjoy the camaraderie that goes along with days in the water and the wilds.
Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk