Make no mistake - big sums of money are involved here. Deer allocations in Alberta are changing hands for upwards of $20,000 and individual hunts are selling for as much as $5,000. The new system has turned what used to be a good-old-boy activity into a genuine business run by professionals. One big change hunters have seen is a change in hunting technique. The days of pickup trucks and "run and gun" are long gone. This is because the law now requires outfitters to have permission to enter any private lands they hunt. "Access is the single biggest issue we have," reports Ryk Visscher, president of the Alberta Professional Outfitters Association (APOS).
The reason access is so tough an issue in Alberta is a quirk in the law that makes it illegal for anyone to pay a landowner for access to hunt. An outfitter is not even supposed to ask for exclusive rights to hunt on private land, let alone pay for it, according to Visscher. The unusual access law is supported by resident hunters who feared a complete takeover of their hunting by nonresidents. What it's done is push outfitters in the direction of purchasing land themselves, often with the help of long term hunting clients. Some outfitters are soliciting cash loans from clients and/or involving them in land mortgages in return for long-term hunting privileges. Other outfitters are going out of their way to hire farmers and ranchers as guides in order to obtain the access that goes along with the hire.
What does all this mean for the nonresident hunter looking to buy a single hunt in Alberta, or perhaps........(continued)