Guide outfitters hoping to see the return of American hunters this year are finding their dreams dashed again by COVID-19.
Some Cariboo outfitters say they have had hunters cancelling because of confusion over the latest pandemic protocols in Canada or because they’re concerned about getting across the U.S. border.
The Eureka Peak Lodge & Outfitters, for example, was fully booked this year but has had 14 cancellations in the last few days. The cancellations come on the heels of a cancelled season in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of confusion out there,” said Stuart Maitland, of Eureka Peak Lodge & Outfitters in 100 Mile House. “A lot of them are saying they want to move it to next year but it could be the same next year.”
Maitland, who has been operating the outfit for 40 years, said they mailed out all the information on the Canadian protocols to hunters. He notes the rules aren’t that daunting, especially if people have been double vaccinated, although one couple who is fully vaccinated cancelled the other day because they were worried they wouldn’t be able to get across the border when heading home.
About three-quarters of Eureka’s bookings are still intact right now, but Maitland said he wouldn’t be surprised to see more cancellations. He added it’s also too late for some hunters who have no vaccines at all to come up for the season.
“There’s so much uncertainty with all that stuff and yet you have to be ready – cutting trails, getting the camp ready – whether they come or not,” he said.
Nick Yarish, owner of Chilcotin River Outfitters, agreed, noting he spent $5,000 on food, tags, fuel and groceries the other day, only to have one of his hunters turned away at the border Monday night. The hunter, who was fully vaccinated, had booked for goat hunting now and moose hunting later in the fall.
“He had everything in line,” Yarish said. “I bet this is going to happen 50 per cent of the time.”
He noted other hunters are concerned they will lose a day of hunting because they have to get a COVID test 72 hours before going back to the U.S. and “a lot of them don’t want to deal with it.
“How are you going to do that when you’re in a remote camp?” he said.
Although hunters who fly in seem to have better luck getting into Canada, Yarish noted most of the moose hunters prefer to drive because they’re from Washington state and they want to take the meat back with them.
“I can just see this happening every week,” he said. “We’re probably going to lose even more money.”
Maitland noted hunters don’t even have any interaction with the public, as they drive directly to the lodge.
“That’s a bit of the frustrating thing because the rules are sort of broad-based,” he said.