TRAVERSE CITY — Edward and Sally Kavanaugh planned to spend their retirement hunting and fishing in Ontario’s forests and streams.
The Traverse City couple bought property near Thessalon and completed the long process to establish their Ontario residency. But now they’re nixing their plans and leaving Canada for good after running afoul of its hunting laws.
Turns out Ontario may consider them residents, but its Ministry of Natural Resources does not. The difference is expensive — on Oct. 10, an Ontario justice fined them a total of 2,800 Canadian dollars ($2,680) after they pleaded guilty to making false statements on applications for resident hunting and fishing license applications.
“We thought we were totally legal,” Sally Kavanaugh said.
In November 2012, Ontario conservation officers on patrol saw Edward Kavanaugh driving a pickup truck with a Michigan license plate while on a hunt for white-tailed deer. He had resident hunting and fishing licenses -- and his wife had a resident fishing license -- but investigation showed their Ontario residency didn’t meet requirements under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources spokesman Roch Delorme said the Kavanaughs’ primary residence had to be in Ontario for six months in order apply for a resident hunting or fishing license.
“They can be Canadian citizens and not fall under the definition in the Conservation Act,” Delorme said.
Edward Kavanaugh, 66, was charged with making a false statement, unlawfully possessing void licenses and possessing illegally killed wildlife. Sally Kavanaugh, 53, who also was charged with making a false statement, said the charges were a surprise because she thought they “did everything by the book.”
“The bad part is the MNR and the lawyers say you have to know the law; they sold us the hunting and fishing licenses,” she said.
Ontario non-resident hunting licenses are considerably more expensive than those for residents. A hunting tag for black bear costs CA$47.30 while a non-resident tag costs CA$235.96, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources website. The conservation officers also seized a bear hide, bear meat, grouse and fish from the Kavanaughs.
Dan Doherty, owner of Jack’s Sport Shop in Kalkaska, said in 30 years of business he’s seen more and more hunters shy away from crossing the border because of higher costs and stricter gun laws. He suggests Michiganders planning hunting trips to Canada should consult with hunters experienced with the ins and outs of the country’s laws.
“It’s not friendly to non-residents at all,” he said.
The Kavanaughs pleaded guilty to avoid a long court proceeding and were banned from hunting in Ontario for four months in addition to their fines, fees and court costs. Sally Kavanaugh said after the experience they’re swapping their Canadian retirement plans for something closer to Michigan.
“We paid our fines that day,” she said. “We just wanted to get it over with and we’re selling our (property) as quick as we can.”