Armed gangs defending their turf. Death threats and torched property. Victims too fearful to go to police.
Sounds like another organized-crime offensive on the streets of Montreal. But the action is playing out in a more improbable setting: the backwoods wilderness of Quebec during hunting season.
Generations of hunters have turned to the rugged forest of the Gaspé Peninsula each fall to bag a moose, but an explosive growth in the number of animals, coupled with growing competition for hunting spots, has turned nature’s idyll into a battleground.
Although Quebec sets aside vast swaths of Crown land for hunting, territory that in theory belongs to everybody, some take matters into their own hands to protect what they regard as their personal hunting spots.
The problem has come to a head on the Gaspé, where some 25,000 permit-holders descend in the forest in a nine-day firearm hunt lasting to late October. During that time, according to several officials and witnesses, a supposedly public playground gives way to roadblocks, armed patrols and less-than-subtle warnings by rival hunting gangs to keep out.
Some hunters are tasting the woods’ frontier justice firsthand. Michel Guénette is a 54-year-old truck driver who has been hunting in the Gaspé since he was a boy. Last year he discovered his family’s six trailers incinerated, with empty canisters of propane lying amid the rubble. When he showed up for the hunt this year, his tree blind was trashed.There's more where that came from.