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Canora gun show helps preserve wildlife legacy

The River Ridge Fish & Game Gun Show attracts vendors from all over the Prairies and help raise money for one of Canora's wildlife leagues.
Lenoard Stumpf taking care of his guns. From Morse, Stumpf just turned 80 this year, drove to Canora with his wife to do some selling at the 10th annual River Ridge Fish & Game Gun Show. His next destination is Hanna, Alta. This year he was at around 25 shows.

CANORA — The door stayed open in summer breeze for an entire weekend at Canora’s 10th annual gun show, with potential buyers and curious people streaming in to browse through more than a hundred tables filled with vintage firearms, ammunition, metal artwork and fur – for a greater cause, the wildlife.

Show organizer Ernie Gazdewich, who is also the president at the River Ridge Fish & Game League, invited all the firearm enthusiasts to town and said the vendors have definitely grown over the past ten years.

“Hopefully (we can carry the show on for long time)... We didn’t have the attendance that we hoped for,” Gazdewich said of the limited venue space at the show, making it difficult to host the growing size of the show and its future ambitions.

The 30 vendors came far and wide from all three prairie provinces. Some came a long way from home just to support Gazdewich, while on the move to other shows.

“It’s the same folks attending the shows year after year,” vendors said.

Show attracts new clients: vendor

Leonard Stumpf, who just turned 80 this year, drives four-and-a-half hours from Morse, Sask. with his wife to Canora each year to sell bought-out estates.

“That's all I can get in the truck. I need a trailer now too,” Stumpf said as he put his products on display, adding that he used to do 28 shows in one year in his best time.

Stumpf said the gun shows across provinces had reduced to a third when the pandemic hit, and he has been doing consignment ever since. But he prefers coming to shows to attract new clientele.

“Lots of times people want to try out a certain brand of ammunition in a certain gun, but they don't want to spend $50 or $75 on a full box. That's why I sell obsolete stuff like these,” Stumpf said as he pointed to the boxed ammunition with labels.

“Some of these, you can't even find them anymore.”

Beside the rows of guns, Stumpf’s tables stood out in the hall with boxes of ammunition in different colours – all neatly laid out on a cloth, some in glass cases.

“I buy out estates. You know, somebody passes away and she doesn't know what to do with it, I just go in and clean it out,” he said. “That's why I got so much small stuff.”

Hobbyists display

Others came in as hobbyists and have no ambition to sell.

Being a firearm collector all his life, Michael Laycock came to the Canora show a couple times, most of his items are antique.

“People like those,” said Laycock as he pointed to his vintage handgun collection in the glass case. “This one (was obtained) just after the Civil War in the 1870s…There are lots in the museum already probably… people shoot with them eh, you can own those legally.”

Officers discuss regulations

Elderly couples and families wandered in the exhibition hall, some with confident steps, some were unsure about the regulations of firearms.

Mallory Cawthra, a Saskatchewan Firearm Officer who answered questions from people attending the show all day, said she has been approached with very different questions regarding firearms depending on the area.

“People may have more experience with hunting (in the rural areas) so they might have more questions about the regulations,” Cawthra said.

Since September 2021, the provincial government has officially taken over the administration of firearms from the federal government under The Saskatchewan Firearms Act.

Owning a firearm requires a minimum age of 12 and passing the Canadian Firearms Safety Course with a qualified instructor. The criteria can however be different for the Indigenous applicants, who have the option of applying for an alternate process in recognition of treaty rights.

“Be safe with your firearm, store them correctly,” said Officer Peter Hutchinson.

Both officers have attended extensive gun shows over the years to educate people on owning, storing and transporting firearms responsibly, and the penalties.

The June 8-9 Canora gun show was one of 13 shows scheduled this month across Canada, according to the Canadian Access To Firearms June 2024 issue.

Learning about trapping

For many vendors who grew up on a farm, guns are more like an old friend. While trapping comes in many different ways, in some cases people can be charged with certain older models that are inhumane in practice and illegal to use, said Floyd Hendrickson of the Saskatchewan Trappers Association.

“A lot of people are against us as trappers. But if we don't trap them, nature takes care of them…There's (going to be) diseases. There's mange.

“...during starvation and freezing to death, the animals might be going like that for a month or a month-and-half, whereas here (with traps) death is in minutes,” Hendrickson explained.

Hendrickson said although the traps are designed safe enough for children to use, working with them requires thoughtful work, such as learning the specific animal behaviour.

“This (new trap) is for raccoons. A lot of people put in fish and stuff like that. I put in marshmallows, they like marshmallows, and then I won't have to worry about ever getting a cat. It doesn't attract other animals.”

Along with the traps, Hendrickson has furs on display. From Margo, Hendrickson has been an educator/vendor at the show since it first started. He came with his wife Diane this year. 

“We also like the kids to come… It’s nice to have them outside and to learn about wildlife,” Diane said.

She said kids came up with interesting questions.

“You want to know the worst question? They look at them [the furs] and they go: ‘what happened to their eyes?’” Diane said with a laugh.

Show raises money

The show has been raising money for Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation Habitat Trust for the past 10 years.

“Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation exists to save habitat for our children and our grandchildren,” said Kathy Thomas, who had been the president at the River Ridge branch of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation for 23 years, since stepping down to be the secretary.

“Our motto is ensuring the wildlife legacy, we leave to our children surpasses that, which we inherited…So we're always trying to save more habitat,” said Thomas.

‘The community has a lot going on.’

Inside the hall, Stumpf just started packing his supplies and was ready to get back on the road.

His next destination is Hanna, Alta.

“I've known Ernie for years. I want to support him,” Stumpf said when asked what brought him to the show. “Take what you get, the community has a lot going on.”