The Wildlife Commission has unveiled its proposed changes to hunting and fishing rules, but the list is a super short one this year and controversial proposals are markedly absent.

A public hearing on the proposed changes will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Haywood Community College.

The list is a benign one compared to the past three years, which were all packed controversy.

A firestorm erupted last year over one of the proposed changes that would have weakened protection for the Smokies elk herd. While it is illegal to hunt elk, the change would have given landowners wider discretion to shoot an elk if it was causing private property damage.

The Wildlife Commission backed off and dropped the proposal following public outcry, however.

The previous year, public outcry temporarily sidelined a proposal to lift the daily bag limit for deer. While there is a still a cap on the number of deer a hunter can shoot over the course of hunting season, there is no longer a daily cap.

Hunters in the mountains protested, fearing the slacker rule would hurt the deer population.

The Wildlife Commission tabled the proposed change for a year, but has now enacted it anyway. This hunting season will be the first year it goes into effect.

The Wildlife Commission also caught flack over a proposal to allow falconry on Sundays and bow hunting on private land on Sundays. Hunting is otherwise illegal on Sundays. Critics feared the changes would open the door for full-blown Sunday hunting down the road.

The year before, a proposal to allow bear hunting with dogs in the popular Dupont State Forest recreation area in Henderson County was derailed by public outcry.

This year, there are no hunting rule changes that affect the mountains. There are only two fishing changes: one is to remove the “Public Mountain Trout Waters” designation on Ellijay Creek in Macon County, and the other is to clarify boundaries of the delayed harvest waters on the Tuck in Jackson County as between the N.C. 107 bridge and U.S. 441 bridge.

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— By Becky Johnson

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