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Tribal Council balks at ‘no hunting’ request for Hall Mountain

EBCI Forest Resource Specialist Tommy Cabe addresses Tribal Council Dec. 9. EBCI image EBCI Forest Resource Specialist Tommy Cabe addresses Tribal Council Dec. 9. EBCI image

Despite an impassioned plea for immediate action from the tribe’s Natural Resource Department, the Cherokee Tribal Council voted unanimously last month to table a resolution that would temporarily prohibit hunting on a 138-acre property in Macon County. 

The Hall Mountain property near Cowee is composed of several parcels, the two largest of which, totaling 108 acres, the tribe has owned since 2013. However, a grant  the U.S. Forest Service awarded in 2020 allowed the tribe to purchase additional acreage, which closed in December 2020 and granted access from Hall Farm Road. 

Now, hunter behavior has gotten out of hand, and natural resource managers want a time out while they complete a new forest management plan for the property, Forest Resource Specialist Tommy Cabe told Tribal Council during its Dec. 9 meeting . He submitted a resolution on behalf of the entire Natural Resources Department seeking to ban hunting on the Hall Mountain land until further notice. 

“To cut loose 16,000 enrolled members on 138 acres, there’s going to be a liability,” he said. “We’ve already started to see some issues surface.”

One of those issues has to do with territorial standoffs between tribal members who hunt the property. 

“We’ve had a couple tribal members to already get in a turf war over there,” said Cabe. “One’s got a camera and caught the other tribal member urinating on his corn pot.”

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Looming even larger is the tribe’s desire to use the property as an experiential learning center for children. Plans include an eagle aviary and a cultural camp concept in consultation with Kituwah Academy. Without parameters in place as to how, when and where hunting is allowed on the property, Cabe said, something tragic could occur. 

Within the forest management plan, he said, the Natural Resource Department plans to propose a nonpaying lottery system, whereby tribal members would enter their names for the chance to hunt Hall Mountain, with no-shooting zones designated where needed. A carefully calibrated lottery system, Cabe said, would give participating hunters a greater chance at harvesting an animal and at reporting the health of that animal to the Natural Resources Department, so that tribal staff could better manage that population for the future. There is not currently a deer season on tribal reserve lands, so the Hall Mountain Tract — which is deeded property and would follow state game laws — could be a valuable opportunity for enrolled members hoping for an archery season. 

It won’t take long to revise the forest management plan, but in the meantime, hunting should stop, Cabe said. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which has enforcement power over hunting activities at Hall Mountain, has said it won’t police the property until the tribe clarifies its management rules. 

“If he’s not going to patrol it, then it’s open to anybody who wants to go there and kill whatever they want to,” said Cabe. “And if somebody ends up getting hurt or somebody gets killed, the blood’s not on our department’s hands, guys. We came in here to try to get this passed because we’re going to have people walking over there. The blood won’t be on our Natural Resources Department’s hands going forward.”

However, Tribal Council members were hesitant to take away from what they said was an already scarce supply of tribally owned hunting grounds and voted unanimously to table the resolution for a work session. 

“I think the hunters need to just be informed to use their better judgment on areas like this,” said Yellowhill Representative David Wolfe. “I’m certainly not going to shorten a season for anyone and take a hunting area away from anyone. I can’t support this resolution right now.”

Vice Chief Alan “B” Ensley, who is not a member of Council but frequently speaks out on hunting issues, agreed with Wolfe’s point of view. 

“If we put proper notification up that we’ve got groups in there, I’m sure the hunters would understand that there’s going to be school groups or whatever utilizing that property, but just to shut it off for all the hunters, I don’t necessarily agree with that,” he said. 

Vice Chairman Albert Rose concurred with the move to go to a work session but acknowledged the need for clear regulations on the property. 

“It needs to be some kind of management on the property so the wildlife can survive there,” he said. “Right now, this being broadcast, there’s going to be deer stands all over Hall Mountain.”

While Big Cove Representative Teresa McCoy agreed with her colleagues who said hunting grounds were scarce on the Qualla Boundary and ultimately voted for the move to table, she said that in her estimation the property was not large enough to hunt on anyway, especially with a high-powered rifle. 

“I just have to wonder how far that shell would travel and possibly take people out that you don’t see,” she said. “People have been shot and killed in the woods by people who didn’t see them.”

The agenda for the January Tribal Council meeting does not list Cabe’s resolution. 

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