Wildlife Commission reaffirms support for hunting with dogs

The Commissioners of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission unanimously adopted a resolution recently reaffirming the agency’s longstanding support for hunting with the use of dogs.

“We support the use of dogs in hunting in North Carolina where such hunting is consistent with the sound conservation of our state’s treasured wildlife resources and not contrary to the protection of the private property rights of its citizens,” said Gordon Myers, executive director of the commission. “Hunting with dogs is part of a centuries old tradition in North Carolina and the members of the Wildlife Resources Commission determined that it was important to clarify their position regarding those practices.”

The partnership of hunters and hunting dogs, commissioners affirmed, has long been a central thread of North Carolina hunting culture, and thousands of hunters – young and old – use dogs to pursue grouse and quail, waterfowl and woodcock, deer and bear, rabbits and squirrels, and foxes and bobcats, and raccoons and opossums.

“The members of the Wildlife Resources Commission looks forward to continuing its successful record of working with multiple partners to provide opportunities for hunters to use dogs on state and private lands where feasible and appropriate,” said Commission Chairman Steve Windham.

For more information on hunting in North Carolina or for a copy of the resolution, visit www.ncwildlife.org.

Take precautions while out hunting

During the holiday season, when family and friends gather, many go on traditional hunting trips.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding hunters to take proper precautions when hunting during the holidays.

The Wildlife Commission’s “Home From The Hunt” campaign encourages everyone to be prepared, take the proper precautions and enjoy their time outdoors this season.

“The holidays are a wonderful time for hunting,” said Travis Casper, the state’s assistant hunting safety coordinator with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “In the excitement of a holiday hunt, don’t overlook the safety aspects. Communicate with fellow hunters and stress the importance of everyone being careful.”

Casper advises:

• Go back to basics — review hunter education training and equipment instructions.

• Read the rules — know all applicable regulations before going afield.

• Identify the target — remain cautious and be absolutely sure before firing.

• Inspect all equipment — repair or replace equipment, as needed, before use.

Successful completion of hunter education is required for all first time hunting license buyers in North Carolina. Courses are offered free by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, with schedules and registration available at www.ncwildlife.org.

Proposal on tethering animals has some worried about future regulations

Hunters showed up en masse at a Haywood commissioners meeting to express their concerns about proposed changes to the ordinances stipulating how their dogs had to be tethered.

While the revised ordinances do not include a prohibition on chaining or tethering — a point of some confusion among some in attendance — some hunters said they feared these changes would pave the way to make tethering illegal.

The ordinance does put regulations on tethering, requiring dog owners to use swivel connectors and chains “of suitable length,” which Animal Control Director Jean Hazzard described as at least 6 feet for a 45-pound dog. The proposal would also require owners to keep the area surrounding the dog free of obstacles so it can have easy access to food, water and shelter. The ordinance would also ban the use of chain and choke collars for tethering to prevent strangulation.

“I think the whole issue is that most of the hunters think that one thing is going to lead to another,” said Gary Birchfield, who spoke on behalf of the hunters.

Jeff Smith, who provided information input on the draft ordinance as a spokesperson for the Bear Hunters and Raccoon Hunters Clubs, voiced similar concerns.

“The way it reads right now, there’s nothing that’s going to affect the hunters, I assure you,” Smith said.

But he warned against forbidding chaining and tethering altogether.

“You do away with that, you’re going to have dogs running everywhere because people can’t afford to have a kennel,” he said.

Others, however, spoke in favor of the proposed changes, even advocating that they be added to in the future.

Penny Wallace, executive director of the Haywood Animal Welfare Association, urged commissioners not only to adopt the ordinances but to do more in defense of animals in Haywood County.

“I ask you to vote for the recommendations and make them effective immediately,” Wallace said, adding that this is only the tip of the iceberg on animal welfare in the county.

“Haywood County is still woefully behind the national standards for animal welfare. We are even behind the standards of our neighbor, Buncombe County,” she said.

Linda Sexton also spoke for increased animal protection laws, asking commissioners to consider eventually abolishing tethering, and introducing spay and neuter laws.

“It’s way past time if you look at how many animals are unfortunately put down in our shelters twice a week because people are not taking care of getting their dogs fixed,” said Sexton.

Some audience members were also concerned about provisions requiring owners of “vicious or dangerous animals” to keep them indoors, muzzled when outside, and away from children. Hazzard described “vicious and dangerous” as an animal who had either demonstrated dangerous behavior towards animal control staff, or one who had actually bitten or attacked.

But resident Carol Underwood took issue with that, maintaining that just because a dog attacks, it should not automatically be tagged as vicious.

“If the owner is not present to stop you entering our property, they probably will attack you or bite you through their own fear, not because they’re bad dogs,” said Underwood. “We’re conflicted with animals that are vicious that we know are mean, and animals that we love that will be aggressive to defend us.”

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the revised ordinance at their next regular meeting on Nov. 1.

No more daily bag limits for deer hunters this year

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.

To comment, go to www.ncwildlife.org and click on “submit comments” on the right hand side.

— By Becky Johnson

Elk could be booted from state species of special concern list

Elk could lose their status as a species of special concern under a new rule change proposed by the N.C. Wildlife Commission.

A public hearing on proposed changes to state hunting and fishing rules will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at Southwestern Community College in Sylva. Organizations that provided financial support for the reintroduction of the elk are prepared to speak out against the proposed rule change.

It is illegal to shoot an elk — both inside the national park boundaries and outside the park. Despite a delisting as a species of special concern, elk would retain their status as a “non-game” animal, making hunting them illegal even if they wander outside protected national park lands.

Tom Massie of Jackson County said the proposal is causing a great deal of confusion, however, and questioned the rationale behind it.

“There have been a lot of people who have spent a lot of time and effort and money to get the elk herd reestablished,” Massie said. “It is a huge economic draw for this region of the state. Why even do it right now?”

Massie said he would like to see the state do a management plan for the species to compliment the national park’s management plan. Elk are frequently wandering out of the park and are beginning to establish satellite herds.

The Wildlife Commission cites the success of the elk restoration project and growth of the herd, which makes the listing no longer necessary.

“This is primarily an administrative change,” said Brad Howard, private lands program coordinator for the Wildlife Commission. “There is no documented evidence we need to have a special concern status on the elk species right now.”

Howard said the move will mirror the national park’s change in status expected later this year, which will shift from “experimental release” to an official “reintroduction.”

“The park has said ‘OK it worked. Let’s see if this population will sustain itself in Western North Carolina,’” Howard said.

 

Hunting, fishing regs undergo annual review

Every year, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission suggests adjustments to their regulations to accommodate hunters and fishermen while protecting natural resources.

Public input can be made at one of nine hearings held statewide, including one at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, or in writing.

Go to www.ncwildlife.org and click on submit comments online. Scroll down to see the list of proposed changes and click to comment. The deadline to comment is Jan. 22.

After collecting and considering all public comments, the Wildlife Commission will meet in March to decide whether or not to adopt the proposals.

 

Hunting

• Elk — Proposal would remove elk from the list of species of Special Concern. The only elk in the state are found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after being reintroduced to the park. Hunting elk would still be illegal within the park.

• Bobcat and otter — Trappers would no longer have to get tags for bobcat and otters they intend to sell. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is no longer requiring tags for bobcats and otter being sold for commercial purposes, so the state wildlife commission aims to follow suit.

• Armadillo — While armadillo aren’t native to North Carolina, they are beginning to crop up and are being considered a nuisance by the wildlife commission. There is no game law that applies to armadillos, and this proposal aims to set up a year-round open season on armadillos with no bag limits.

 

Fishing proposals

• Franks Creek in Graham County — Proposal would end stocking and ban use of live bait under a new designation as Wild Trout/Natural Bait waters.

• Tellico River in Cherokee County — Proposal would ban use of natural bait and allow artificial lures only under new designation of Wild Trout waters.

• Nantahala River and tributaries in Macon and Clay counties upstream of Nantahala Lake — Proposal would end the exemption that allows fishing during closed season on hatchery supported waters.

• West Fork Pigeon River in Haywood County — Proposal would end stocking on the upper 3.7 miles of currently Hatchery-Supported waters and re-designate as Wild Trout Waters, which would ban live or natural bait, lower the daily limit from 7 to 4, and impose a minimum catch size of 7 inches. The change will better protect the wild brown trout population. The lower 1.7 miles will remain Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters.

• French Broad River — Proposal would decrease the size limit on muskies from 46 inches to 42 inches. Regulation dovetails with statewide rule change to set minimum size limit on muskies at 42 inches and one fish daily catch limit.

The move will conserve spawning stock by protecting 4- to 5-year-old sexually mature fish.

State forest users protests proposed bear hunt

A handful of lucky hunting parties were about to embark on a special bear hunt in DuPont State Forest last fall when wildlife managers realized they had gotten themselves in a bit of snare.

Deer hunting in the twilight of American culture

The Twilight of American Culture by Morris Berman. W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. 224 pages.

When I think of political curmudgeons, of gloomy prognosticators, of bleak Cassandras prophesizing doom, my mind turns to either extreme environmentalists or to right-wing survivalists whose garage shelves still hold Y2K canned goods. Both groups routinely predict the end of the world, the first by heat and global chaos, the second by global chaos and violence.

The Sunday ban: Hunters hope to lift 1869 hunting law

Many hunters in Western North Carolina are hoping that an 1869 law banning hunting on Sunday might finally be lifted.

By the numbers

A private research and public opinion firm was hired by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to measure public sentiment toward Sunday hunting — namely whether it should be allowed. North Carolina is one of the last states with a law banning hunting on Sunday.

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