With the General Assembly in session in Raleigh there are several bills moving through committees, between the House and Senate, and up for vote that are important to sportsmen. I’ve mentioned the bill in committee to allow Sunday hunting with firearms on Sunday. I’ve corresponded with my representative to let him know my thought. He responded and we had a cordial email exchange. As far as I know that bill is still in committee.
House Bill 936, the Wildlife Poacher Reward Fund, is sponsored by several representatives including Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County. This bill states: “There is established in the Office of the State Treasurer the Wildlife Poacher Reward Fund. Monies in the Fund shall be used to pay rewards to persons who provide information to the Wildlife Resources Commission or to law enforcement authorities that results in the arrest and conviction of persons who have committed criminal offenses involving the taking, injury, removal, damage, or destruction of wildlife resources. The Wildlife Resources Commission shall establish rules for the administration of the Fund for these purposes.
This will be a valuable tool for our wildlife enforcement officers in apprehending and convicting poachers. You may remember the recent case where a bear poaching ring was busted in the southwestern counties. Folks, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Currently there is no incentive to turn in a poacher. In fact there are disincentives like retribution by the offenders. I don’t see any reason, other than financial (or lack thereof), from passing this out of the House and into the Senate.
Next up is Senate Bill 201 which will allow the use of suppressors while hunting. This bill doesn’t actually allow the use of suppressors as much as it removes the current provision in G.S> 113-291.1(c) that prohibits their use while hunting. Use of suppressors for hunting, particularly near or in urban areas, is increasingly popular in the Midwest and western states for varmints. They are really popular in Europe where noise reduction in the vicinity of population centers is important. The problem here in the U.S. is the federal law that establishes suppressors (silencers as they are misnamed by many) as Class II controlled devices under BATFE regulations. This requires special licensing procedures to even own one. This should pass through both houses of the General Assembly.
House Bill 954 will allow the Wildlife Resources Commission to increased certain license fees and do away with some licenses for hunting and fishing. Let’s face it; nobody buys a county fishing or hunting license. Why do we even have them? Also, we haven’t had a license fee increase in decades. We moved to NC in 1994 and a Sportsman’s License was the same $40 then as it is now. I think hunters and anglers will support paying a little more for the services we receive.
House Bill 296 will establish an Apprentice Hunter program. According to this amendment to current state statute the bill: Authorizes a person who does not meet the hunter education course requirements under G.S. 113-270.1A(a) to purchase a hunting license and hunt if accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age who is licensed to hunt in this State, or if accompanied by an adult landholder or spouse exempted from the hunting license requirement as defined by G.S. 113-276(c), provided the licensee is hunting on the landholder’s land. For purposes of this section, “accompanied” means that the licensed adult maintains a proximity that enables the adult to monitor the activities of the apprentice by remaining within sight and hearing distance at all times, without use of electronic devices. This permit is valid only for the term of the hunting license purchased under the authority of the permit. Any person who hunts with a permit issued under this subdivision without complying with all the requirements of this subdivision is guilty of hunting without having first procured a current and valid license, in violation of G.S. 113-270.1B.”
And lastly we have Senate Bill 10 called the Government Reduction and Efficiency Act. This is the one that would change the structure of many of the State Commissions to include the Wildlife Resources Commission. It’s not that the WRC will be reduced in size, but all current members’ terms will end on June 30, 2013 and new members will be appointed for different length terms to provide overlap. Actually, in my mind the entire Commission should be restructured. H-m-m-m. That’s next week’s column.