Part One charters the WRC and Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council (more on that in a moment) to develop a plan for implementing the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund for Youth Outdoor Heritage Promotion not in the Senate bill. This effectively expands opportunities for youth under 16 to engage in outdoor recreation activities to include hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, sport shooting, etc. It also provides for donations through a $2 checkoff when purchasing licenses, outdoor access fees, and private donations.
Part Two establishes the Advisory Council. This is where I have a problem. It is essentially a mirror image of the Commission within the Commission. It is primarily made up of political appointees by the Governor and leaders of the Senate and House with one representative from the WRC and Agriculture Dept. each. That’s eleven people. We don’t need more political appointees involved in the Commission activities. We would be better served by forming the Council with 3-4 members from the existing WRC and volunteer members from select conservation groups (NWTF, RGS, DU) which already have existing youth programs. I hope someone in Raleigh is listening.
Part Three calls for the Legislative Research Commission to study the need for expanded access to public lands and how management plans affect that access. Here is the irony of this Part which gets me to the issue of Sunday hunting. Part Five of the bill, which allows Sunday hunting, does so only on private land! So in one part of the bill they encourage access to public land for outdoor recreation and immediately turn around and restrict recreational activity on that same public land. Did any of the sponsors notice this conflict? Part Five goes on to prohibit migratory waterfowl hunting on Sunday, which I understand the WRC supports if it is not open on public land. You also cannot hunt deer with dogs on Sunday which is similar to the Senate bill. Nor can you hunt within 300 yards of a place of worship.
There are other provisions in the bill related to hunting on posted property, minimum weight of adult bears, extended breeding season for foxes at Bladen Lake, civil liability limits for landowners giving permission to retrieve hunting dogs, and use of body cameras by wildlife enforcement officers. I do not see anything controversial in any of these provisions.
I have already contacted by representative to encourage his support for HB640 and provided comments as you have read above. I will say this: even if the bill goes through without change, which is doubtful when it reaches the Senate, hunters will be happy with any victory even if it is on private land only. That law can always be changed later to expand it to public land. I do plan on contacting one of the bill sponsors, Michele Presnell of District 118, and share my above thoughts. She and I have discussed the topic before.
We are about two weeks through turkey season and I’m hearing reports of mixed success. My sense is that many of the toms were “henned up” during the early season; they were not gobbling and wouldn’t come in to typical hen calls. They didn’t need to because they had plenty of hens to breed. Many experienced hunters also tell me they have better success late in the season when many hens are already on the nest and males are more aggressive searching for hens to breed. I’ll be in the field this week in that pursuit. Good luck and be safe!