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ASE Certified Pisgah/Nantahala Planning Meetings

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By Don Mallicoat- The U.S. Forest Service has announced two public meetings for the Pisgah/Nantahala Forest Plan. The first meeting will be November 9 in Tartan Hall in Franklin, NC. The second will be November 16 in the Mountain View Room of Kimmel Arena at UNC-Asheville. Both sessions start at 6 p.m. The USFS must identify and evaluate lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, prior to analyzing the effects of recommending (or not recommending) any such lands for wilderness designation. They must also identify eligibility of rivers for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. These topics will be the focus of both sessions.

I have attended many of the previous planning sessions. At one of those sessions the USFS provided a list of specially designated areas. Right now, over 300 thousand acres of both Forests are specially designated. That is nearly 1/3 of the total area. Some of that is Wilderness Area. The problem with Wilderness Preservation is that it allows for no management options. The USFS cannot even conduct firefighting operations with mechanical equipment. We saw this in the last wildlife in the Linville Wilderness tract when several thousand acres burned due to lack of management. Hunters need to attend one of these meetings and comment, letting the USFS know we do not need any more Wilderness designation. For more information go to their website, Click on the Forest Plan Revision link on the right top of the page.

On the national level there is a move to remove suppressors from the list of restricted items in the National Firearms Act of 1934. I have said for quite a while that this is long overdue. Congressman Matt Salmon of Arizona has introduced the Hearing Protection Act to do just that. Current, thirty-seven states allow suppressors for hunting and 41 allow private ownership of them. If you own one you know the onerous process to do so. You have to get approval from your local Sherriff, send an application to the BATFE for a background check, and pay a $200 tax. That is on top of the sometimes prohibitive cost of the suppressor itself. Under Salmon’s Act, all of that bureaucracy would be eliminated and a purchaser would simply be required to pass a Instant Background Check through the FBI as they do for a firearms purchase. This move is long overdue.

Hunting season is starting in earnest and there are only a few more opportunities in our area to attend a Hunter Safety class. The next available is at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Brevard on November 4 – 5. After that there is one at Haywood Community College in Clyde on November 10 – 11 and the last is at United Community Bank in Burnsville November 16 – 17. All sessions start at 6 p.m. both evenings. As we have said before, even if you are grandfathered in North Carolina for safety training, if you plan on hunting out of state you should get your certification. When I filed online for my New Hampshire license for our recent trip they asked for my Hunter Safety certification. Many states with high non-resident hunters now require this. It is only six hours. Get it done.

Let’s run down all of the seasons that are currently open or will soon open. We are still in archery deer season which runs until November 22nd. The first split of bear season is open. I’m hearing a lot of success stories from mountain bear hunters. Unlike last year when we had an abundant hard mast crop, this year hard mast is not as prevalent and bears are moving more to find food which means they are putting down more scent for dogs to tract. One hunter in the store told me his group had already killed three bears and the season is only a couple of weeks old.

On the small game front grouse and squirrel seasons are now open. This early in the season hunting will be tough. We are experiencing a late leaf drop in the mountains. As I write many leaves have not even turned at lower elevations. That means even if you see a squirrel running through a tree or a grouse flush getting a shot will be difficult. Many squirrel hunters use shotguns early in the season because of this and grouse hunters may use larger shot to cut through leaves. Regular waterfowl season opens November 14th.

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