By Don Mallicoat- The Wildlife Resources Commission met on October 6th for a regular meeting. Among the topics on the agenda were proposed regulation changes to present at public hearings in January and February. There is not much detail yet but here are some of the proposals; some significant and others no so much. Let’s start with hunting.
After announcing an increased deer harvest on private land in the mountains in the previous season, the WRC is now proposing an additional deer archery season for the Western region. This one would begin the Sunday immediately following the end of gun deer season and continue until January 1 for antlered bucks only. No indication whether it will be on all lands or just private lands.
This will be a significant change if approved. Change the definition of youth to under 18 instead of under 16 for both Youth Deer and Turkey hunting seasons. I believe their intent here is to encourage more people to get out and hunt. I just see one problem that has to do with current licensing requirements. The reason for the current under 16 Youth season is to allow them out with a licensed hunter before they are required to hold a license. Remember, NC rules currently say you do not need a license until you are 16. So now licensed hunters between 16 and under 18 qualify as youth for special deer and turkey seasons? This doesn’t make sense to me.
As usual there is a proposed change to the bear hunting regulations. A couple of them are about the Coastal region and one impacts the mountains. It will codify a temporary rule that is already in place to allow the use of unprocessed food to take bears during the first split of the season in the Mountain Bear Management Unit. In the past bait had to be removed prior to the season, then for just the first two weeks. Now it looks like bait can be used throughout the entire first split of the mountain season.
This will be a big change if adopted. There is a proposal to eliminate the use of paper Big Game Harvest Record sheets, the second part of your hunting license. Hunters would still be required to report big game harvests via electronic means, i.e. phone or internet. Deprivation permit holders would still be required to record and maintain the authorization number as proof of registration. So it looks like we’ve gone from a tag you place on the deer and checking in at a station, to paper tags where we punch and report, to no paper tags but still a requirement to report. I can see where it will make enforcement tough. How can an agent in the field know immediately how many deer a hunter has already harvested toward his/her limit? Not sure if this one will fly either.
For fishing regulation changes, it looks like most of the trout water changes being proposed are in the Northeast area in Watauga and Wilkes Counties. Again, the Commission is proposing a change on the definition of Youth to under 18 instead of 16 for fishing regulation purposes. I did not go through the proposed changes in detail, but I did not see anywhere that the license requirement for 16 year olds was moved to 18. I’ll continue to research.
Every Commission meeting there are a number of land acquisitions discussed. A couple were on the table for the mountains of interest. First, the Commission is looking at obtaining a commercial property in the Pisgah Forest area to establish a station for crews to work out of. It is adjacent to NC Highway 280 and is large enough to park equipment, has a building for offices and meetings, and also enough land for an archery/BB gun range to support the nearby Pisgah Education Center.
Another small tract of land may be acquired to connect some property in Sandy Mush Game Lands. This 88 acre tract is near the Buncombe/Madison County line near Bear Creek Road and Old NC 20 and is actually a transfer from a Land Conservancy that is already being managed by the WRC. Again, a good acquisition to further connect the land. By the way, these and other purchases are thanks to Pittman-Robertson funding provided by hunters and shooters.