Each year the North Carolina Wildlife Commission holds hearings in each of the wildlife districts to openly discuss proposed changes for the coming year. Informative and interesting, they can at times become contentious as well depending on the types of changes coming up for debate and discussion.
For instance, several years ago we had regulations regarding such topics as the allowance of bowhunting on Sundays on private lands and using unprocessed bait for black bears in order for dog hunters to strike a trail easier. Both hunters and non-hunters were adamant about their beliefs one way or another and the end result changed the rules that had long been sacred and steadfast here in the state.
I only mention those two particular regulation changes as this year’s proposals again address similar issues and will affect our hunting habits moving forward.
Proposals based on the mountain hunting areas affect bowhunters and gun hunters alike. One proposal is to open bow season to the closest Saturday to September 10th in order to make it uniform across the state. The central and eastern zones already open that Saturday. In essence, this gives an extra weekend of bow season since Sunday bowhunting is already allowed on private lands. Another proposal allows an extra three Sundays of hunting in the western deer season zone. Again note, this is only applicable to private lands, not game lands such as Pisgah.
Perhaps the most controversial proposal deals with the baiting of black bear once again. There was some dispute between hunters and non-hunters as well as dog hunters and still hunters when baiting of black bear was allowed in order for dogs to strike a trail before. It seems more debate will surface between hunters and the anti-community this go around.
Anti-hunting groups argue the practice of baiting black bear will encourage bear and human encounters.
But contrary to their argument, the use of bait such as corn, apples, and pears has been allowed for deer hunting for years. Whether in the mountains or on the coast, it is a common practice. One could argue whether it is ethical or not, but generally you will find the opinions based on the style of hunting involved. For the record, I have and do use bait when still hunting deer. The point I am making about baiting for deer is bear have no idea the bait is for deer. They see food and they will go towards it. As the regulations are now, if I am deer hunting and a bear were to come to the bait, I cannot take a shot whether the bear is in season or not.
The regulations state the bait cannot be processed. This means no honey-buns and cinnamon rolls, no peanut butter, and no fried bacon. I cannot believe that unprocessed bait will increase the numbers of nuisance bear encounters when it is so commonly used already for deer.
Of course there are other regulations up for comments as well such as the changing of certain trout waters and even changing Polk County to a different deer harvest zone. The key thing to know is these rules will change what and how we enjoy the outdoors and we have a voice for our opinions, whatever they may be.
While most districts have already had their meetings, it is still too late to share your thoughts with the Wildlife Commission. You can go online to ncpaws.org/PAWS/WRC/PublicComments/PublicEntry/PublicComments.aspx and view the proposed regulations as well as add your comments on any or all the proposals.