What is ‘written’ is the law

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 10, 2007

WINDSOR – Sometimes just one word makes all the difference.

It is one of those times in Bertie County as one word in an updated law on hunting has county officials as well as hunters themselves up in arms.

That word is &uot;written.&uot;

During Monday’s meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners, several hunters and other interested parties showed up to voice their concerns during the public comments portion of the session.

&uot;There are a lot of people opposed to the hunting law,&uot; stated Jim White, a hunter who lives in the county.

He continued, &uot;A lot of people don’t see the need of having (to have) written permission, (because) we use hunting dogs. We want to know what we have to do to get (the law) repealed.&uot;

Chairman of the Commissioners Rick Harrell seemed to agree with White’s statements.

&uot;We’re not in any more agreement with it than you are,&uot; Harrell stated. &uot;When we saw the word ‘written’ we were disturbed. But when we contacted the legislature we were told it was too late.&uot;

White asked if there was any way to speak with a wildlife officer. Fortunately there was one present at the meeting.

Sgt. Brad Stoot of the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission stated, &uot;How this law came about I have no idea; all we do is enforce the law.&uot;

Stoot also said that since retrieving hunting dogs is still considered being in the act of hunting, there would be no exception for retrieving hunting dogs off of another person’s land.

Unless the law is changed, written permission from the property owner must be obtained in all circumstances before a person has the right to venture on that land, even to retrieve hunting dogs, according to Stoot.

However, Stoot did say that usually the first year a law is enacted, wildlife officers treat the first offense as a warning rather than issuing a citation.

&uot;The first year that it’s enacted, it’s still an offense, but you just would receive a warning. But if I come back the next day and you’re still doing it with no (written) permission, you’ll get a citation,&uot; he explained.

Harrell requested, &uot;We need to ask for leniency on this part of the law for this year. We did not mean to do that and it’s going to be fixed.&uot;

Stoot responded that he did not have the authority to make such a decision.

&uot;I can put you in contact with my higher-ups and you can work that out (with them) if you don’t want it to be enforced, but I don’t have the authority to do that,&uot; he replied.

Another hunter who was present at the meeting inquired as to how one was supposed to hunt on land using a gun if it was illegal to get out of the vehicle with a gun.

&uot;How do you get your gun out of your truck to hunt?&uot; asked Ray Mizelle.

Stoot informed him that he should simply unload the gun while transporting it to the hunting site and then it wouldn’t be illegal.