Deer dog hunting issue sparks debate

Published 8:56 am Tuesday, February 22, 2011

JACKSON — After much discussion, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners have scheduled a meeting to receive public comment about the topic of deer dog hunting.

On Monday, the commissioners decided to hold the meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15 at the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center outside of Jackson. The decision to have the meeting came in a 4-1 vote with Commission Vice Chair James Hester voicing his opposition.

Before the commissioners cast their vote, there was a lengthy discussion whether to hold the meeting at all due to the fact that no viable solution to deer dogs impeding on private property may come out of the gathering.

“My understanding is that our Representative Michael Wray and our Senator Ed Jones said that they would not present anything to the (North Carolina) legislature doing away with dog hunting,” said Hester.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins confirmed that in a previous conversation with Wray, the two were not prepared to introduce local legislation that would ban or regulate deer dog hunting.

Hester added the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) supported deer dog hunting.

“I really don’t see the need for a public hearing,’ said Hester.

Attorney Charles Vaughan said he spoke to the chair of the NCWRC who said that entity had passed a resolution in support of the continuation of hunting in all counties, so long as it doesn’t adversely impact other property owners’ property rights.

Hester asked if a posted sign on property is covered by law.

“It makes it easier for the wildlife officer to write a citation if you are in fact hunting on a person’s property,” Vaughan said.

“You can’t arrest a person for having dogs on your property, and that’s the problem, dogs are going across other people’s property.”

“Are they violating your property,” questioned Hester.

“They’re harming my property if I’m a property owner because they’re chasing the deer across my property, disturbing my peace and tranquility,” said Vaughan.

“Do you have land involved with that,” asked Hester.

“Personally? Yes, sir,” answered Vaughan.

Jenkins asked the board to consider the issue in a manner whereby a decision would impact the majority of the citizens and property owners of the county.

“There could be property owners that have not called that have a similar concern,” he said.

Jenkins added if the board did not want to decided on having a public hearing about deer dog hunting, the matter could be tabled until it became a bigger issue.

Commissioner Virginia Spruill asked if there were regulations already in place dealing with the issue at hand.

“Yes, but the problem is…it’s not the laws, it’s the fact of the matter that some property owners’ property rights are being violated,” Jenkins said. “It’s not an easy matter to take on legislatively.”

Commissioner Robert Carter questioned if a public hearing was to be held, if the board would be prepared to answer concerns and issues of people in attendance.

“I think that until there is more of an uproar that we just keep it on hold,” he said.

“I agree,” said Hester.

Spruill said there were a lot of legal ramifications attached to the issue and that a county lawyer would need to be in attendance at the meeting, because the board’s decision would have to be based upon those constraints.

Commission Chair Fannie Greene said the board had already stated that it would have a public hearing to take citizen comments.

“If we renege on that I think that sends the wrong message,” she said.

“I agree,” said Spruill.

“There would be no solutions,” said Hester.

“I think that this subject matter is a big landmine for all of you sitting up there,” said Jenkins.

After further discussion, Spruill made a motion to set a time and date for a public hearing regarding the deer dog hunting issue. Commissioner Chester Deloatch offered a second. The motion passed in a 4-1 vote.