Trampled Tranquility

Published 10:47 am Monday, February 8, 2016

WINTON – When Ron Rice and his wife moved to the Big Mill Road area of Hertford County 10 years ago, they enjoyed the peace and tranquility of rural life.

However, that once peaceful environment has now been shattered.

Rice addressed the Hertford County Board of Commissioners at their Feb. 2 regularly scheduled meeting, citing safety concerns and the deterioration of quality of life due to deer hunters allegedly breaking the law.

He made it very clear at the outset of his remarks that he does not oppose the hunting of deer, either by dog or “still hunting” in tree stands. Rather, he said there should be some reasonable compromise that will ensure the safety of his family while the hunters are out in their quest to harvest deer.

“We have a real issue with the hunters; they hunt from the roadway,” Rice said. “One issue is way they park their trucks on the road, that’s a problem everywhere and not just on Big Mill Road. They park partially in the roadway, basically making it just a one-way road.”

He told a story shared by his wife who was traveling on US 13 where a hunter, parked adjacent to the road, reached out to grab hold of one of his dogs and the vehicle in front of her slammed on brakes and turned over in the ditch.

“I know there are laws about parking on the shoulders of roads; those laws need to be enforced,” Rice suggested.

He also addressed hunters shooting across a road’s right-of-way, and those bullets not only pose a threat to the motoring public, but also wind up entering private property.

“My wife was in our garden one morning, luckily on her hands and knees, when some buckshot fired from the road went tearing through the pine trees next to our garden,” Rice stated. “By the time she crawled to the house on her hands and knees to tell me what happened, by the time I got to the road (to find out who fired the shot) all I saw was a cloud of dust as they quickly left the area.”

Rice said the issue of public safety has led him to make a tough decision regarding members of his immediate family.

“We will not allow our grandchildren to come here and visit during the fall,” he stressed. “We have a beautiful creek there and lots of woods for them to play, but it’s too dangerous because of the hunters.”

He claimed that the hunters along Big Mill Road have “tunnel vision.”

“All they see is that big buck, or any buck for that matter,” he said. “Their first shot might be legal as it occurs before the buck crosses the road. But the second is down the (road’s) right-of-way and if they miss then the third shot is straight across the road. Bill Mill is a winding, curvy road. What if someone pops around a curve and gets a windshield full of buckshot.”

Rice added that private landowners have no recourse to keep hunting dogs from crossing their property.

“I see that every Saturday,” he said.

Rice offered possible solutions for the commissioners to study more in depth.

“The way the current laws are written, road right-of-ways are 30 feet or less; so if the game warden sees someone hunting along a right-of-way, if that hunters steps across the ditch (away from the road) then they (wardens) let it go,” Rice noted. “I would like to see hunters moved further away from the road, at least 100 feet. That will give law enforcement a standardized distance to enforce on all roads.”

He also suggested that hunters need to have written permission to be on private property.

“Fines for breaking these laws should be significantly increased….that’s one way to get their attention,” Rice said.

Rice added that he felt the issues with hunters breaking the law or ignoring common sense hunting are preventing others from moving to Hertford County and investing property on which to build a home.

“I was a little naïve at first, but we’ve lived here now for 10 years so I now have a handle on the issues here with hunters and their dogs,” Rice admitted. “Hunters are going to hunt, and they add tax revenue to the county because they have to buy things to hunt with. All I’m asking is they abide by the law and show some courtesy to private landowners.”

Ronald Gatling, chairman of the county commissioners, thanked Rice for sharing his concerns, but more importantly bringing reasonable solutions to the table.

“We will take up your concerns and possible solutions to our county attorney and to (North Carolina) Wildlife (Commission) to see if we can develop some ideas about protecting public safety,” Gatling said.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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