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Commissioners unite against proposed deer hunting changes

WINTON – Proposed hunting season changes were the topic of discussion at the end of the Hertford County Commissioners’ first regular meeting of the new year here Jan. 2. Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer and Board Chairman Curtis Freemen both shared their thoughts on the subject during their commissioner update.

Farmer referenced a recent Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald article detailing the Bertie County Commissioners’ response to the changes being considered by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) for the 2018-19 hunting season. Bertie’s Commissioners constructed a resolution last month to show they were against the proposed changes.

“I did my research and went online,” Farmer said after he was approached by a few people with concerns. “It changes the hunting area. It puts us, the Northeastern counties, in one section. They propose to shorten deer season by two weeks, which would be nine days shorter. Hunters are upset about that. They’re also going to reduce the bag limit, the number that can be taken.”

“Hunters are upset about that,” he repeated.

Farmer was quick to point out local businesses could also be negatively affected by shortening the hunting season.

“Hunters come in [restaurants] for breakfast and dinner from out of town. We have several outfitter companies that bring hunters in from out of state, and then we have hardware stores that sell guns and ammunition,” Farmer said, citing a few examples.

Along with suggesting the Hertford County Commissioners also adopting a resolution opposing the changes, Farmer mentioned an NCWRC-sponsored public forum which will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 23 at John A. Holmes High School in Edenton.

“There’s where you need to go to express your concerns because this is a public hearing held by the Wildlife Commission,” Farmer said. “It’s important that all the citizens and hunters understand that we, as the Board of Commissioners, have no say so. It’s Wildlife policy, not county policy.”

Chairman Freeman echoed the same sentiments as Commissioner Farmer.

“I have no qualms in saying I do support the hunters,” he explained while also mentioning that he, too, had been contacted by several people with the same concerns about negative impact on local people and businesses.

Before the meeting, Freeman said he’d already asked County Manager Loria Williams to reach out to Bertie County for a copy of their resolution on the topic.

“You’ve heard me talk about this black hole that we live in, that the state feels like we live in,” he said. “These types of policies, laws, and rules won’t hurt Mecklenburg and these other cities as much as it would hurt us.”

Unlike Bertie County’s Commissioner meeting in December where over 40 hunters attended to express their thoughts on the subject, no one appeared for public comment during Hertford County’s session.

Over in Northampton County on Wednesday morning, of last week a few hunters attended the regular Board of Commissioners’ meeting held in Jackson. Only one person, however, spoke on the subject during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Bill Boone, a resident of the county but not a hunter himself, stepped up to the podium to express his opinion. Like the hunters, he too was against the proposed changes to the deer hunting season.

“Every Fall, there’s a phenomenon that happens. If you ride through town, you ride through anywhere in Northampton County, you’ll see vehicles from all over the country,” Boone said. “They come here to deer hunt. It’s an asset this county has. They come here and they spend their money here.”

He asked the Board to support a resolution to keep the deer season at its current length, saying “I think it’s a big impact on this county, and I think your support would have a lot to do with keeping the length of the deer season the way it is now.”

Chairman Robert Carter responded afterwards that they’d already been made aware of the proposed changes and that the Board would like to make a resolution. He asked if the other commissioners had anything to add.

After acknowledging the economic benefits of hunting to the county, Commissioner Charles Tyner added the perspective of farmers into the discussion, explaining how the large deer population can be detrimental to crops. He also mentioned how deer can be a danger to drivers on the road.

Hunting helps keep the deer population in check, he noted.

“I am totally for letting the hunting season stay and remain as it is,” Tyner concluded, “for the farmer, for the landowner, for the hunter. This is an asset to Northampton County.”

Commissioner Fannie Greene said she too agreed with Tyner’s comments.

“At what point do we need to formulate a resolution,” asked Commissioner Geneva Faulkner to County Manager Kimberly Turner.

Turner answered that they were already looking at getting some sample resolutions in order to construct their own. She planned to bring a resolution draft before the Board at the next meeting for their approval.

People interested in a submitting a written comment can do so by emailing regulations@ncwildlife.org or by mailing to the following address: NCWRC Rule-making Coordinator, 1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1701.

Comments must be submitted by February 1, and should include your address, the proposal number, and your position on the proposed regulations.

In addition to the public forum on January 23 in Edenton, two more forums will be held in the eastern portion of the state. One will be on January 24 at Craven Community College in New Bern, and another at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount.

The NCWRC did not schedule any public forums within the Roanoke-Chowan area.