Wildlife officers listen to concerns, answer questions about hunting rules

Published 6:25 pm Monday, September 14, 2009

Jenkins explained that the property owner had given permission to hunt to another hunter who in turn gave permission to the hunters involved.&bsp; This is a permissible practice. &bsp;

In characterizing his deputy&squo;s actions, Sheriff Hill explained that his job was to defuse the situation and investigate the circumstances. They know that they can further investigate and if necessary charge persons at a later time.&bsp; This is the case when the participants are known and not escaping.&bsp; The residents had the opportunity to raise questions and in the end appeared satisfied with the explanations given.

In addition to discussing the details of the incident, the officers and Sheriff Hill explained the laws with respect to harassment of hunters, trespassing, and posting of property and how to reduce poaching. &bsp;

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Wildlife officer Jenkins explained that Statute #113-295 Unlawful Harassment of Person Taking Wildlife Resources is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, just short of a felony.&bsp; Behavior that should be avoided includes shouting or cursing at the hunters or any action that disturbs the wildlife.&bsp; People who suspect illegal hunting should call 911, which will notify the wildlife officers.

Residents were surprised to hear the explanation of the NC trespass laws.&bsp; The first time a person trespasses and is caught, he is considered &dquo;warned.&dquo;

Only on the second intrusion is it actionable. Sheriff Hill noted that if the property was well posted and it could be demonstrated that the person was in full view of signs when he entered the property, it might be actionable the first time.

One resident exclaimed, &dquo;I am fed up with trespassing.&dquo;&bsp; Sheriff Hill noted that if the property was well posted and it could be demonstrated that the person was in full view of signs when he entered the property, he would be willing to prosecute the person.

No one should be on your property to hunt without your permission.&bsp; That situation would fall under a hunting infraction.

Wildlife officers clarified that the practice of &dquo;registering&dquo; your property with them only applies if you are permitting hunting.

Residents were advised to use a lot of signs when posting, especially trail heads.&bsp; The officers said that it is still illegal to hunt on someone&squo;s property without permission even if it is not posted.&bsp; In response to a question they confirmed that hunters are not allowed to track their prey, whether wounded or not, onto unapproved land.

Two residents recounted direct experience with masked hunters in full camouflage on their property.&bsp; According to Jenkins, all gun hunters, except for geese and squirrel, must wear some blaze orange.

The residents expressed interest in campaigning for a &dquo;written permission&dquo; ordinance in Polk County. &bsp;

Rutherford and Transylvania counties have such an ordinance. It would require that hunters carry with them written permission from the land owner.

&bsp;In order for such an ordinance to be approved by the N.C. legislature, it would probably need the unanimous support of the Polk County Board of Commissioners, according to commissioner Renee McDermott.&bsp; Also, there was interest in having a distance law that would require that firearms could not be discharged within a certain distance of a building or posted property.

The wildlife officers refused to encourage the proposal.&bsp; Sheriff Hill&squo;s position was that if the citizenry passed such a rule he would enforce it.&bsp; He agreed that with it his deputies would be able to tell when there was an issue more easily.&bsp; Now it is next to impossible for the police to determine whether a hunter is legitimate.

Speaking to the residents,&bsp; Jenkins said, &dquo;no matter what laws are passed, the people you need to be concerned about are the poachers.&dquo; &bsp;

&dquo;Poachers give hunters a bad name and legal hunters are the most effective deterrent to illegal hunting,&dquo; he said. &bsp;

As evidence, he related that a lot of poaching occurs on Sunday, when hunting is not allowed.&bsp; Also, many of his leads come from hunters.