Proposed new hunting ordinance stirs debate in Polk County

Published 3:22 pm Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The board set a public hearing for Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Womack building in Columbus.

The discussion Monday became heated, and one man who was not signed up to speak but insisted on speaking was escorted out of the meeting room.

Brenda Brock told commissioners that a written permission ordinance, which 56 other counties in North Carolina already have, would be a benefit to both parties and would be helpful to law enforcement officers.

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&dquo;In no way is this an effort to try to prevent hunting,&dquo; Brock said.

But John Blanton, retired N.C. Wildlife Officer, said that the N.C. Wildlife Commission does not support any type of written permission law because it further restricts hunting. Blanton explained that every time a new local law is enacted, there are fewer hunters, which means less revenue for the wildlife commission, which is supported solely by hunting and fishing licensing. Blanton said that most residents with land to hunt don&squo;t have a problem giving verbal permission, but many people don&squo;t want to sign their name because they are afraid that will make them liable for any accident that may occur on their land. Blanton suggested instead that commissioners talk with the local district attorney and judges to put more teeth in trespassing judgments.

&dquo;I don&squo;t think it&squo;s any secret we&squo;re here because of a goose hunting incident,&dquo; Blanton said. &dquo;At that time if the county had a written permission law I&squo;d argue it wouldn&squo;t have affected this incident. In my opinion the only law breaking was hunter harassment when people other than landowners entered the property.&dquo;

Gary Haynes said he was born and raised in Sunny View and is the vice-president of the Polk County Coon Club. He said a new law will put a burden on hunters and he and the coon club &dquo;are dead set against it.&dquo;

Sam Mills said he&squo;s never been involved with trespassing and &dquo;if it&squo;s not broke, don&squo;t fix it. I think it&squo;s worked very well with obtaining verbal permission from every landowner,&dquo; Mills said.

Burt Baer said he has people hunt on his land and would like to have control over who is on his property when.

&dquo;When I hunted, getting written permission wouldn&squo;t have inhibited me at all,&dquo; said Baer.

Peter Mahler said he&squo;s been hunting in Polk County since 1946 and he&squo;s never hunted without permission. He said he&39;s had a problem lately with people from South Carolina hunting on his land without permission and agreed there needs to be some kind of control.

Linda Sprague said she&squo;s a landowner and feels it&squo;s her right to be very specific in allowing who hunts on her land.

&dquo;If I were a hunter then I&squo;d get written permission,&dquo; Sprague said. &uot;It&squo;s something that needs to be in place.&dquo;

Wildlife supervisor Billy Rogers and Polk County Wildlife Officer Toby Jenkins also answered questions from commissioners Monday. Rogers said in his opinion he sees no advantages in having a written permission ordinance.

Jenkins said poachers are going to be poachers no matter what is done and that Polk County is no worse than any other county with poachers. Jenkins said the majority of hunters in Polk County are law abiding and good people.

In order to have a new ordinance in Polk County requiring written permission, Polk will need to ask local legislators to support a bill. The state would need to pass a local bill specifically for Polk County to enact such an ordinance.