The proposals were initially discussed Tuesday by county commissioners which led to consensus further talks be held with state legislators as well as possibly taking the matter to roundtable sessions with dog hunters and still hunters.
“I was contacted by property owners who in turn are dog hunters for the reason of hopefully having regulations concerning dog hunting adopted,” Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp said today. “Based on that I contacted a couple of commissioners to meet with these concerned property owners because commissioners are the ones that would start the process of county ordinances.”
Complaints fielded by the sheriff were of some dog hunters trespassing and hunting with dogs without having permission to be on certain property, he said. “It’s important to know these concerned citizens who are dog hunters are not trying to outlaw dog hunting, they are trying to have regulations.”
Tripp said the process which could lead to amendments in the county’s hunting ordinances will not be an overnight deal.
In fact, it was suggested Tuesday a subcommittee meet with state legislators first to get their input and then “have some type of roundtable discussion with dog hunters, hunters with dogs and still hunters.”
Commissioner Rives Manning presented the proposed changes at the Tuesday meeting, calling them The Highway Hunting Safety and Property Protection Act.
Manning said today problems cropped up years ago “with some hunters abusing the rights of property owners by hunting where they did not have permission. It has grown from there. It’s a safety issue pure and simple.”
In initial meetings with hunters Manning said the problems were discussed. “We’re looking at solutions that have been worked on in other counties.”
Some of the problems discussed, Manning said, include hunters on the road running dogs. “Law enforcement says you can’t hunt from the highways.”
However, when caught, Manning said, some hunters will claim they weren’t hunting, only trying to find their dogs. “What we have presently is almost unenforceable. Unless you see someone shooting down the road there’s no way to get a conviction.”
Manning said there have been people injured in their yards by gunshots from hunters. “We’ve had dwellings that have received bullets from hunters. No one was hurt, but they hit the house. It’s a real problem. There’s only a small percentage of people causing the problems for everyone.”
Manning noted in a memo to commissioners and county staff, “It is not our proposal that deer hunting with dogs or any other form of hunting be prohibited. It is intended that some regulations be put in place which will make it safer and better for all — homeowners, property owners and the general public.”
Manning believes the proposed amendments are legitimate and enforceable, but said, “There is no timeline. We’re using this a basis. There’s nothing cut in stone. These are proposals. I think we need some rules. We haven’t had changes in Halifax County hunting laws in 40 years.”
The three laws
Currently, Manning said, there are three laws listed in Halifax County regarding hunting.
They state the following is unlawful:
To take a deer with the aid of a boat or floating device in the Roanoke River between Highway 17 and Highway 301
Hunt with a firearm from the right-of-way of a public road
Discharge a firearm on or across a public road
The draft which will serve as basis for discussion of the matter includes the following amendments and replacements:
Amend the law concerning hunting with the aid of a floating device or boat to include Fishing Creek between the Warren County line, east to the point where it is no longer on the Halifax County line and goes 100 percent into Edgecombe County. The same proposed amendment would also include Bellamy Mill Road.
The law concerning hunting with a firearm from the right-of-way from a public road is proposed to be changed with the following:
The long gun weapons of hunters lawfully recovering dogs must remain fully unloaded in the passenger area of the vehicle while on a state right-of-way or unloaded in a locked gun case or unloaded in a locked toolbox in the back of the truck or other vehicle when parked beside posted or purple paint-marked land if they don’t have permission to hunt that land.
The law concerning discharging a firearm on or across a public road would be dismantled and the new proposal is as follows:
It will be unlawful to have possession of a loaded shotgun or centerfire rifle while on the right-of-way including the traveled portion of any public road or highway while inside or outside the confines of the passenger area of a vehicle.
The proposal presented Tuesday also includes additions which make the following unlawful:
To hunt deer or other wild animals with dogs unless the dog has a collar with the owner’s name, address and telephone number
To chase deer or other wild animals with dogs or permit a dog to chase deer or other wild animals between April 1 and June 30 — turkey season — with the exception of hunting in wild game pens
To release a dog or dogs with the intent of hunting the property of another without having on one’s person the written permission of the owner or lessee of that property
To hunt wildlife or attempt to take wildlife on the land of another or fish the land of another without having on one’s person while hunting, taking or attempting to take or fishing the written permission, signed and dated for the current hunting, trapping or fishing season by the landowner’s or lessee’s designee
To hunt deer or other wild animals with a centerfire rifle, except from a stand with shooting height of at least 8 feet from the ground
The proposed additions also state these game laws can be enforced in Halifax County by any law enforcement officer or state Wildlife Resources Commission officer.
Another proposed addition states deer, fox, bear or coyote hunters hunting with dogs must have in their possession written proof of permission to hunt on the property where the dogs are released and must keep on file the current season’s records of leases or written permission with maps printed off from the Halifax County GIS website. These records may be kept in a central location, available to law enforcement, upon request of adjoining lands making up at least a 300-acre tract that they have permission to hunt on. Records shall include the names and contact information, including telephone numbers of the landowner or lessee of hunting rights of adjoining lands to be in compliance.
Additionally the proposal requests violations of the trespass and hunting laws bear the following mandatory fines:
First offense — $250
Second offense — $500
Third and subsequent offenses — $500 plus confiscation of firearms in possession at the time of the offense
Tripp said he had no comment on the proposed amendments and changes. “My job is to enforce any ordinance they enact.”
The sheriff did say with adequate manpower the proposed amendments and changes would be enforceable.
It is expected that Manning, commissioner Patrick Qualls and Carolyn Johnson will be named to a subcommittee along with county staff, law enforcement and wildlife enforcement officers to discuss the matter further.
Qualls said he believes the first step is for county staff to check and see whether the proposed ordinances will involve state actions. “If it involves our local state representatives we check with them and gage their willingness to participate in the process. If they are willing to participate we move to the step which is having a committee of county staff and commissioners that sit down in roundtable discussions with representatives of all hunting clubs throughout the county.
“At that discussion we use the rules put forth by (Manning) as a guideline for a reasonable discussion of where the problems are identified and where potential solutions are reached that gives everyone a buy-in to the problems and solutions. Hopefully, we will have a good resolution if everyone buys in.”