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Halifax County Commissioners Monday decided to put the issue of dog hunting in its yearly legislative goals, a document which is forwarded to state lawmakers.

The decision to place the matter on the annual list comes as commissioners Carolyn Johnson and Patrick Qualls, as well as county administrators, received complaints last week about dog hunters.

Qualls this morning said the complaints include hunters shooting toward houses and running dogs on land where they are not allowed.

“The state has to make a consolidated effort to protect landowners from rogue dog hunters,” Qualls said at the meeting. “I think there’s a need for them to address the issues we put forward to them as a board of commissioners.”

Commissioner Rives Manning recommended the matter be added to this year’s goals.

(The resolution passed in 2020 may be viewed as a PDF at this link)

In 2020 the board had sent a resolution to the state which as of yet has not been acted upon.

A local bill specifically addressing Halifax County would not solve the issues as a local bill can’t be enforced by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Qualls said. “It’s a political hot potato. Some of the things that are going on happen at the beginning of the year and end of the year where they go crazy and I got a bunch of those calls this week.
“It just reminds me why we went through that process of getting beat over the head with a sledgehammer and taking knots on our heads. We did it for a reason — to protect landowners. Landowners are the ones that pay the bills. A lot of these people come into our county that aren’t from our county. It’s not fair to the landowners.”

Respected clubs

As Commissioner Carolyn Johnson said, referring to the Poor Boys and Redman clubs in Hollister, Qualls said, those clubs do it the right way. “They keep the paths clean. They keep it gated. They’re respectful of the landowners. If everybody did it like they did it, it would be no issue whatsoever but landowners are getting abused by these other clubs.”

Qualls said by the state addressing the matter in a unilateral move it would put more teeth in the laws. “It’s hard for a game warden to enforce a set of rules for one county and a set of rules for another county. I think what we put forward in that committee and passed by the commissioners is a very good set of rules that will allow everybody to enjoy hunting and for the landowners to have their protection.”

Johnson said, “Everything Patrick said is true, especially in my area and I am a landowner. The problem doesn’t come from the clubs in the Hollister area. The problem comes from other clubs that are outside of our area.”

Qualls said the Poor Boy and Redman clubs are extremely respectful of landowners and adjacent landowners. “If you ride down the road that I grew up on they have do not shoot zones because of houses, but unfortunately not everybody does it like they do. There’s probably going to be a lawsuit coming up shortly because the person who called me last week is very frustrated. Our rules would have prevented everything that went on last week. It’s just simple that you need to respect landowners.”

Manning said he believed the matter needs to come up for discussion at the state level. “If we have to start it all over again, well let’s start it all over again. Let’s pick up and go with it now.”

Vernon: They’ve had that information for awhile. 

Landowners at the heart

At the heart of the issue is the landowners, Qualls said. “Landowners pay the taxes that we operate the county on and provide services for our citizens. Even though their voice is not as strong, we need to get to a point where a landowner has the right to decide what goes on his or her land.

There are a lot of good clubs in the county. We need to get to a point where the other clubs understand that there’s a hammer behind them that if you continually violate the process this is what happens.”

The resolution the county forwarded to the state was sensible and good, said Qualls. “I think if the state were to adopt those it would end a ton of our problems.”

Commissioner John Smith said he wonders what feedback the state is getting from other counties. “It’s a big political issue. Sometimes when you have the big wheels pushing it kind of gets pushed under the rug.”

Permitting alternative

Another idea discussed was permitting hunting clubs by the county. “If you hunt with dogs in the county you get a permit and if we get so many complaints on you then your permit is gone and you can’t run dogs anymore,” Qualls said. “If this (the resolution) doesn’t pass then maybe we do that on a local level and then people will realize if you mess up your privilege will be gone. The vast majority of the people out there that dog hunt are good people and they do a good job . It’s just a few people that act like idiots within those clubs that give it a bad name. That would give them a reason to get rid of them and do it the right way.”

Johnson said she believes the county has done as much as it could do on the issues. She said the permitting suggestion is something that also needs to be studied in the future. “I don’t think we need to do that right now until we have strategies put in place that we’re comfortable with and strategies that landowners can live with.”

Discussing the permitting issue this morning, Qualls said a permit system could possibly give the county the right to revoke the hunting privileges on clubs that violate the law based on 911 calls or complaints. “Then the clubs that do it correctly are not penalized for the bad apples.”

Most of the feedback Qualls has received on the matter has been positive from clubs hunting the correct way. “These clubs want to protect their heritage of hunting deer with hounds and therefore are open to rules that prevent bad apples from ruining that heritage.”

A dog hunter over the years, Qualls said, “These landowners pay the taxes to the county and deserve a fair shake as do the hunters. I’ve been a member of multiple dog hunting clubs over the years. I’m trying to protect their abilities to hunt deer with hounds by doing it the correct way in times that are changing.”