Pasquotank commissioners not only aren’t interested in enacting new county ordinances to regulate hunting on private land, they also aren’t interested in talking about doing so for at least another three years.
Commissioners declined Monday to take any action on enacting any new county laws to require hunters to get written permission from property owners prior to hunting on their land. Commissioners agreed that current state laws, including the Landowner Protection Act, already provide enough protection for property owners who don’t want hunters on their land.
A commissioner requested that the item be placed on the board’s agenda after the Special Projects Committee voted in August to take no action following a discussion on hunting with dogs.
Commissioners Sean Lavin, Lloyd Griffin III, Jonathan Meads and Bill Sterritt all voted to end discussion on the issue. The motion also included a three-year moratorium on any commissioner bringing the issue back before the board.
Commissioners Charles Jordan and Cecil Perry both abstained from the vote but under the board’s rules were counted as “yes” votes. Commissioner Barry Overman did not attend the meeting.
Prior to the vote, County Attorney Mike Cox said he believes a moratorium on discussing an issue could only last 90 days. Nonetheless Lavin, who made the original motion, decided to stick with the three-year moratorium unless Cox comes back with a legal ruling that limits how long the discussion pause can last.
Some northeastern North Carolina counties have imposed local ordinances requiring hunters to get landowner permission but most were enacted before the Landowner Protection Act was approved by the General Assembly.
“The Landowner Protection Act, which was enacted in 2011, provides similar protection for landowners who properly post their property against trespassing without permission,” County Manager Sparty Hammett told commissioners.
According to the LPA, a property owner who wants to keep unwanted hunters out needs to post his land for no trespassing and no hunting and fishing with purple paint every 100 yards or with posted signs every 200 yards.
Sgt. George G. Owens III of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission told commissioners other states have also adopted the use of purple paint to signal where hunting is prohibited. He said the paint also makes it easier for property owners to post their land since signs can fall down.
“If all those are met and somebody is on the property without written permission then they would be in violation,” Owens said. “We are going to enforce the laws that are out there on the books.”
The LPA also allows state wildlife officers to enforce trespass laws on site.
Meads noted that it is already against the law in Pasquotank for a hunter to shoot across someone’s property without the owner’s permission.
Owens agreed. “You can’t discharge a centerfire rifle across someone’s property,” he said.
Under the LPA, Owens also said a deer dog owner would have to have written permission to enter posted property if the dogs cross onto that land.
Meads also said that some of the people he has talked with about deer dog hunting have told him that they have not had a problem in five years.
“I don’t understand why we are even having this discussion. The problem has been fixed,” he said.
Recent data from the WRC for the last two years shows that there have been 147 hunting with dog complaints in Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.
Almost half those complaints (72) have come from Perquimans, which has a local written permission law for hunting. The WRC received 24 complaints from Pasquotank property owners between Sept. 1, 2019 and Sept. 27 of this year.
Albemarle Houndsmen Association President Bobby Harris said his organization tries to get hunters to cooperate with landowners and opposes Pasquotank enacting new restrictions. He said current laws address the issue.
“We don’t want to be where we shouldn’t be,” Harris, who lives in Camden, told commissioners. “We have been established for 25 years and we try to teach our people to respect landowners, property owners. We have worked hard to try and do that.’’
However, Doug Lane, a Pasquotank landowner who has long advocated for banning deer-dog hunting in the county, urged the board to take action. He said continuing to allow deer-dog hunting creates safety concerns, particularly as the area continues to grow.
“Today, there about 138 people per square mile,” Lane said. “When you allow an individual to swing a rifle, a high-powered weapon at a fast-moving target in a high populated area, what you are doing is putting the public at risk. When they swing that rifle they are putting people at risk.”
Sterritt said he doesn’t like seeing hunters with high-powered rifles within 200 yards of his home. He would like the county possibly to only allow hunting with shotguns. He added that he would like to know what hunters think of his proposal.
“High-powered rifles are dangerous,” Sterritt said. “If you go to the shotgun, you have to do a little more walking than they are doing now.”