Target shooting would be prohibited on the Sandy Mush Game Land, mountain biking would be restricted on the Pisgah Game Land and deer excrement use would be prohibited as attractants by hunters under new rules proposed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The state wildlife agency has opened the public comment period for proposed changes to regulations related to wildlife management, inland fisheries and game lands for the 2020-21 seasons. Comments will be taken until Jan. 31.
The commission will also hold a series of public hearings around the state in January to discuss the 45 proposed regulations and take comment.
Some of the rule changes that would affect hunters, anglers and residents in Western North Carolina include those to Sandy Mush and Pisgah game lands.
Rule G6 would prohibit target shooting on the 2,800-acre game land in Buncombe and Madison counties, even though the area is open to hunting game from quail to squirrels and deer.
“Target shooting has not been prohibited. It can be destructive and dangerous if not put in the right place, if you don’t have a back-stop or berm to stop the bullet after it goes through the target,” said Chris Jordan, game lands and forest resources manager with the wildlife commission.
“It’s a projectile flying through the air and can hurt someone. In the mountains you never know where a bullet is going if it ricochets off rocks.”
Sandy Mush Game Land is within 45 miles of the Wayne E. Smith Cold Mountain Shooting Range, a safe environment for target shooting where user group conflicts can be avoided. Sandy Mush is a popular area for the public. In addition to hunters, it is used by hikers and bird watchers, and is adjacent to private property, said Brad Stanback, wildlife commissioner for District 9, which covers much of WNC.
He said the commission has been trying to establish shooting ranges within no more than 50 miles of everyone in the state.
“I think we’ve just about accomplished that for every area except the Research Triangle,” Stanback said.
Rule G11 recognizes the different user groups on game lands but would help protect habitat by restricting mountain bike use to designated trails only on the state-owned Linville River Tract of Pisgah Game Land. This restriction will not apply to hunters using bicycles during open days of applicable hunting seasons.
“Mountain biking is very popular on that game land and if you get enough bicycle activity, in effect they make their own trails. If you make one that goes straight downhill and have a big rain, all of a sudden you have a rut and then a gully, and it takes tens of thousands of dollars to fix it,” Jordan said.
“If a trail is designated, we can maintain it to where it can hold up to mountain bikes. It’s not a good idea to have user-initiated trails.”
The 2-mile Mountains-to-Sea connector trail, which goes through the southernmost portion of the Linville River Tract of Pisgah Game Land, is designated for mountain bikes.
The state-owned Pisgah Game Land is nearly 5,000 acres, spreading across several counties, but this rule would only pertain to the MST Connector Trail in Burke and McDowell counties, just south of Lake James, off N.C. 126, and does not affect mountain biking in the rest of Pisgah National Forest.
The “user-created” trails have been found in wildlife openings, on firebreaks, and on trails and roads not designed for a high level of mountain biking use. Jordan said restricting bicyclists to designated trails will limit erosion and habitat degradation.
Other proposed rules include H2, which would prohibit the use of cervid excrement (urine, feces, saliva, and other bodily fluids) for taking or attracting wildlife.
According to the wildlife commission, this would help in minimizing the chance of spreading chronic wasting disease, which is fatal in cervids, including white-tailed deer and elk, by eliminating the introduction of infectious material into the environment.
CWD can be transmitted through cervid urine, feces, saliva, blood and other bodily fluids. This rule will prohibit the use of natural deer urine and other cervid excrement but will continue to allow the use of synthetic urine type products.
David Whitmire, chair of the nonprofit Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council based in Rosman, said he doesn’t see the deer urine law as controversial, but simply a precaution, “although some folks might speak up if they use natural scents.”
Whitmire said he also agreed with proposed rule H3, which would extend the doe harvest season during blackpowder firearms season for parts of Buncombe and Henderson counties enrolled in the maximum deer either-sex firearms season. The special season was designed to maximize deer harvest “to address an overabundance of deer.”
While the firearms season in these portions of the county allow doe harvest for the full season, the blackpowder season did not. This change would make these special parts of Buncombe and Henderson counties full season either-sex during the blackpowder firearms season.
“From my visual experience it seems a lot of deer are hit and laying dead along I-26 and N.C. 191. So increasing harvest opportunity could be most helpful,” Whitmire said.
“This area already has a special doe season which allows for more doe days, so adding a few more to manage the population seems just.”
Other proposed rules deal with fishing, including changes to boundaries for public mountain trout waters on Fires Creek and the West Fork of the French Broad River, and a proposal to decrease the general statewide daily creel limit for Kokanee salmon from seven fish to four fish.
The salmon rule was proposed due to angler observations and evaluations by wildlife commission biologists that found “significant declines in the Lake Nantahala fishery, the only Kokanee Salmon fishery in the state.”
Want to comment?
Comments may be submitted online, emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (must include name, phone number and mailing address in e-mail) or mailed to: Rule-Making Coordinator, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1700. Comment will also be taken at public hearings.
For the full list of proposed rule changes, visit www.ncwildlife.org.
Wildlife proposed rules hearing schedule:
District 9: Jan. 14. Sylva Southwestern Community College, Myers Auditorium, 447 College Drive, Sylva.
District 8: Jan. 15. Morganton Western Piedmont CC, Moore Hall Leviton Auditorium, 101 Burkemont Ave., Morganton.
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