It's a new day for hunters

It’s a new era for hunters in the Old North State.

When the smoke cleared at the wildlife commission meeting on Feb. 25, Sunday bow-hunting on private land was approved.

But not by a landslide. The vote of the 17 commissioners present was split (Randy Allen was absent and chairman Wes Seegars normally doesn’t vote) and commissioners Eugene Price, W. Ray White, Bobby Purcell, Mitch St. Clair, Maughan Hull asked after the meeting that their names be on the record as voting opposed.

The most controversial proposals that passed included:

* Allowing bow hunting on Sundays on private land only. Bow hunting of migratory birds is stil prohibited. * Removing the daily bag limit for white-tailed deer. * Shortening bow-only season by one week and opening the muzzleloader season a week earlier. * Eliminating the winter wild turkey season. * Allowing the use of crossbows, without a permit, anytime bow and arrows are legal weapons.

Several other controversial proposals were not adopted:

* The commission did not establishing a uniform deer season across most of the state. The proposed changes would have been patterned on the current Eastern Deer Season. * A “Youth Only” Wild Turkey Season was not replaced by a proposed “Friends and Family Afield” Turkey Season. * The Spring Wild Turkey Season will not open the Monday after Youth Season, as proposed.

The vote on an earlier turkey opener was very close, and the vote is a vocal so there’s no way to tally who voted how, which would have been interesting.

“I think we’re quite pleased the way things turned,” said Dowd Bruton, a former wild turkey biologist and avid turkey hunter. “I think the process worked the way it was supposed to. I think the biology [against opening hunting earlier] says it all.”

The crossbow approval and shortening of the archery-only season did not sit well with Ramon Bell, president of the N.C. Bowhunters Association.

“Bow hunting is great sport and doesn’t need to be diminished,” he said.

“The crossbow issue is something we will not relent on,” said Bell. “We don’t think crossbows are good news for anybody except for those who need to use them, like folks with disabilities.”

The N.C.B.A. opposes wide-spread use of crossbows because they are cocked and aimed like a gun.

The proposals will go before the state Rules Review Commission in April before becoming game rules effective in July.

Some other regulation changes include:

* Increasing the minimum size limit for crappies from eight to 10 inches on the Roanoke River from below sthe Roanoke Rapids dam to Albermarle Sound, including Cashie, Middle and Eastmost rivers. * Adding the western portions of Northhampton and Halifax counties to the bear season currently used in the eastern part of these counties. * Setting the season on red and gray squirrels to open Oct. 1 and close on the second Saturday of February. * Changing the shooting hours for hunting waterfowl on the Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Lands from a 1 p.m. ending to all day.

To download a PDF file of all the regulation changes, go here.

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