By Jesse Wood
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners is holding a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 21 to hear from citizens regarding a proposed resolution that requests the ban of Sunday hunting in Watauga County.
The commissioners looked at the draft resolution at its meeting last week. See the draft resolution, which hasn’t been voted on yet, below.
The N.C. General Assembly did away with the ban in North Carolina, which had been in place for 144 years, with the Outdoor Heritage Act. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law in the summer of 2015.
While hunting isn’t allowed on Sunday on public land, except for military installations, the current bill allows hunting on a landowner’s property on Sunday with a few exceptions. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays:
- between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the typical times for religious services
- for the hunting of migratory birds
- with the use of firearm to take deer that are run or chased by dogs
- within 500 yards of a place of worship, accessory structure
- in a county having a population of greater than 700,000
Permitted archery season is allowed seven days a week.
In 2010 and 2013, Mark Hagaman presented the Watauga County Board of Commissioners with 753 names opposing the lifting of the ban on Sunday hunting. The resolution cited this petition.
A memo in last week’s packet from Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque to the commissioners stated, “Per Commissioner request, a draft resolution has been prepared for consideration by the North Carolina General Assembly to ban hunting on Sundays in Watauga County. The county was previously unsuccessful in requesting that the ban on Sunday hunting not be lifted or otherwise exempt Watauga County from allowing hunting on Sundays.”
The draft resolution cites a 2006 study, requested by former Gov. Mike Easley and conducted by the firm Responsive Management, that states a majority of state residents oppose Sunday hunting. The study showed that 81 percent of general population favored hunting but 65 percent opposed hunting on Sundays. 53 percent of hunters opposed Sunday hunting compared to 38 percent of hunters favoring Sunday hunting.
“Watauga County is predominately rural and Sunday hunting has the potential to threaten the serenity and safety of churches and its members throughout the county,” the resolution reads.
Michael Testerman spoke during public comment at the end of last week’s meeting. Testerman said he heard about the resolution potentially banning Sunday hunting in Watauga County on the radio and rushed over to the meeting after work.
“I am kind of surprised that this was even brought it. I didn’t think this had been a problem in the county or really in any of the counties,” Testerman said. “I am against the restrictions. Private property is always under assault as we get more and more numerous and more and more people and development. Personal rights are always bumping up against each other. To restrict someone the right to hunt on their own property, whether it’s been in their family a long time or they bought it two weeks ago, I think is denying them a right they should expect to have when buying that property.”
The Feb. 21 meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Watauga County Administration Building and the public hearing will be held shortly thereafter.