It seems like an every other year we have some sort of change or proposal for change in the bear hunting laws and regulations in our state. Here we go again!
I started getting emails from several bear hunters yesterday having to do with their concerns about a proposed change in the bear hunting laws. It appeared that a legislator, at the request of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commissioners, is introducing a bill that could make it legal to bait a bear in our state.
According to local hunters, this proposed change is brought about by a request from a bear hunting outfitter (guide service). The change would make it most advantageous for him to charge his bear-hunting clients a profitable fee for a nearly guaranteed, successful trophy bear hunt that would take place over baited sites.
Supposedly, a handful of Hyde County landowners that had been renting their yearly hunting leases to bear hunters who used bear dogs, were being held-up because the landowners had been approached by a certain bear hunting guide service who would pay even more money for the privilege of allowing his clients of still hunters to hunt bear over bait, on his property.
The guide service makes good money and the landowners also make better on their hunting lease sales. All of this hinges on the success (or defeat) of a bill being introduced in the North Carolina Legislature that could give regulatory authority to the Wildlife Commission to make it legal to hunt bear on or over bait.
It is notable that in North Carolina, the legislature has the authority to set up the laws that determine how bears can be hunted in our state. The Wildlife Commission, in turn, is responsible for enforcing those laws. The Wildlife Commission can’t make laws, but it can create regulations that follow (enhance) the laws as set by the legislature.
This proposed bill that Senator Harry Brown (R. Onslow) has introduced would establish an annual Black Bear Stamp (yet another tax?) that would cost N.C. residents $10 a year and non-residents $225.00 a year. Lifetime license holders and license exempt persons (if purchased prior to July 1, 1994) would get the stamp free of charge. The bill (S352) would give the Wildlife Commission the authority to allow the taking of bear by rule.
Many bear hunters welcome the addition of the new, yearly bear stamp particularly having to do with the resident hunters. They feel that requiring the relatively small $10 resident fee would keep many hunters from killing too many bears. Currently, most licensed deer hunters are not required to have any kind of special bear license or tag. The addition of this new tax may stop some hunters from shooting a bear if they stumble on one.
Some of the bear hunting with hound groups are very apprehensive about seeing the NCWRC having this kind of power over setting rules on bear baiting.
Several years ago the laws on bear baiting were changed to allow bait to be used as long as the bait was not processed food, such as peanut butter, chocolate, bubble gum and the well-known bear favorite, honey buns. Bait such as corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes and pears (as long as these were not “processed”) were ok as long as still hunters did not shoot the bear within gunshot of the bait pile. Dog hunters could release their dogs on the trail of a bear at the bait site as long as they did not shoot the bear within gunshot of the bait.
This caused dissention between the still and dog hunters, because one side or the other seemed to feel slighted with this arrangement.
Some hunters draw a distinction between the words “bait” and “feed,” because “bait” refers to the placing of food within a well defined area to draw game into shooting range, whereas the word “feed(ing)” refers to the placing of food scattered in the woods to draw game into a specific, large area that allows dog hunters to better track game animals. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then — oh well!
After having bounced around for years on the laws and regulations dealing with hunting bear with dogs, without dogs, over bait, with the aid of bait, type of bait and licensing procedures for bear hunters, it would seem reasonable that somehow our legislators and Wildlife Commissioners could decide on something that would keep our black bear population at a good level and not cause all this squabbling within the ranks of hunters.
Just keep the new regulations that everyone’s talking about simple enough for us to understand and keep our black bear population at a sustainable level.
I don’t know of any one sporting group of hunters that are more concerned with the conservation of the resource that they represent than the bear hunters themselves. Be they dog or still bear hunters, they work for a common goal and depend on our elected legislators and their appointed Wildlife Commissioners to see to it that our wildlife managers conserve our resources to be of the best possible use to us citizens. If they don’t properly do their jobs in the eyes of the outdoorsmen who pay their salaries, then outdoorsmen still have voting power to see to it that we elect someone else who can.
While some consider it unsportsmanlike to shoot a bear over bait, others do not feel that way. States such as Maine have a very good population of bears, and through strictly regulated management of this type of bear hunting their bear population seems to be thriving. Some Canadian Provinces likewise allow baiting without seeming to harm the bear populations.
Other states, such as our sister state, Virginia, forbid the feeding (baiting) of bear at any time and the feeding of deer from the first of September through the end of January of the following year. From my experience these rules are nearly a joke. Wal-Marts, Tractor Supplys and feed stores do a booming business selling what’s plainly labeled “Deer Corn” all year long in that state.
If our wildlife managers have conducted extensive studies that have determined that allowing the baiting and hunting of bears is detrimental to their sustainable population levels, then North Carolina should not allow baiting.
Let’s face it, the first responsibility of our wildlife managers is to the resource and, secondly, to our hunters. Some hunters have recently accused our new NC Wildlife Commissioners of catering to “their rich hunting buddies” and if this is the case and the faction of the bear hunters could be harmful to the sustainable population bears, then these guys have a legitimate complaint.
Some think that if the high-dollar outfitter (guiding service) gains control of certain large tracts of land down east that they will be literally “selling wild game animals” when they virtually guarantee their clients that they will kill a trophy bear when they sign on for one of their very expensive hunts. On the other hand is there any difference in this and the swan hunts that also virtually guarantee that their clients will take a swan?
Even the anti-hunting faction here in our state has some “say-so” in the way our wildlife resources are managed and they do not want to see any black bears hunted for sport. They do not realize that without any natural predator (other than man) to control the population of bears here, the results would not be pretty.
Our black bears have adapted beautifully to the ways of modern man. Even hunting can’t keep the bear population low enough to keep the bear from overpopulating to the extent that they’re not only a nuisance to farmers but a mild danger to man as well. Since farmers are allowed to prevent bear damage to crops and property by any method, they routinely shoot and kill bears that are in their fields damaging crops. No license or permit is needed by the landowner or farmer to do this. It’s a shame to see these animals killed and left to rot in the fields.
North Carolina presently has what is probably has the most dense population in the entire world of huge black bears. Hunters from all over the world come here to hunt them and, for the most part, our native hunters are happy with the situation. We’d like to keep it that way and not let the hunters with the most dollars turn our bear resources into a free-for-all for the rich.