The wildlife commissioners approved eight wildlife management proposals, including one that would establish the framework to open an elk hunting season in western North Carolina. Along with this proposal, they adopted a complementary resolution delaying the issuance of any elk hunting permits until state, federal and tribal land organizations have determined appropriate allocation of permits based on annual sustainable harvest goals and population viability. “Our next step will be to work closely with our partners, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to establish clear metrics to guide a permit-only hunt sometime in the future,” said Gordon Myers, the Commission’s executive director. “Together we will work to determine sustainable harvest goals and how to allocate harvest across the population range.” As defined, the elk hunting season will be from October 1 through November 1 with a bag limit of one per permit. The manner of take would be any legal firearm or archery equipment.
This proposal garnered much public attention, most of the press designed to encourage people to oppose the proposal. Those trying to generate opposition are candidates for reading the principles of the North American Wildlife Management model. Every wildlife environment has a limit to sustainable wildlife populations. In other words, it was just a matter of time before elk in Cataloochee Valley wandered off the National Park as the herd grew in size. Permit hunting, if done properly, should allow the WRC to keep the herd in check while raising money to improve elk habitat in the mountains. It will be interesting to see how they allocate permits.
To continue. Out of an abundance of caution and desire for additional biological information, commissioners disapproved a proposed alligator hunting season, Because the take of alligators in some situations is reasonable and appropriate, the commissioners directed Director Myers, through a resolution, to examine options that would utilize the skills and expertise of North Carolina sportsmen and women to provide assistance in removal of alligators under nuisance or depredation circumstances. The resolution further directed Myers to create an Alligator Task Force that would develop a North Carolina Alligator Management Plan, which would include an evaluation of biological information and knowledge gaps on alligators in the state and recommendation for a framework for gathering public input on the plan.
In other actions, the Commission also amended a proposed regulation to designate Holly Shelter Game Land as a 6-day-per-week game land and restrict dog hunting for deer and bear to Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays, by adding the following three days: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Wildlife Commissioners did not vote on a proposed regulation to remove the Eastern cougar as a federally listed species in North Carolina. Pursuant to state law, federally listed animals must have the same designation in the state as their federal status. The Commission expected the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the Eastern cougar from the federal list, but this action has been delayed. The Commission also voted to begin temporary rule making to change the bear hunting regulations to consider allowing baiting throughout the entire bear season. A significant change since it had been limited to the first week of the season.
The regular hunting season is officially over. We now have about six weeks to wait until turkey season starts. I intend to get an early start scouting and get in more turkey hunting this year than last. My grouse season was a bust. Not to make excuses, but every day I was scheduled to be off from mid-January until the end of February we either had rain or snow. The weather was not my friend this year. As I write this my plan is to get out the last couple of days of the season, hopefully with positive results. We have heard about successful flush rates among many grouse hunters. One came in the shop and told me they had flushed 17 birds in one day. Seven to eight flush hunts seemed to be common this year. Report next week on my end of year hunt.