They may have some work ahead of them.
Unless a bill - first introduced into the N.C. House of Representative as H 762 on April 4 that's crossed over to the N.C. Senate and now is numbered S 374 - is amended, a hunter will be able legally to walk onto any non-posted land, ostensibly only to look for lost dogs, without threat of being arrested or cited for trespassing.
This basically means if you haven't posted your land in one of two prescribed ways required in the bill, anyone can enter your land without written permission - as long as he doesn't carry a weapon or enter by vehicle.
Strangely enough, the original intent of this law was to prevent trespassing, and that section remains in the bill. Its language would supersede all local laws – there are 86 county private-property trespass rules in North Carolina's General Statutes – and requires written permission to hunt or fish on the land of another anywhere in the state.
However, another part of the bill's language notes:
It is not a violation of this subsection to enter upon the land of another without having written permission to hunt as required by this subsection for the sole purpose of retrieving hunting dogs that have strayed onto that land, provided that the land is neither posted in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 14-159.7 or enclosed by a fence and provided that the hunter does not carry a firearm, bow and arrow, or crossbow onto the land or operate a motor vehicle on the land.
Under this section, people who own land would be required to post no-trespassing signs on trees or paint purple vertical stripers on trees no wider apart than 200 yards around the entire perimeter of their property.
The original House bill, ironically called "The Landowner Protection Act," didn't include the "non-posted land" allowance for hunters looking for their dogs, nor did it mention fishing or how legally to post land. However the section to accommodate dog hunters was added by Sen. Clark Jenkins, a Democrat who represents Edgecombe, Martin and Pitt - three counties where dog-hunting, especially of whitetail deer – is popular.
However, Jenkins' amendment has created an uproar of opposition from private-property owners and non-dog hunters.
Jenkins has said the bill "is a compromise between one of my bills and the original landowner protection act ... I truly believe this bill is a fair compromise. It's not a perfect bill and not everyone is pleased with it. But part of legislation is trying to be fair to all interested parties."
However, the free pass for dog hunters has upset many citizens and hunters who don't use dogs.
Mack Moore of Elm City was so incensed, he emailed the Senator and said: "This bill ... is absolutely an assault on individual property rights, which do in fact exist in this great state. There are no rights which allow a person to enter the property of another without permission to 'look for my dogs.' This is absolutely abhorrent - and this provision will backfire on the dog-hunting lobby - and, I'm quite afraid, on all hunters and sportsmen when the general public discovers that you and others in the legislature seek to make it lawful for anyone, anytime, anywhere to wander onto or across the land of another with this 'free pass.' They will be outraged.
"The red herring is allowing for no-access or egress if the land is posted or fenced. It should not be incumbent upon a landowner to take action to prevent another from entering his or her land without permission. Also, we know it is nearly impossible to totally, perfectly post, maintain or fence every inch of our property's borders all the time, hence another loop hole.
"This bill (also) would legalize organized man drives on property one does not possess permission to be on for deer and other game by anyone, anytime statewide."
Moore also noted such a law would allow dog hunters to ruin still hunts on property where they have no permission to hunt by using the excuse of "I'm just huntin' for my dogs."
Moore also went on to say any legislator who voted for this bill would be put on a list of political candidates targeted for defeat.
A few days after Moore sent his e-mail to Jenkins, the senator removed his name as a sponsor or co-sponsor of S 374. Although still alive, the bill also recently was pulled from the Senate schedule for a full-chamber vote and re-referred to the Senate's Committee on the Judiciary.
Listed primary Senate sponsors for S 374 now include Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville), Michael P. Walters (D-Proctorville) and Tommy Tucker (R-Waxhaw). Its lone co-sponsor is Ralph Hise (R-Spruce Pine).
To contact those Senators on-line, visit www.ncga.state.nc.us/Senate/Senate.html and click on Senate Member List.
In addition to requiring written permission to hunt or fish on the land of another statewide, S 374 prevents the firing of weapons (modern firearms or primitive weapons) from state rights of way, except at certain game lands where road hunting is permitted or if the landowner or lessee owns the land that abuts the road.