The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is studying whether or not to hold a special July public hearing - outside the accepted January dates - in Moore County to determine if that county should be placed in the eastern deer season zone.

Such a move would increase harvests of deer by gun and dog hunters but decrease archery-only season dates for that county.

Moore County currently is in the WRC's central deer region. All counties begin deer archery-only season the second Saturday in September each year. However, in the eastern region, archery-only hunting ends the first Saturday in October; in the central region that season continues until the first Saturday in November. If Moore County were put in the eastern zone, it would shorten archery-only season by one month.

Critics of the proposal note a special-season hearing seems to circumvent the normal January public-hearing process.

Fred Harris, the WRC's interim executive director, said the Commission has the right to establish a "temporary rule" that would demand a special public hearing. But Harris said the temporary rule was designed to address emergency situations, not changes in game laws.

"This came about because of a bill introduced (in the state legislature) that would put all of Moore County in the eastern deer season," he said. "But (the WRC's professional division) obviously doesn't think local legislation is the best way to manage wildlife."

Harris said the WRC had been talking to the bill's sponsor, Joe Boylan (R-Moore), and people in Moore County to discuss using the temporary rule procedure to hold a public hearing.

"We're still looking at that, but it looks very strongly that we won't be able to use the temporary rule (to hold a hearing) because that's not the original intent of the rule," Harris said. "It's in place to cover emergencies, and there's no strong immediate resource or public safety concern. It's probably better to (consider) the proposal during the regular (January) public hearings. I think (the proposal) will probably be taken to the (2009) public hearings."

Critics of the proposed change have alleged an influential Pinehurst orthopedic surgeon, who owns several hundred acres of land he leases to deer hunters, is behind the push to include Moore County in the eastern deer region. With such a change, he could lease his land to gun hunters for an additional month each year. NCBA members said no biological reason has been offered to justify moving Moore County into the eastern deer zone.

According to one source, the surgeon told some sportsmen during the Jan. 2008 public hearings he wanted their support for his proposal or he had enough influence to "outlaw bowhunting in Moore County." The NCBA has not supported the proposal and instead actively opposes it.

Boylan, who is not seeking re-election, saw HB 2096 moved to the House Wildlife Committee May 14, 2008, where it remains.

Harris said although the WRC's lawyer, Norman Young, is trying to determine if the temporary rule will allow a special public hearing, a hearing probably won't be held because (a) Moore County's deer herd is not facing an emergency situation and (b) there's little time to inform the rest of the state's deer hunters. The WRC's nine January public hearings usually occur at central, easy-to-reach venues near the center of each wildlife district to encourage as much sportsmen participation as possible.