Hunters descend on CC board
A crowd of more than 200, mostly hunters, filled the Charles City government building’s auditorium for last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting. But the throng did not show up in response to a potential overturning of the county’s law allowing high-powered rifles during deer hunting season. These were hunters out to protect their right to use dogs.
In essence, the hunters pressed supervisors to pass a resolution aimed at preserving their right to hunt deer utilizing dogs. And supervisors were quick to oblige, unanimously passing the resolution during their Jan. 22 meeting.
County resident Jimmy Fitzgerald spearheaded the effort in a letter to supervisors, urging them to take action similar to what has occurred in Brunswick and a handful of other counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. State game laws prohibit hunting with dogs west of the Blue Ridge, but the practice is permitted in localities to the east.
“We want to protect our heritage to hunt with dogs,” Fitzgerald told supervisors.
In response, District 3 Supervisor Timothy Cotman said the board has imparted its position on the matter to representatives in the state’s General Assembly.
“We’ve already communicated with our state delegates and told them we support the right to hunt with dogs,” Cotman told the crowd.
Board chairman Gilbert Smith, meanwhile, said he is an avid deer hunter and supports using dogs.
Cotman’s motion to adopt the resolution passed 3-0, eliciting loud applause. Accompanying the resolution will be a letter signed by supervisors in support of the dog use practice.
Most hunters in the crowd walked out after the board’s vote. Only a handful stayed for the board’s discussion on rifle use in the county.
In 2005, supervisors passed a law allowing the use of rifles higher than .22 caliber during general deer hunting season, provided the firearms are discharged only from tree stands 10 or more feet above the ground. Back then, Smith and Michael Holmes voted to adopt the law while Cotman voted in opposition.
In last fall’s election, Holmes lost his District 2 board seat to Sherri Bowman who spoke out against the rifle law during the campaign.
During last week’s meeting, several rifle proponents pleaded with the board not to rescind the law.
County resident David Adams told supervisors rifle use is safe, resulting in fewer accidents than with shotguns, which are permitted in the county.
“I hope you all look at the facts of this before you take this away,” he told the board.
Another county resident, John Hofmeyer, said rifle use already is legal in the county for exterminating animals classified as varmints.
But opponents also spoke out, including county resident Elenora Robinson who charged that supervisors ignored several petitions signed in opposition when the law was passed in 2005.
“If we need again to go out and get petitions saying no high-powered rifles, we’ll get more names,” she said.
Bowman, meanwhile, did not comment, but voted with other board members to schedule a Feb. 26 hearing to entertain public comment on all alternatives concerning the rifle law. A proposed law would then be created for the board’s regular March meeting during which supervisors could take final action.
Several options introduced last week that could be added to the law include:
–Not allowing rifle use within 100 yards of a residence without the owner/occupant’s permission;
–Prohibiting rifle use on local development center land as defined in the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan;
–Giving a landowner the right to prohibit rifle use on his land;
–Prohibiting rifle use on public land, state forestal land, state Game Commission land, and wildlife management areas;
–Prohibiting the use of semiautomatic rifles;
–Restricting use to .36 caliber and smaller.
Any law revision must be adopted before May 1 for inclusion in state game laws for the 2008 general deer-hunting season.
The rifle law in question does not pertain to use of muzzle-loaded firearms, which are permitted in the county.