It is a letter board Chair Vernon Bryant said he would have no problem signing.
In the letter Qualls writes, “We believe that a modification to the existing Land Owner Protection Act would benefit Halifax County.”
He requests a special penalty schedule for the county which would make the first offense of the law have a $1,000 fine and one-year loss of hunting privileges.
The second part would come if a person is cited with a second offense within a five-year period that the penalty be set at $5,000 and include a five-year loss of hunting privileges.
“We are not asking for this for a revenue source, so we would ask that the revenue generated go back to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission,” Qualls said in the letter.
During the meeting Qualls said, “My desire is to ask the state to allow us to use their existing laws so when (hunters) break them there is a real price to pay.”
Qualls confirmed after the meeting the letter is intended to be a substitute for parts of the proposed amendments initially put on the table last month.
Bryant stressed proposals will not be rushed through and will require discussions with hunt clubs, landowners and possibly the state.
While time is of the essence on getting the letter to Wray as the legislature gets ready to convene, the rest of the process will be deliberate, Bryant said. “These are baby steps. We don’t want anyone thinking we’re eliminating hunting. We want to make sure to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.”
Commissioner Linda Brewer said, “I think we need to have help from Raleigh.”
County Manager Tony Brown told the board, “We’re planning to meet with Halifax County property owners. We’re trying to cover all our bases. This is the starting point to get feedback. Really this is a rough, rough draft,” he said, referring to the initial document first discussed at a meeting last month. “This is our starting point.”
Discussion of proposed amendments came after complaints were fielded some dog hunters were trespassing and hunting with dogs without having permission to be on certain property.
County Attorney Glynn Rollins said, “We’re in the very early drafting process,” and noted from his initial review there are likely parts of the proposed amendments which can’t be enforced such as issues dealing with the storage of guns in vehicles. He also said he has found no regulations preventing hunting from the river. “There’s a ton of things which need to be done.”
Commissioner Marcelle Smith said the matter could be as simple as enforcing what’s on the books now. “If no one can enforce them, if anything we might have to ask for an appropriation of funds (for officers) to enforce the laws on the books.”
Carl Hatcher, a retired sergeant for the enforcement division of the wildlife commission, said in the 10 years he worked as a supervisor there were only a few times when he had a full staff.
“It’s just not a hunting issue,” Hatcher told the board. “It’s a property rights issue.”
Sheriff Wes Tripp agreed that while amendments, once agreed upon, could be enforceable, there remains a manpower issue in enforcing them. “It’s going to be a hardship on the sheriff’s office,” he told the board. “I would ask that you not rush into this and make sure you have enforcement personnel in place.”