Hunters may have to find other waters
by Staff Writer
Duck hunting may be disappearing on the Mecklenburg County side of Lake Norman.
Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte is asking state and county legislators to explore the possibility of banning hunting on the lake now that development covers most of the Mecklenburg County shoreline.
“With the development of homes on virtually every inch of lake shore in Mecklenburg County as well as the shear boat traffic on the lake, it is no longer safe for hunters to shoot right up to the 760 line (the edge of the lake at full-pond),” Tarte said in an email to N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and County Commissioner Karen Bentley.
He asked the speaker and the commissioner to immediately find and take the steps necessary to ban hunting on the lake.
Allowing duck hunting on the lake in season is an accident waiting to happen, Tarte said. His request is in partially in response to calls the town receives from residents at the beginning of each hunting season. One woman reported that her windshield was shot from a boat, and Tarte said numerous people call to complain about gunshots too close to houses.
“Problematically we find hunters legally firing from boats towards the shoreline,” Tarte said in his email.
It is illegal to discharge a weapon within 150 yards of any residence, according to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
There have not been injuries reported from hunting on the lake.
Tarte is asking to ban hunting on the Mecklenburg County side of the lake, specifically along Cornelius’ 77 miles of lakeshore.
“This all used to be open farmland, and everybody hunted, and it was very appropriate,” Tarte, an avid hunter, said. “You really don’t need to be hunting in residential areas.”
Tarte is not advocating banning hunting everywhere. Lake hunting might still be appropriate in undeveloped areas of Catawba and Iredell counties, he said.
“Any place around water with rural farm lands, places on rivers, farm ponds, wherever you don’t have a high density of residential development,” people could continue hunting, Tarte said.
Christopher Dillon, of the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission legislative affairs, said that as public state water, any hunting regulations on Lake Norman would have to go through the state general assembly.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Director Jim Garges is researching legislative routes to regulate hunting on the water.
“We are finding out what the county can or cannot do. We don’t know yet,” Garges said.
Bentley said it looks unlikely that the county commission would have to make a ruling on banning hunting on the lake. She cited strong existing state regulations and said that she has heard more opposition than support to Tarte’s request from her constituents.
“There’s very good legislation in place to monitor and regulate hunting around the lake,” Bentley said.
Tarte has also heard opposition from his constituents.
“Duck hunting and all legal forms of hunting and fishing have been a part of tradition and the most supporting group (financially and personally) of conservationist since the addition of Lake Norman,” one resident said to Tarte in an email.
Opponents maintain that hunting happened around the lake before the influx of residential development and should not be limited because of new residents.
“Drunks on the lake have killed more people and endangered more lives than any hunter ever has! So, why not a push to ban alcohol on the Lake? I have never read one article where a resident was shot, injured or killed by a duck hunter on Lake Norman or even had a close call,” Cornelius resident Tim Carroll said in an email to Tarte. “Most hunters that I’ve met are responsible, so to push for a ban and lump all hunters in the same category is wrong.”
The steel shot used in duck hunting travels less than the 150 yards hunters must be away from homes, but Tarte says the perception of guns near houses is no longer appropriate on the south side of the lake.
Davidson Mayor John Woods is also a lifelong hunter, often partnering with Tarte. Woods said he takes a common sense approach to hunting safety.
“Shooting near homes, or shooting over homes, … no matter how large or small the shot is, that doesn’t make good sense to me,” Woods said.