12/11/09 — Illegal deer kill raises hunting issues

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Illegal deer kill raises hunting issues

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on December 11, 2009 1:46 PM

The 1980s cartoon G.I. Joe ended the same way each Saturday morning with a phrase that makes resounding sense in its simplicity, "Knowing is half the battle."

When taking to the field for a hunt, knowing what is legal is of the greatest importance for both the public's safety and the sportsman's peace of mind.

Last week a potential state-record deer was killed in Wayne County and the story immediately began to grow as large as the buck's massive rack. Since the harvest, the hunters who killed the deer have been charged with night hunting and the carcass has been seized by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's enforcement division.

The investigation is still ongoing.

"The latest incident is just one of many," said wildlife enforcement officer Joshua Hudson. "There is only one game officer per county, so all the calls and all of the spotlight-related complaints come through me."

The hunter's light was also seized after the trophy kill. The courts will now decide what will become of the deer, the antlers and the equipment used to obtain it.

Even if the buck is scored as a record, it will likely remain out of the annals of North Carolina hunting due to its illegal end. The antler-scoring process takes approximately 60 days while the rack is dried. Antlers that are dried are marginally smaller than those from a fresh kill.

"We don't even know if the deer will be able to be scored," said Hudson. "Either way, it probably still won't be listed with the other big deer of the season. That's all up to the judge."

The guidelines for spotlight use are clear.

Possessing a spotlight at the same time as a firearm is illegal in North Carolina. Shooting at any game after the predetermined shooting hours is also illegal.

To clear up any possible misconceptions, shooting hours are defined as 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset Monday through Saturday during any listed hunting season. Deer season in Wayne County runs from Oct. 17 until Jan. 1.

Using a spotlight to scout a particular hunting area is legal as long as it is done before 11 p.m. and the operator of the light does not possess any type of weapon.

Any action that is considered "night deer hunting" is a misdemeanor, as is using a spotlight for any reason after 11 p.m. Citizens are encouraged to report all night hunting or illegal spotlight use to the NCWRC enforcement division at (919) 707-0031.

For more information on rules and regulations for all big game hunting seasons, log onto www.ncwildlife.org.