County may reconsider duck hunting at Tired Creek Lake
After last Tuesday night’s vote to reject the recommendation by the Grady County Lake Authority to open Tired Creek Lake for duck hunting during the upcoming teal season, Grady County Commissioners voted this week 4-1 not to permit hunting during teal season, but to authorize the lake authority to revise its recommendation regarding hunting during duck season and bring it back before the board. Only Commissioner June Knight opposed the motion made by Commissioner Keith Moye.
“We already voted on this one time,” Commissioner Knight commented.
The vote followed a lengthy debate that included public comment from a number of local residents and hunters, both local and from out-of-town.
The lake authority had originally proposed conducting drawings on Mondays and Thursdays for hunts to be held Wednesdays and Saturdays during teal season. A fee of $150 per boat carrying a maximum of three hunters was proposed with a limit of 10 boats per day.
Lake Authority Chairman LaDon Toole appeared before the commission this week to further explain the background of the authority’s recommendation.
According to Toole, the primary goal was to preserve and manage the county’s resources while providing hunters a quality hunting experience.
Toole said if too much pressure is put on the birds by allowing unrestricted hunting, the birds will go elsewhere. He predicted as many as 6,000 ducks were on the lake last year.
The lake authority chairman said the 10 boat limit was not only designed to manage the demand on the birds, but also to maintain a safe hunting environment since the lake is only 960 acres.
Toole said the fee structure was designed to generate income for the county to offset the expense of operating the lake.
However, Toole said he had heard comments from Grady County residents who had asked why local residents could fish for free but could not duck hunt for free. “It’s hard to argue with that,” Toole admitted.
Commissioners heard from Rob Rosenberry of Thomas County and Chris Anglin of Mitchell County, both of whom are duck hunters, who spoke favorably of the authority’s recommendation.
“This isn’t just a great resource for Grady County, it’s a great resource for the region,” Rosenberry said.
In addition to limiting the number of boats allowed to hunt, Rosenberry also suggested establishing zones where hunters could hunt while at the same time preserving informal refuges where the ducks could escape from hunters.
The Thomas County resident guided duck hunts on Lake Seminole for two decades and he said that the people that would be attracted to hunts on Tired Creek Lake would be responsible individuals and safety conscious.
Anglin said without property management, the opportunity for duck hunting on the lake would quickly be destroyed. “I encourage you to limit the time on the lake. It’s unlimited on Lake Seminole and the duck hunting is terrible, but it used to be wonderful,” the Mitchell County resident said.
Toole said he had also heard from interested parties that the proposed 4 p.m. drawings were not convenient for working people. “We could look at having the drawings after hours to accommodate those folks,” Chairman Toole said. He said the thought about the 4 p.m. drawing was to make it more convenient, and therefore a benefit, for local hunters and less so for out-of-town hunters.
Grady County Commission Vice Chairman T.D. David said that quality duck hunting could possibly put Tired Creek Lake on the map. Toole said it certainly would be good publicity for the lake.
With regards to liability, Chairman Prince asked county commission attorney Jennifer Herzog if there were any issues the county should be made aware of. Herzog said she would like time to study the proposal and research the lake regulations before answering the chairman’s question.
Vice Chairman David commented, “I don’t see why we have to bring a lawyer into a hunt,” and Chairman Prince responded, “I do.”
Lake Authority Chairman Toole asked if the county commission would support, in principle, the concept of opening the lake for duck hunting if the attorney did not find any objections.
Before commissioners could respond, members of the audience requested to comment and they were recognized by Chairman Prince.
Linda Aycock questioned if fishing would be allowed while duck hunting was taking place. Toole said that hunters and fishermen coexist at other lakes and could here.
Debbie Johnson suggested the board was moving to make a “hasty decision” and she said the county should be focused on selling the lake.
Commissioner June Knight agreed. “People want the spending to stop and to get the lake sold,” she said. Knight told Toole that the lake was opened to fishing too soon and with State Park Road not open to thru traffic the authority should go back and “regroup.”
Toole and Rosenberry said that by limiting hunts to 10 boats it would be easy to instruct hunters to utilize Cedar Springs East ramp only.
Richard Jordan said he had wished the members of the authority had been as concerned with hog hunting as they are about duck hunting. Jordan said the construction of the lake had pushed wild hogs out and caused damage to neighboring farms. “If you rush this through tonight it’s going to be a disaster. You’ve already got a track record of failure,” Jordan said.
Peter Wright told commissioners that duck hunting is an elitist activity and a “slap in the face” to the people of Grady County, comments which were agreed to by Betty Godwin.
Commissioner Knight questioned why Toole had not met with the board prior to the authority’s approval of the hunting fees and the news being published in The Messenger.
Toole reminded the board that Chairman Prince sits on the lake authority as their representative and that he had voted in favor of the duck hunting proposal.
Gordon Clyatt voiced his opposition to a lottery system that would prevent Grady County taxpayers from hunting if they wanted to. Clyatt also questioned when it had been decided the authority would meet jointly with the commission on Tuesday night.
Commissioner LaFaye Copeland said the genesis of the Tuesday night meeting had been her request for Toole to come before the board with the authority’s recommendation for additional discussion. Copeland said that she had not understood the recommendation since she is not a hunter, but after meeting with Toole last week she had a better understanding and could support the authority’s recommendation.
Chairman Toole also noted that the joint meeting had been legally posted and noticed 24 hours prior as required by state law.
Chris Weaver told commissioners Tuesday night that once development begins to take place around the lake “you can kiss duck hunting good-bye.” Sam Kines questioned why the county’s property could not also be opened to deer and turkey hunters.
“We are here for you. We can vet out all options and bring back a recommendation to the commission,” Chairman Toole said.
Marla Brinson asked why walking trails could not be constructed around the lake suggesting they would be as popular as hunting.
“We have 22 miles of shoreline and trails were in the plan when we thought we had money. I still think it is doable,” Chairman Toole said.
Juanita Maxwell asked commissioners were they planning to sell the lake and surrounding property and Commissioner Knight said only the land, not the lake itself. Mrs. Maxwell suggested the authority has time to finalize plans for duck hunting season and could put plans in place for teal season in 2019.
Larry Maxwell told commissioners to “do your job” and make decisions without trying to please everybody.
Chairman Toole said he would be scheduling an authority meeting as soon as possible to begin work on a revised plan for duck season to bring back before the board. Duck season opens Nov. 17.