By UTE SCHULENBERG
IMAGINE being shaken from quiet reflective moments at the cemetery by gunfire or your horse bolting at the sound of a shot.
Scenarios like this could become reality according to Pia Dollman and other Bellingen residents, outraged at a proposal to permit 'conservation hunting' in Tuckers Nob State Forest stretching from North Bellingen to Gleniffer.
'Conservation hunting' is defined as 'hunting to enhance environmental outcomes by managing game (feral) species' according to the Game Council of NSW, the statutory body responsible for recommending the gazettal of public land for hunting and issuing gun licences.
"This proposal is ridiculous in an area like this," Ms Dollman said.
"On any given day this forest is used recreationlly by walkers and riders, people collect seed and firewood, it's one of the few places you can take your dog for a walk."
Since receiving a letter from Forests NSW informing her of the proposal, Ms Dollman has discovered few people are aware of the issue.
"Only adjoining neighbours have been sent letters but the forest is used by so many people."
North Bellingen resident Pru Iggulden said she was 'gobsmacked' at the news.
"How does a hunter know if a dog is feral or domestic dog?" Mrs Iggulden said. "I feel very uncomfortable with this."
Kerry Child is concerned about the policing of hunting.
"An incident is currently in court where a domestic dog belonging to campers was shot in a state forest near Lismore," Mrs Child said.
"I could understand this if we had a huge feral animal problem here but we don't.
"There are already appropriate channels, such as strictly monitored baiting programs, for the control of dogs and foxes."
Another concern is the lack of warning to forest users of hunter presence.
A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries said with the enormous number of entry points into forests it takes some time to erect signs at all points.
"It depends on available resources," the spokesman said.
And even then the signs do not specifically warn people, rather they advise hunters of licensing requirements.