These States have a Constitutional Right to Hunt and Fish

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Most recently in Nov 2020, we saw Utahans vote to amend their state’s constitution to make hunting and fishing a constitutional right. Read more about that vote here. Utah joined the other 22 states in formalizing the protection of their citizen’s rights to hunt fish within their states. You may be wondering, does my state have such protections built into their constitution and what does that mean to me?

Feature image by: John Robson

Breaking it Down

In most states, changes to their constitutions require a majority vote from the population of the state to pass. This means that the people of the state must vote in favor of adding the right to hunt and fish to their state’s constitution, just like Utah did most recently. These measures often prevent animal rights and anti-hunting groups from targeting the states with opposing legislation because such legislation would go against the constitutional rights of the hunter and angler. Further challenging these constitutional rights become tricky. In order to remove the hunting and fishing amendments, the state would have to propose a vote which must be passed by majority vote, thus removing the right to hunt and fish as a constitutional right. It can be assumed that if a state has voted in favor to add the rights to their constitution then they are not likely to quickly reverse these amendments.

Why not? In the 2019 article, Understanding Hunting Today, The E-Magazine Conservation Foundation highlights that while only about 4% of the American population hunt each year, the majority of the American public supports hunting even if they don’t personally participate, with about 80% of adult Americans nationwide indicating they approve of legal hunting. This report indicates that the likelihood of a repeal in those enacted state’s constitutional rights is slim to none. Knowing this level of support adds a layer of protect for those who love to hunt and fish and allows us to breathe a little easier knowing that the passions we enjoy can be passed later generations.  

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History

In 1777, Vermont was the first state to vote in favor of hunting and fishing rights. “The inhabitants of this State shall have liberty in seasonable times, to hunt and fowl on the lands they hold, and on other lands not inclosed, and in like manner to fish in all boatable and other waters (not private property) under proper regulations, to be made and provided by the General Assembly”

There was a long gap in the passage of any hunting and fishing amendments by other states. This could be attributed to the popularity of hunting and fishing a god given right. As time moved forward and technology progressed we saw a decline in the popularity of seeking wild game for food and sport. In 1996, Alabama launched the modern movement with the passage of the Sportsperson’s Bill of Rights, citing, “All persons shall have the right to hunt and fish in this state in accordance with law and regulations.” After the amendment by Alabama, 20 other states have voted and added similar amendments to their constitutions. The states of California and Rhode Island have added amendments guaranteeing fishing, but not hunting.

States with the Right to Hunt and Fish

1777: Vermont2004: Louisiana2010: Tennessee2015: Texas
1996: Alabama2004: Montana2012: Idaho2016: Indiana
1998: Minnesota2006: Georgia2012: Kentucky2016: Kansas
2000: North Dakota2008: Oklahoma2012: Nebraska2018: North Carolina
2000: Virginia2010: Arkansas2012: Wyoming2020: Utah
2003: Wisconsin2010: South Carolina2014: Mississippi

Don’t see your State Listed?

If you don’t see your state then you might be thinking, “What can I do to help change this?” You should reach out to your locally elected state officials and request changes. The Congressional Sportsmen Foundation states, “While the rights of citizens to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife can be established through a number of different legislative options, it is up to local elected officials, working with the state natural resource agency, to identify the most comprehensive option and advance it in their state.” In the end, those who participate in hunting and fishing should be working towards furthering the protection of our rights to hunt and fish. Take action today!

Justin Townsend

Justin (Choctaw) is an avid hunter, angler, and chef whose passions for the outdoors lead him to create Harvesting Nature in 2011. He continues to hunt, fish, and cook all while sharing his experiences with others through film, on podcasts, in print, and with recipes. He also proudly serves in the United States Coast Guard in Key West, FL.

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