Lifting the Ban on Sunday Hunting

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Currently, 11 states in the United States have some sort of ban which prohibits hunting on Sundays. Many of these laws have been in affect since the 1700s and 1800s. Many hunters and outdoor organizations are pushing to get these outdated restrictions removed. 3 of those 11 states are currently working to slowly roll back the historic restrictions.

Many of the restrictions come from the religion based “blue laws” which were put in place to respect Christianity’s observance of the sabbath on Sunday. Following these laws, Sunday should be a day of rest and church attendance which would exclude many other outdoor activities in addition to hunting.

The NRA Institute for Legal Action suggests, “There is no evidence that allowing hunting on Sundays negatively impacts church attendance. In fact, according to a 2014 Gallup poll, out of the top 10 states in the country for church attendance, North Carolina is the ONLY state that restricts hunting on Sundays. Furthermore, three of the bottom 10 states for church attendance fully prohibit hunting on Sundays.” This information would suggest that hunting does not have a negative impact on church attendance as originally planned with the adoption of the “Blue Laws”.

Data Source NRA

Many hunters and anglers will argue that outdoor recreation is akin to many forms of rest and relaxation. This concept would also contradict that information of the exclusion of outdoor activities as part of the “Blue Law” restrictions. Given the fact that we live in an almost 24/7 world of information and activity it is hard to imagine a place where every facet of life halts on Sundays so that the populace can enjoy a day of rest. In those states, Sundays seem more like a day of house arrest given that the states’ laws exclude participating in an activity that is passionate to so many avid hunters and anglers. But, don’t you fret! Times are changing and some action is building on the horizon.

Pennsylvania

In PA hunting on Sundays has been unlawful up until 2020. Last year, PA passed a law to allowed hunting on 3 Sundays per year during a historical move for the state. In the 2019-2020 hunting season, PA allowed 3 Sunday hunting days for bear and deer. “Seasons for other game animals were open during those periods, and many hunters said they wished they could have been hunting those animals on those select Sundays as well.” (LancasterOnline) The PA Game Commission heard their requests and are currently evaluating the addition of other species to the huntable list for select Sundays. “The law allows for three Sunday hunts and specified that one had to be in archery deer season and another in firearms deer season. The third Sunday was left to the Game Commission’s discretion. The law does not specify what species can or can’t be hunted on those Sundays.” In the 2021-2022 hunting season, the commission is debating the allowance of small game and furbearer hunting on two of the three days. This is a great win for hunters in PA and a step forward in the right direction.

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North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the states where Sunday hunting is allowed on private land but unlawful on public lands. The State Assembly voted in 2015 to lift the ban on Sunday hunting which had been in affect for over 150 years as part of their “Blue Laws”. The Outdoor Heritage Act allowed for Sunday hunting, but it was left up to the wildlife commission to exercise the opportunity to allow hunting. The end result was allowing Sunday hunting on private lands, but not public lands.

Over the years, the commission had tread lightly in their decision to allow Sunday hunting on public lands. It now appears that they may begin rolling back those restrictions and opening up select public lands for Sunday hunting. “A proposal by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission would open the door for Sunday hunting on the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests — plus a slew of state game lands, including Cold Mountain game land near Lake Logan. Sunday hunting would still be banned between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The Wildlife Commission is accepting public comment on the proposal through Feb. 1. (The Mountaineer) If you live in NC then you still have time to take action and voice your opinion before the Commission’s final decision.

Thanks to the Mountaineer for providing the contact details. “An in-person public hearing won’t be held due to COVID, but a virtual public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21. The public hearing will be held online via Zoom. Click here to register for the meeting link. Make sure you have downloaded Zoom beforehand. There is a call in number as well for those without internet. The night of the hearing, call 888-788-0099 and enter code 92856323468. The virtual public hearing is technically for all the proposed hunting and fishing rule changes for 2021, but the Sunday hunting ban is the big issue on the docket. To submit comments online prior to Feb. 1, click here. Comments can also be emailed to regulations@ncwildlife.org.”

Virginia

In 2014, Virginia voted to lift the ban on Sunday hunting and allowed hunting on private lands only. The law had been in place since 1643. Last year, there was an attempt to pass a law which would allow hunting on public lands, but it did not make it through the legislative process. Del. James Edmunds is attempting to bring this matter back to the House of Delegates with the introduction of House Bill 1799. “It’s really only fair” to start allowing hunting on public lands on Sundays, said Del. James Edmunds, R-Halifax. “To deny the hunters the use of that land when they paid for a lot of it doesn’t seem right.” (Virginia Mercury). Despite the common thought that many should naturally be supportive of this bill, there are many of those who do not wish it to pass. “On the anti-Sunday hunting side, they range from religious prohibitions against certain activities on the Christian sabbath to the conservationist belief that populations benefit from a weekly day of rest to the pleadings of non-hunters that they deserve a day of the week to enjoy nature without fear of bullets.” There continues to be debate on the benefits and shortcomings of this bill in the House. If you are a VA resident and wish to voice your opinion on the matter then please reach out to your local Delegate here.

Conclusion

Only time will tell if the restrictions on Sunday hunting will be fully removed, allowing those 11 states to join the rest of the country. Do you part as a hunter and angler and reach out to your state and communicate your passion for the outdoors, get involved with organizations like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

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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