Some states consider hunting and fishing a privilege, while others consider it a constitutional right. Currently 17 states guarantee these rights with amendments to their state constitutions—with a handful having similar, yet weaker provisions—and now eight more are considering joining that list. Mississippi is leading the way with the issue finally finding its way onto this year’s November ballot, while Indiana’s bill passed its state Senate 43-4 last month.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the states considering a constitutional right to hunt and fish are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- West Virginia
States with the right to hunt and fish already embedded within their constitutions are:
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
In addition, the National Shooting Sports Foundation lists several states that protect hunting and fishing with laws outside of their constitution, or with limited langauge. Florida and New Hampshire have laws protecting these rights, while California and Rhode Island protect only the rights of anglers in their constitutions.
Amendments that make hunting and fishing a protected right are widely supported by sportsmen and many conservation groups. Supporters say that these amendments will protect sportsmen from challenges by animal rights groups and others. In turn, the amendments will also protect the economic benefits generated by the millions of hunters and anglers across the country.
“We’re hoping to send a message to the rest of the country that we are passionate about our hunting and fishing. We don’t want anybody dabbling with our sportsmen’s way of life,” Mississippi state Representative Lester Carpenter (R-Burnsville), the lead sponsor of the resolution in his state, told the Associated Press.
While many sportsmen see their passion as a time-honored tradition, most of these amendments have passed only recently. Sixteen of the 17 states that protect hunting and fishing passed these provisions within the last 18 years. Only Vermont stands out, with protections stretching all the way back to 1777.