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:

  • Alabama
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia

States with the right to hunt and fish already embedded within their constitutions are:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

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.

Image courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Haley

    So if wildlife is state property, and we are guaranteeing someones “right” to said property, how will the law enforcement agencies be affected? How can we give consequences for those that poach? How are you going to tell someone that a particular season is closed (obviously for the benefit of the species) and they then turn around and say they have a “right” to take that game animal? What if someone wishes to hunt endangered or threatened species and they think they have a “right” to that animal as well? I’m in no way against hunting and believe it has it’s benefits for conservation, but making it a “right” seems to create more problems than it solves. Imagine making driving a vehicle a “right”?! More people drive a vehicle than their are people who hunt, and many depend on that vehicle to get themselves to work and school. It can directly affect their livelihood if taken away, yet we see the need to to keep it a privilege because of people who aren’t responsible, drink while intoxicated, or are under or over the age to be behind the wheel… OK counter argument: We have a “right” to bear arms, yet we have restrictions on it such as having a permit to carry, felons can’t own weapons, etc… well to keep these people who would use this “right” in a harmful way such as poaching or continually taking more than the bag limit, will we raise these offenses to a felonious status so that we can impose a harsh enough consequence to A. either deter them from doing it or B. to make it illegal for them to hunt? This seems to just create more “laws” (which really aren’t needed) and another way to put more people in jail (which no one needs). I’m from Indiana and this just passed and it came up for discussion in one of my classes and my teacher was against it, as most of the students were as well, I want to know the benefit of this as opposed to the obvious problems this will cause.
    H.

    • Michael

      Are you at Vincennes? I was so happy to read your comment… Couldn’t agree more! It’s unnecessary! There’s bound to be reasons beyond “to protect from anti’s” because it’s not even an issue right now. People aren’t concerned with hunting and fishing! They’re concerned about jobs, healthcare, etc. Hunting and fishing isn’t even “under attack”, which makes me very wary of this.

      • haley

        yes I am 🙂 I’m assuming you’re in my plant and animal management class?

      • Michael

        MW @1p.m.? I sit up front lol.

      • haley

        t and tr at 9:30

      • machodog

        Uh… in case you haven’t noticed yet, there are some anti-gun enthusiasts in our legislation that thinks you don’t NEED to hunt therefore you don’t NEED a firearm. With the heavy push on gun control and gun confiscation…if these legislators vote that you don’t NEED to hunt solely for the purpose of disarming you. They’re using every underhanded tactic they can to disarm you. Declaring and making a law to outlaw hunting because you don’t NEED to hunt would be just for the purpose of disarming you. An other small step for gun control; a giant step to disarm you. So, yeah…states should grant you the right to hunt and fish. Maybe these state can forsee gun confiscation and this is their way to oppose it.

      • Preston

        Wildlife is not property, therfore your entire hypothesis is wrong. Good day

    • Dennis

      It is easier to take away a ‘privilege’ than a ‘right’.
      Regarding your postulation on the misuse of a right:
      I have the right to the pursuit of happiness. Does that mean anything that makes me happy is my right? Without regard to others? Pyromania, armed robbery… (Just to make a point.)
      Anglers and hunters are the greatest stewards of their resources. They advocate for sound management and conservation. The right to hunt and fish includes the right to sound management which achieves biological management goals and maximizes their opportunity to fish or hunt.
      I’ve walked the halls of Congress, sued National Marine Fisheries Service and watched them engage in unlawful behavior (words of a judge). Your concern of misuse should be focused on the very agencies that regulate our fisheries.
      I am a fisheries stock assessment participant, researcher, recreational fishing advocate and lifelong angler.

      • Haley

        I understand anglers and hunters, sportsmen and women alike pay for the conservation and preservation of our wild life and natural resources. my concern rises with other who would try to do unlawful things such as take over the bag limit or poach endangered species because they themselves do not understand the limitations of this “right” and would try to use it as a defense for their wrong doing. I am wanting to become a game warden and I have been around many sportsmen/women and I also know that certain ones are uneducated and have no respect for wild life and can be troublesome when it comes to enforcing the laws. not saying they all do and am in no way bashing the people who obey the laws and Do the right thing. most are good upstanding people.

      • Denny

        Giving up a right because of a few uneducated and unlawful individuals is not in my vision of a free country. The same scofflaws will break any law, regardless of their ‘rights’. Game wardens should enforce the law. I have several friends who are fish and game officers.
        Why would you take my rights just because someone else ignores the law?
        Your scenario is one I run up against with enviros where they paint a horrible picture of falsehoods about anglers.
        I hope your training brings you to a better understanding of those you will serve.

      • Michael

        It’s not just a ‘few’ unlawful individuals, it will be the argument of EVERY unlawful individual. It is the point that making hunting and fishing a right, rather than a privilege, is unnecessary. You said yourself, it is easier to take away a privilege than it is to take away a right. That is the point! If someone does violate F&G laws to the extent that their license would be revoked, how easily can that be done now that it is their right? I’m not saying it cannot be done, or that it is impossible to accomplish regulating the right… I’m saying it will tie the hands of law enforcement and legislators alike. It will introduce more laws and regulations that are unnecessary. Have you seen Indiana’s state and administrative code? That is all current to it being a privilege, I can’t even fathom it being a right.

      • Haley

        in my state hunting is not a right so I was never stating they should take it away. No one is trying to paint a bad picture of hunters, and in fact I stated that in a post that most are good people.

      • Russell Morgan

        Anyone who thinks they can break the laws on hunting and fishing regulations because of this bill is an outright idiot.

      • rob

        People who are going to do the things you’re worried about are the types that have no reservations about breaking the current laws. They don’t need an excuse. They poach now! Its a problems everywhere. So tell me how this legislation is going to make that worse? Really.

    • Billy J Fuchs

      Haley, Travel is a god given right, driving is a commercial activity. Google this, “Driving, Right Vs. Priveledge” the state cannot regulate travel. hunting commercially, or “poaching” would still be regulated, due to the commercial nature. don’t look at it like the state wishes to give us a new right, they are just tired of spending money enforcing penalties on folks who excercise their inaliable rights to hunt and fish. How many endangered species have you seen on the dinner table? this is hunting for food, not hunting to take fur and leave the carcass to rot.

      • Haley

        F&g enforcement isn’t tired of trying to enforce the law. Did you know that in the early 1900’s wild turkey and white tail deer were hunted to almost extinction? THE very reason we enforce the laws is to make sure that hunters and anglers CAN have game for the next season and a healthy population for the habitat and eco system.

    • Russell Morgan

      There are many anti hunting groups that are openly engaged in trying to put an end to hunting. This law does not give anyone the right to break any fishing or hunting regulation. It protects our right to continue to hunt and fish.

      • Evan Edward Morgan

        Hello my loser son.

    • smitty6398

      Many States have “Subsistence Hunting” clauses in their Laws. Alaska, for example ! Other states have fairly large bag limits, to assist conservation efforts and lend support to food banks; and enforce those limits, aggressively. Sometimes to the point of LIFETIME LICENSE REVOCATION !!

    • huckfin

      Tell me why they say fishing licenses are to protect the fish when their is no duty to protect people. Every supreme court has said, look it up Stop asking these government types for permission to do anything.

  • Razorback

    Haley, im in Arkansas and we have a right to hunt and fish, within the law and regs set forth by the Ar game and fish. It has not created any problems at all. It changed nothing here really, all it really does is prevent animal rights fanatics from using the courts to ban or infringe on hunter and anglers. Our law specifically states that the game and fish regs must be obeyed.

    Now about CHL, those are un constitutional, the right to bear arms is a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Having to get a permission slip is wrong, as long as the person has not forfited his/her rights by being convicted of a felony.

  • Grey Wolf

    the “STATE” does NOT own the wildlife , the state assumes to protect it and allow hunting within reason to conserve what we have 🙂

    • Haley

      umm actually yes, wild life is state property.

      • Michael

        The people of the state own wildlife.

    • Russell Morgan

      The citizens of the state own the wildlife within the state. Your half baked opinion is not law.

      • Evan Edward Morgan

        Why are you ashamed to admit the truth about me my son Russell?

  • CheeseheadDJ

    Someone can’t spell the state WISCONSIN

  • Haley

    please bear in mind I’m not against hunting, or those who hunt! I’m not out to stop it and it does have its purpose for conservation. MY concern is with the punishment of those WHO DO break the law and how we are to punish them and protect our natural resources without making the crimes punishment higher than it is at this time. ALSO I am only speaking for indiana. I’m not here to argue, simply to understand how its going to affect our wildlife, the justice system and my future job.

    • smitty6398

      The deterrent effect of punishment is the intent of the Laws. That’s why MANY laws are written with increasingly harsher punishments for repeat offenders. Until you make the risk greater than the reward, the crimes are going to continue; such as penalties for drunk driving.

  • leftythree

    I don’t see Iowa on the List ?????