Last week North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed HB 640 and lifted the state’s longstanding ban on Sunday hunting, but not without introducing a host of restrictions.
The bill, also known as the Outdoor Heritage Act, will still prohibit firearm hunting on public land, hunting between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and hunting within 500 yards of a church or building not on the private property during Sundays. Firearms also remain barred from Sunday hunting in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, and other counties can draft local ordinances to ban the activity as soon as 2017.
These restrictions have led to the bill being called a partial victory by both supporters and opponents of Sunday hunting. Regardless, many hunters are now looking forward to October 1, when the law will take effect.
“I’m glad (HB 640) made it through. It’s not a perfect bill. It’s got more restrictions than I’d want. I just see it as a first step,” Don Mallicoat, a hunter and supporter of the bill, told the Asheville Citizen-Times.
The end of the century-and-half ban did not come without debate, and hunters found themselves squaring off against a strange alliance of hikers and religious groups. Hikers and park visitors opposed Sunday hunting due to alleged safety concerns, while conservative Christian groups said the ban showed respect for the Sabbath.
“This legislation by no means outlaws the Lord’s Day or destroys it, but it does add an additional distraction by law that simply allows it to go by default,” Mark Creech, head of the Christian Action League, told Baptist News Global. “Human experience has shown us the importance of the Lord’s Day. We do not live by bread alone, neither are we the sum total of our amusements and indulgences. We live by a right relationship to God and in obedience to his commands.”
Creech praised lawmakers for their sensitivity in drafting the bill and called it a “partial victory,” but nonetheless strictly opposed expanding Sunday hunting any further.
Supporters of the bill however called the reasons for the ban arbitrary and outdated. Like in many other states, North Carolina’s Sunday hunting ban was a remnant of so-called “blue laws” enacted in the 1700s and 1800s. Many hunters now argue that religion should play no part in determining when they are allowed to hunt, especially since hunters subscribe to many different faiths. Only nine states still have restrictions on Sunday hunting and many are already moving to liberalize those regulations.
“The outdoors has always been an integral part of our way of life and this bill has a number of measures that will improve the stewardship of our natural resources,” Governor McCrory said at the signing.
North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission first allowed Sunday archery hunting in 2010 and with the success of that program, endorsed the Outdoor Heritage Act along with conservation groups and the NRA.
Image courtesy Steve Maslowski, US Fish and Wildlife Service