North Carolina’s General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper have broadened access to Sunday hunting in the just-passed “Outdoor Heritage Enhanced” legislation. It was signed by Gov. Cooper on June 24.
It’s a compromise bill built from House Bill 559 and Senate Bill 624. “This legislation,” said State Rep. John Bell, a sponsor of the bill, “will significantly increase access and opportunity for North Carolina’s sportsmen and women, particularly youth and hardworking adults with limited weekend hunting opportunities.”
Bell is a Republican from Wayne County and the House majority leader.
HB 559 expands the Outdoor Heritage Act (OHA) of 2015, which allowed landowners and their guests to hunt Sundays on private property.
Specifically, Outdoor Heritage Enhanced (OHE) bill extends Sunday hunting to public lands managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Also, Sunday hunting with guns would no longer be banned within 500 yards of homes “not owned by the landowner nor barred in counties with populations larger than 700,000,” according to a statement from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). Those counties include Wake and Mecklenburg.
With Gov. Cooper’s signature, additional barriers to Sunday hunting will be lifted by allowing the state Wildlife Resources Commission to create a process which could open more than 2 million acres of public land for Sunday hunting.
Outdoor Heritage Enhanced also removes prohibitions on hunting within 500 yards of a residence, allows the Wildlife Resources Commission to conduct a comprehensive study and formulate rules allowing migratory bird hunting on Sunday, removes the blanket prohibition of hunting within counties having a population greater than 700,000 people and requires any county wishing to “opt-out” of Sunday hunting do so by a county-wide voter referendum.
The legislation gained the support of Richard Childress, a North Carolina native and life-long hunter. Efforts to create additional hunting opportunities were the focus of the N.C. Sunday Hunting Coalition, including NSSF, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, and Safari Club International.
Thus, Sunday hunting with guns would be extended “to all 100 counties in the state,” the CSF reported.
Places of worship, however, would still get the 500 yards buffer. Also, any county can opt out, but only through a countywide voter referendum. And the new bill retains the rule restricting Sunday hunts between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
The Sunday ban on hunting migratory birds might also end. But first, state wildlife officials must investigate the “biological, economic, social, and resource management impacts of allowing migratory bird hunting on Sundays,” the CFS said.
However, that one more day of access is bound to benefit more than sportsmen, women, and their families.
The Tar Heel State is home to 1.63 million hunters and anglers, who spend about $2.3 billion each year on licenses and gear which supports 35,088 jobs, according to the CSF.
“Reducing barriers to participation in hunting is critical to the furtherance of our sporting traditions for future generations,” Bell said.
Richard Childress agreed. He’s a North Carolina native, entrepreneur, and former NASCAR driver. He’s also an honorary board member for the CSF.
“Lack of access is cited as one of the biggest barriers to hunting participation,” said Childress. “I am very pleased that more families will have opportunities to spend time together in the field.” —By Bill Miller, contributor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield blog