North Carolina dropped its ban on Sunday hunting in 2015, and now legislators are looking to relax the regulations even further by allowing hunting with firearms on Sunday mornings and possibly Sunday duck hunting.
House Bill 559, titled “Outdoor Heritage Enhanced,” passed the House Wildlife Resources Committee Monday in a split voice vote. The bill passed the House Tuesday in a 102-17 vote and now goes to the Senate, where an identical bill has so far not received a hearing.
If it becomes law, hunters would be allowed to use firearms between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Sundays – when churches are typically in session – as long as they don’t come within 500 yards of a church.
Hunters could also hunt migratory birds, such as ducks, on Sundays if the state’s appointed Wildlife Resources Commission approves the change and sets rules for the practice. The commission would conduct a formal study of the issue and report findings to the legislature.
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Migratory bird hunting is currently banned at all hours on Sundays, limiting hunters who work weekdays to hunting only on Saturdays. HB 559 wouldn’t change the state’s ban on Sunday deer hunting using dogs.
“Those hunters who take migratory birds are left behind,” said Rep. Chris Millis, a Pender County Republican and the bill’s sponsor. “We need to lift this prohibition.”
Several shooting sports and pro-gun organizations spoke in favor of the bill in a public hearing Monday. Trevor Santos of the National Shooting Sports Foundation said expanded Sunday hunting would lead to economic development near popular hunting destinations, because more out-of-state hunters would come to North Carolina for a full weekend and spend money in hotels and restaurants.
“We support expanding hunting opportunities and getting the next generation of hunters engaged,” Santos said.
No one spoke in opposition to the bill during Monday’s hearing, but some religious groups opposed the 2015 bill allowing Sunday hunting with restrictions. The conservative Christian Action League called that bill “one more thing to undermine, frustrate and compete with the work of our churches.”
If the bill passes and the Wildlife Resources Commission approves Sunday migratory bird hunting, that practice could not begin until March 2018.
A separate bill addressing Sunday hunting was voted down in the same House committee earlier this month. It would have repealed all current laws for hunting on Sunday and would have instead empowered the Wildlife Resources Commission to set regulations for Sunday hunting.