N.C. House members are divided over a proposal to allow hunting on Sundays, with some legislators worried the practice would create noise and safety concerns for churches.
House Bill 640, titled the “Outdoor Heritage Act,” would allow Sunday hunting – but only on private property. Chasing deer with dogs and hunting migratory waterfowl would still be illegal on Sundays. The bill passed the House Wildlife Resources Committee on Wednesday in a 10-3 vote.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jimmy Dixon of Warsaw, said it’s time for North Carolina to join 39 other states in ending a centuries-old ban on Sunday hunting.
“All we are doing is practicing some good old property rights,” he said. “If I want to hunt on my own land on Sunday, why are there any of you in this room to tell me I can’t do it?”
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Dixon pointed out the related activities that are already legal on Sundays. “We’ve had Sunday hunting for a long time – you can fox hunt on Sunday, you can hunt fish with a hook on Sunday, you can shoot skeet,” he said.
But several House members said the rule change is unpopular in their rural counties. They said they’re concerned about the impact on church services, and they weren’t swayed by a provision that would ban hunting within 300 yards of a church.
Rep. William Brisson, a Bladen County Democrat, said that “300 yards sounds like a long ways, but with a high-powered rifle it’s not long enough. You don’t know where that bullet’s going to end up.”
But Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican, dismissed the safety concerns. “There is no case we know of where a bullet has been discharged and hit someone at a church,” he said. “The safety argument to me is a red herring.”
Rep. Bob Steinburg, an Edenton Republican, unsuccessfully tried to exempt the counties in his district from the bill.
“I have never seen such an outcry in my district,” he said. “I’m just a little tired of those things that we have valued in this nation for so long being whittled away, one thing after another.”
Supporters of the bill say allowing hunting seven days a week will draw more tourism to the state. “From an economic development standpoint, we lose money because hunting is not allowed in North Carolina on Sunday,” said Rep. Jay Adams, a Hickory Republican.
The bill has other provisions that didn’t provoke controversy, including:
▪ The creation of an Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund to expand outdoor recreation opportunities for children and teens, funded by Wildlife Resources Commission fees
▪ Launch a study of ways the state can increase recreation access to public land
▪ Require wildlife officers to wear body cameras during undercover investigations
The bill heads to the full House as early as Thursday. “I think this bill in its entirely is the most responsible approach to outdoor heritage that has ever come before this General Assembly,” Dixon said.
Also at Wednesday’s Wildlife Resources Committee, this year’s bill related to the controversial Clay County New Year’s Eve Possum Drop was approved unanimously. The bill would suspend all wildlife regulations related to possums from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2.