The N.C. House voted 83-35 Tuesday night to allow hunting on Sundays, despite opposition from legislators who say 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. As the bill moved through House committees, legislators added restrictions on how close hunters can come to homes and churches. Sunday hunters would have to stay at least 500 yards from a residence or church.
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. He said safety concerns are unfounded because the bill would tighten laws against reckless or negligent hunting.
“I want you to feel safe on your property just as much on Tuesday afternoon as you do on Sunday afternoon,” he said.
Rep. Marvin Lucas, a Spring Lake Democrat, said it doesn’t make sense to limit hunting on one day of the week. “We have many recreational activities on Sundays that we readily condone,” he said. “I don’t know why hunting is any different.”
Supporters of the bill also say allowing hunting seven days a week will draw more tourism to the state.
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.
“Every single Board of Commissioners in my district has said no to Sunday hunting,” said Rep. Bob Steinburg, an Edenton Republican. “Every hunt club in my district has said no to Sunday hunting. The pastors in the black churches and the white churches have said no to Sunday hunting.”
Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League lobbied against the bill at a committee meeting Monday night. “This bill is just one more thing to undermine, frustrate and compete with the work of our churches,” he said.
Efforts to exempt some counties from having Sunday hunting failed.
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 now goes to the Senate.