Sunday hunting bans are one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical blue laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance. At the time when these restrictions were first put in place, other activities that were illegal on Sundays included: opening a store for business, drinking alcoholic beverages, and tilling your fields. Today, most blue laws have been repealed; however, Sunday hunting restrictions in some capacity remain in 11 states while 3 states prohibit it .
Sunday hunting bans are one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical blue laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance. At the time when these restrictions were first put in place, other activities that were illegal on a Sunday included opening a store for business, drinking alcoholic beverages, and tilling your fields. Today, most of the blue laws have been repealed; however, Sunday hunting restrictions remain in 11 states. Three states (ME, MA, and PA) either severely restrict or completely ban Sunday hunting. Maryland, for example, allows Sunday hunting in select counties, but restrictions remain for much of the state.
Sunday hunting restrictions are considered a primary barrier to hunting participation where they exist, especially for children and families. Children attend school throughout the week and many of them play sports or have other extracurricular activities on Saturdays. Additionally, many adults work 5 or 6 days a week, so for many families Sunday’s are the only day open on their schedules to enjoy the great outdoors with one another. Expanded opportunities for Sunday hunting also benefit rural economies as an additional day of weekend hunting generates increased revenue for local hotels, gas stations, outfitters and stores in areas where potential economic growth has been stifled by these restrictions. Some states also restrict Sunday hunting on private property which is a direct infringement on the property rights of innumerable landowners that own their property specifically for hunting.
Immense progress was made in West Virginia and North Carolina in 2017, lifting many of the prior bans and restrictions on Sunday hunting. West Virginia passed SB 345 which allows for Sunday hunting on private land statewide. Prior to this legislation, hunting was only permitted on Sundays in select counties. In North Carolina, H 640 (The Outdoor Heritage Act) was passed in 2015 and allowed hunters to use firearms throughout most of the day in most counties. In 2017 HB 559 in North Carolina expanded the initial allowances granted in 2015 and will, “expand the use of firearms for hunting of wild animals and upland game birds on Sunday and allow hunting of migratory birds on Sunday.” These are steps in the right direction for lifting the unnecessary and antiquated bans on Sunday hunting throughout the country.
Points of Interest
- In March 2014, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Virginia House Bill 1237 which amends the Code of Virginia relating to hunting wild animals and wild birds on private property and state waters on Sundays. The amendment broadly allows for hunting on Sundays with some exceptions, most relating to the proximity of a place of worship. Prior to the passage of this legislation an economic analysis conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, found that providing a Sunday hunting option in Virginia would contribute an additional $296 million to the state’s economy and 3,927 new jobs would be created.
- In New York, Sunday hunting was opened in 1996 for three Sundays during the gun season. Five years later however, the entire state allowed Sunday hunting throughout the year, with few exceptions.
- In Ohio, a three-year trial period for Sunday hunting was initiated in 1998, and then became permanent in 2002.
- Prior to 2003, Sunday hunting in Michigan was banned on private land in certain counties, but in 2003, all Sunday hunting closures were repealed.
- Those opposed to Sunday hunting have claimed that allowing Sunday hunting would harm game populations and pose safety issues; however, none of the states that recently allowed Sunday hunting have seen these claims substantiated.
- Sunday hunting is seen as a key component of providing the citizenry, particularly the youth, with more opportunities to engage in the sport, which will ultimately lead to more hunters in the years to come.
- A 2011 empirical study conducted by CSF staff found that if Sunday hunting restrictions were lessened in the six states that had the most severe restrictions at that time (CT, DE, ME, MA, PA, VA), an additional 117,500 hunters would likely be recruited or retained by 2016. This would have resulted in substantial increases in funding for the fish and wildlife agencies within these states.
- In 2015, Connecticut passed H 6034 which allows for archery hunting for deer, with some restrictions.
- In 2016, the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus spearheaded the passage of H 289 which permits deer hunting on both private and public lands (subject to approval of the appropriate regulatory body) on five Sundays during firearms seasons.
- In 2018 the state of Delaware took things further by passing S 198 which opened up hunting on every Sunday throughout the state’s archery and deer season.
- In South Carolina hunting is prohibited on Sundays on all wildlife management area lands but is legal on private lands statewide.
- Over the last three years, several bills, including many in 2017, were signed into law in Maryland which expanded opportunities to hunt both deer and turkey in specific counties.
Educational campaigns that highlight the economic, social, and ecological benefits of Sunday hunting are a useful outreach tool and are likely to be successful in garnering further support for Sunday hunting. States should decide for themselves which approach will be most successful for their particular constituencies and localized political climates. Repealing blue laws prohibiting hunting on Sundays will increase license sales, have a positive impact on the state’s economy, and will increase the private property rights of landowners.
For more information regarding this issue, please contact Brent Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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