On July 11, Delaware Governor John Carney, a member of the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC), signed Senate Bill 198 into law, expanding Sunday hunting opportunities on both private and public lands throughout the state.
Sponsored by Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Bruce Ennis, this bill received strong bipartisan support from all four Caucus Co-Chairs as well as several other Caucus members.
The Delaware Sportsmen’s Caucus is a member of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), and both NASC and the GSC are part of the sportsmen’s caucus network developed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
With the enactment of Senate Bill 198, the present restrictions on private land deer hunting on Sundays will be eliminated, and the Delaware Department of Natural Recourses and Environmental Control (DNREC) will be granted the authority to regulate additional Sunday hunting opportunities on public lands throughout the state.
“Hunters are the fabric of many of Delaware’s families and communities, and they play a critical role in conservation for our state; however, outdated laws prevent them from the simple, beneficial activity of going out and hunting deer on Sundays. I sponsored Senate Bill 198 so that we can update that law for the benefit of our families and our environment,” said Sen. Ennis.
Some proponents of the bill are also hopeful that additional Sunday hunting opportunities will help curtail some of the costly agricultural damages the state’s deer herd causes each year, an issue that Gov. Carney is focused on addressing. “We worked hard with members of our General Assembly this year to create this deer management program to help protect Delaware’s farms from crop damage, and build on our work to preserve Delaware’s family farms and hunting heritage,” said Gov. Carney.
In 2016, the Delaware Caucus successfully advanced legislation that lifted the prohibition of Sunday hunting for deer in the state and opened up five specific Sundays for hunting on private lands and on select areas of public land regulated by DNREC. The previous allotment of Sunday hunting opportunities only allowed for muzzleloader and shotgun hunting, while the passage of Senate Bill 198 now opens up all Sundays during archery season as well as several Sundays during shotgun and muzzleloader season that were not captured in the initial repeal of the Sunday hunting prohibition a few years prior.
According to CSF’s Mid-Atlantic Coordinator, Brett Stayton, expanded Sunday hunting opportunities should also positively impact hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts in the state. “With many of the state’s hunters working Monday through Friday and many families participating in extracurricular activities like youth sports and other interests on Saturdays, opening up Sundays to deer hunting throughout the season creates additional opportunities for hunters to participate during the hunting season and to share in those traditions with their friends and family,” said Stayton.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation, and it was supported by many in-state and national conservation partners as well. “The passage of season-long Sunday deer hunting is a long overdue but big step in the right direction for Delaware’s deer hunters, farmers and motorists. The businesses that cater to the hunting community should see an uptick in their revenue as well” said Chip West, President of the Delaware Chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association and lifelong farmer.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?