January 27, 2020

North Carolina and Virginia: Public Land Sunday Hunting Updates

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Assistant Director

On January 16, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) announced that it was gathering public input on public lands Sunday hunting via an online survey and public meetings.

In 2017, the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act removed the prohibition against hunting with the use of firearms on public lands of the state managed for hunting, subject to rules established by the WRC. The legislation was a priority for the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and member groups of the Sunday Hunting Coalition

Since the passage of the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act, however, the WRC has not taken any rule proposals to public comment that would open Sunday hunting on Game Lands. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and partner organizations have encouraged the WRC to allow Sunday hunting on Game Lands, including submitting a letter in October 2018, that urged the WRC to move forward with rulemaking.

The online survey is open through February 2, and six public forums will be held across the state in February. The link to the survey and information about the public meetings is available here.

On January 22, legislation that would have allowed Sunday hunting on public lands in Virginia died in committee.

Public lands Sunday hunting is currently permitted for waterfowl, rails and raccoons. HB 1632, which was sponsored by Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Delegate James Edmunds, would have expanded opportunities for hunting on Sunday to include allow all types of hunting, except for hunting deer or bear with the assistance of dogs.

The bill reported out of the Natural Resources Subcommittee (5-3), but failed to report out of the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee (9-13).

Many of Virginia’s public lands are purchased and/or managed with hunter dollars generated through the “user-pays, public-benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding, yet hunters are the only user-group excluded from accessing those lands on Sundays. Sunday hunting restrictions are “blue laws” that limit access for sportsmen and women, and removing barriers to participation in hunting is critical for supporting hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) truly appreciates the efforts to the bill patron and other legislators that spoke and/or voted in favor of the bill, and CSF will continue to support efforts to expand Sunday hunting opportunities in the Commonwealth.

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?

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