On July 25, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed into law House Bill 559, the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act. The bill, which passed the House and Senate by wide margins with strong bipartisan support on June 29, builds on the historic passage of the Outdoor Heritage Act in 2015 by further expanding opportunities for Sunday hunting with firearms in North Carolina.
“North Carolina’s sportsmen and women are an important force for economic development and conservation funding in the state, and this law will expand opportunities for families to hunt together,” said Gov. Cooper.
HB 559 allows Sunday hunting with firearms on more than 2 million acres of public lands that are managed for hunting, subject to rules established by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). The prohibitions against hunting within 500 yards of a residence and hunting in counties with populations larger than 700,000 (Wake and Mecklenburg) are also lifted.
Additionally, the legislation removes the statutory ban against migratory bird hunting on Sunday, but the NCWRC may not authorize migratory bird hunting on Sunday before March 1, 2018 and must first conduct a study on the biological, social, and economic impacts of potentially allowing migratory bird hunting on Sunday.
A critical addition to the bill made in the final days of the legislative session was the modification made to the county “opt-out” provision which requires the opt-out be approved by a majority of voters in a county-wide referendum.
As a member of the Sunday Hunting Coalition, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with Delta Waterfowl, the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club International and other partners to support the legislation. HB 559 was priority legislation for the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and the NCWRC also passed a resolution this year supporting enhanced hunting access and opportunities on Sunday.
North Carolinian and CSF Honorary Board Member Richard Childress was also instrumental in the legislation’s advancement, including writing an op-ed that was published in papers across the state which expressed support for HB 559. In his op-ed, Childress noted, “Removing barriers to participation in hunting is critical to recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters for the preservation of our hunting heritage.”
Bill sponsor and Co-Chair of the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Representative John Bell said, “I’m very proud that this important legislation was signed into law. The North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus worked hard to further enhance Sunday hunting access and opportunity for North Carolina’s sportsmen and women, and I would particularly like to recognize the efforts of my Caucus Co-Chairs Senator John Alexander and Representative Michael Wray as well as Caucus members President Pro Temp Phil Berger, Speaker Moore, Representative Chris Millis, Senator Danny Earl Britt, Senator Tom McInnis, Senator Bill Rabon, and Representative Brian Turner.”
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?