On June 29, the North Carolina Legislature gave final approval to expand opportunities for Sunday hunting with firearms in North Carolina. The Conference Report for House Bill 559, “Outdoor Heritage Enhanced,” was adopted by the Senate with a 31-11 vote and the House with an 80-25 vote. The bill will now head to the desk of Governor Roy Cooper for his consideration.
HB 559 was sponsored by North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs Representative John Bell and Senator John Alexander and Caucus members Representative Chris Millis and Senators Tom McInnis and Danny Earl Britt. The legislation was strongly supported by the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus collectively, and Caucus Co-Chair Representative Michael Wray and Caucus members Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senator Bill Rabon and Representative Brian Turner, among others, were instrumental in the bill’s advancement.
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Honorary Board Member Richard Childress said, “With over two million acres of Game Lands in North Carolina, HB 559 will help ensure that all North Carolinians have a place to hunt on Sundays. Lack of access is cited as one of the biggest barriers to hunting participation, and I am very pleased that more families will have opportunities to spend time together in the field. As a North Carolinian, this legislation is a tremendous step forward in the advancement of the protection of our outdoor heritage.”
If signed by the Governor, HB 559 would build on the 2015 Outdoor Heritage Act to allow Sunday hunting with firearms on public lands that are managed for hunting, subject to rules established by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). Sunday hunting with firearms would also be neither prohibited within 500 yards of residences not owned by the landowner nor barred in counties with populations larger than 700,000 (i.e. Wake and Mecklenburg Counties), which would expand Sunday hunting with firearms to all 100 counties in the state.
Additionally, HB 559 would remove the prohibition against hunting migratory birds contingent on authorization by proclamation or rules adopted by the NCWRC following the completion of a study conducted by the NCWRC that examines the biological, economic, social, and resource management impacts of allowing migratory bird hunting on Sundays. Finally, the legislation would change the method by which counties could prohibit Sunday hunting by requiring that a majority of voters in a county-wide election approve by referendum.
“I am sincerely grateful that HB 559 passed the legislature so that sportsmen in our state will have greater opportunities to hunt migratory birds here in North Carolina,” said Rep. Millis.
Reflecting on the importance of the legislation, Rep. Bell said, “This legislation will significantly increase access and opportunity for North Carolina’s sportsmen and women, particularly youth and hardworking adults with limited weekend hunting opportunities. Reducing barriers to participation in hunting is critical to the furtherance of our sporting traditions for future generations.”
“I am proud to be part of the team that continues to protect, promote and conserve the outdoor sports and wildlife heritage for our generation and for generations to come.” Sen. Alexander.
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?