Why It Matters: Sunday hunting prohibitions are rooted in antiquated Blue Laws that are not based on scientific wildlife management principles. Sunday hunting restrictions hinder hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts (R3) and limit hunter access to public land while allowing access for other user groups on Sundays. By opening Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) starting in the fall of 2023, South Carolina’s hunters will now have seven-day access to public lands for the first time in the state’s history. Sunday hunting has been legal on private lands statewide since 2004.
- On May 26, 2023, new WMA regulations will take effect that allow Sunday hunting on eight WMAs and two National Forests from October 15 to January 31.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with the South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) and conservation partners since 2020 to advocate for opening Sunday hunting on WMAs.
- Prior to this regulation change, South Carolina was the only Southern state with an outright ban on Sunday hunting on public lands.
In 2021, The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and Clemson University conducted a series of public meetings and an online poll to gauge public opinion about Sunday hunting on WMAs. The results showed overwhelming support for opening Sunday hunting on public lands, with “75% of participants in favor of hunting on Sunday,” and online poll responses showing “approximately 2:1 in favor of Sunday hunting on SCDNR WMAs.”
In 2022 and 2023, Caucus Co-Chair Representative Bobby Cox introduced legislation to repeal the Sunday hunting prohibition which put the issue front and center for the South Carolina sportsmen’s community. In March 2023, CSF submitted comments to House and Senate Committees supporting the SCDNR proposed regulations to allow Sunday hunting for a portion of the hunting season on eight WMAs and the two National Forests. While CSF supports Sunday hunting being fully concurrent with all hunting seasons in the state, these new regulations are a significant step forward for South Carolina’s hunters by providing seven-day access on about 70% of the WMA acreage for three and a half months of the year.
WMAs are purchased and/or managed with dollars generated by sportsmen and women through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. The Palmetto State’s sportsmen and women generated more than $31 million for state-based conservation efforts in 2021 alone. Allowing Sunday hunting access on the very lands that South Carolina’s sportsmen and women pay to purchase, manage, and conserve is a great victory for South Carolina’s outdoor sporting community and is an important step toward recruiting the next generation of hunters.
CSF sincerely thanks National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Bobby Cox, numerous other Caucus Members, conservation partners, and the SCDNR for working to find a solution that allows South Carolina’s hunters access to public lands seven days a week and strengthens the Palmetto state’s outdoor sporting heritage for generations to come.