Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Director
Why It Matters: After the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Council doubled down on their opposition to retaining the prohibition against Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas less than two years ago, the favorable votes are a significant step forward towards opening Sunday hunting on public lands in a state with a long history of opposing expanding hunter access on Sundays.
Sponsored by South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative Bobby Cox, along with 23 bipartisan cosponsors, including National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council President Representative Brian White and Caucus Co-Chair Representative Roger Kirby, HB 4614 directs the DNR to repeal regulation 2.5, which states, “No Sunday hunting is permitted on any WMA lands,” and to promulgate regulations to allow Sunday hunting on WMAs owned by the DNR and leased from the U.S. Forest Service.
Last year, the DNR, in conjunction with Clemon University, hosted five public meetings across the state and conducted an online survey to gauge public opinion about Sunday hunting on WMAs. The report indicated strong support among South Carolinians (nonresident responses were excluded) for opening Sunday hunting on WMAs.
The DNR then proposed a regulation that would open Sunday hunting on seven WMAs (out of approximately 94 WMAs in the state) and U.S. Forest Service lands for only a limited portion of the hunting seasons, which prompted the introduction of HB 4614.
In January, CSF spearheaded a coalition support letter from the hunting conservation community which pointed out that South Carolina is the only Southern state with an outright ban against Sunday hunting on public lands. The letter advocated for opening Sunday hunting on WMAs to support hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts and to provide access parity with other public land user-groups as hunters are the only user-group prohibited from using WMAs on Sundays even though WMAs are purchased and/or managed with sportsmen-generated dollars through the “user pays-public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding.
The legislation is headed to the House of Representatives where a vote is expected to take place before crossover on April 10.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is grateful for the leadership of Rep. Cox, Rep. White, and other Caucus members that have been instrumental moving the needle on this important access initiative for South Carolina’s hunters.
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?