Final Hurdle Cleared to Open Public Lands Sunday Hunting in North Carolina

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Assistant Director

Highlights

  • In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act which transferred regulatory authority from the legislature to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) for Sunday hunting with a firearm on public lands in the state managed for hunting.
  • In 2020, the WRC held public meetings across the state and convened stakeholder group meetings to gauge public input on which Game Lands to open for Sunday hunting. The WRC recommended that 55 Game Lands be opened to Sunday hunting.
  • In February 2021, WRC Commissioners approved proposed rules to open Sunday hunting on 51 Game Lands.
  • The WRC then received objections to the Game Lands rules and subsequently proposed temporary rules to open Sunday hunting this fall.
  • WRC Commissioners approved the rules on June 9, and the Rules Review Commission approved the rules on June 17.

Why It Matters: Opening Sunday hunting on public lands marks the culmination of a four-year effort to implement the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act. North Carolina hunters will now have access to Game Lands seven days a week like other user groups, and the expanded access to 1.6 million acres across the state will support hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts.

Since the passage of the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act in 2017, North Carolina hunters have been clamoring to hunt on Game Lands on Sundays. Private lands Sunday hunting has been legal in North Carolina since 2015, and sportsmen and women that depend on public land for hunting access want to hunt on Sundays like those with access to private lands can do.

Beginning this fall, Sunday hunting will be open on 51 Game Lands, including all four National Forests. While many Game Lands will still be closed to Sunday hunting, this is a significant step forward for increased access for North Carolina’s hunters.

North Carolina was one of the few remaining states that prohibited public lands Sunday hunting. Hunters were the only user group excluded from Game Lands on Sundays even though hunters contribute to the purchase and management of Game Lands through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding.

Opening Game Lands to Sunday hunting has been a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). CSF was engaged in the legislative and regulatory process from start to finish and will continue to advocate for additional public land Sunday hunting opportunities in the state.

CSF would like to thank WRC staff and WRC Commissioners for supporting Sunday hunting on Game Lands.

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