North Carolina: Game Lands Open for Hunting on Sunday

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Assistant Director

Highlights

  • In 2015, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Outdoor Heritage Act which removed the prohibition against hunting on Sunday with a firearm on private property, subject to various exceptions.
  • In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Outdoor Heritage Act Enhanced which, among other things, transferred regulatory authority from the legislature to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) for Sunday hunting with a firearm on Game Lands.
  • In 2021, WRC Commissioners and subsequently the Rules Review Commission approved rules to open Sunday hunting on Game Lands effective August 1, 2021.


Why it Matters: As hunting seasons gear up across the Old North State, sportsmen and women that depend on public land for access can hunt on Game Lands on Sunday for the first time in history. 51 Game Lands comprising 1.6 million acres are now open to hunters seven days a week, a huge win for North Carolina’s hunting heritage and advancing hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts.

Sunday hunting restrictions are blue laws with no basis in wildlife management, and few states continue to prohibit Sunday hunting on public lands as policymakers recognize the need to provide access parity for hunters to lands purchased and managed with their dollars through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding.

The North Carolina law prohibiting Sunday hunting with a firearm passed in 1868. Thanks to the efforts of the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), partners, and the WRC, hunters in North Carolina have enjoyed seven-day hunting with a firearm on private lands since 2015 without issue. Following the passage of the Outdoor Heritage Act Enhanced Act in 2017, Sunday hunting advocates encouraged WRC Commissioners to move forward with rulemaking to implement the legislation. After a robust public input process over the past two years, North Carolina’s sportsmen and women will have the opportunity to hunt on Sunday on Game Lands across the state, including all four National Forests.

Even with the expanded access for hunters, the following statutory restrictions apply: no hunting with a firearm between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; no hunting deer with the use of dogs; and no hunting within 500 yards of a place of worship. Additionally, Sunday hunting is not permitted for migratory birds, and bear hunting on Game Lands in the Coastal Bear Management Unit is prohibited.

CSF is thrilled to see North Carolina step up for its public land hunters, and CSF is similarly continuing to support efforts in South Carolina to repeal the regulation prohibiting Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas, as well as working with partners in Virginia to support legislation that would expand hunter access on public lands on Sundays.

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