First up is House Bill 614, the Scientific Wildlife Management Act. This bill was introduced by Representatives Malone, Adams, and Brian Turner (Buncombe County). The Act will confirm that North Carolina citizens have a fundamental privilege to hunt and fish the marine, estuarine, and wildlife resources of the state.
The bill adds a paragraph to General Statute 113-131 that in part states, “The people of the State shall have the fundamental privilege to hunt, trap, fish, and harvest marine, estuarine, and wildlife resources subject only to the acts of the General Assembly and regulations adopted by the Department, the Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Wildlife Resources Commission.” So why is this important?
I’ve written before about hunting and fishing privileges being under assault in other states. Many here in North Carolina have an “it can’t happen here” attitude. Tell that to the hunters in Maine who last year faced a ballot initiative trying to ban bear hunting. Or how about Nevada trappers who are fighting a state bill to put burdensome restrictions on trapping. Many states are facing an onslaught of animal rights initiatives to ban traditional wildlife management methods including hunting. House Bill 614 will establish as state law our hunting and fishing privileges as part of wildlife management and prevent such efforts in our state. I hope it receives wide support in the General Assembly, gets passed, and goes to the Governor for signature.
Next of importance to hunters are companion bills, House Bill 559 and Senate Bill 624, Outdoor Heritage Enhanced. Remember the original Outdoor Heritage Act that finally allowed firearms hunting on Sunday? These bills with the exact same wording will lift many of the restriction imposed in the original Act. I’ll spare you the exact wording of the bill and provide a summary of the changes.
First, it eliminates the prohibition of hunting migratory birds. This is great news for the duck clubs and guides on the coast and should be a boom for their business. It’s difficult to book clients for a weekend hunt when that is only Saturday. There is one down side to this. Migratory bird seasons are set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with states allowed a certain number of days for the season. If passed it means the waterfowl, dove, and woodcock seasons will be shortened somewhat by including Sundays in the total number of days. It’s still a win.
Both bills will now allow you to hunt Sunday between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. but not within 500 yards of a church or inhabited building on adjacent property. The previous bill did not allow hunting during those hours. One of the biggest changes will allow Sunday hunting on public lands of the State managed for hunting except hunting deer with dogs or within 500 yards of a place of worship or residence during the time restriction. With over 2 million acres of public land in the Game Lands system this is a big deal! What is unclear to me is what they mean by “public lands of the State managed for hunting”. The State participates in management of National Forests’ which account for nearly two-thirds of the Game Lands, half of that in western North Carolina. I do hope it includes federal lands.
I know there are concerns about hunting on public land with other recreational users. Factually, those concerns are unfounded. Every state with no restrictions on Sunday hunting also has federal and state public land with multiple recreational users. There are no conflicts there, why would there be here? We already share those lands six days a week without conflict, what is one more day? Also, we are not talking about year round hunting but only three to four months a year. We can share the land.
I will be contacting my representatives asking them to support both pieces of legislation. We need to protect our hunting and fishing privileges as well as expand our hunting opportunities to continue to instill those privileges for the future.