State legislators have recently introduced bills in this session of the N.C. General Assembly that would remove some current restrictions on Sunday hunting and give legislators more input on hunting and fishing regulations.

On April 4, two Republican members of the House, Chris Millis of Hampstead and John Bell IV of Goldsboro introduced H559, “Outdoor Heritage Enhanced,” while a companion bill, S624, was introduced by three Republican members of the Senate: John Alexander of Raleigh, Tom McInnis of Rockingham and Danny Earl Britt Jr. of Lumberton.

The bill would allow Sunday hunting with firearms for any game species, plus fishing, on public and private lands, with some exceptions. The bill would expand Sunday hunting opportunities, including allowing hunting of waterfowl and other migratory bids. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission had previously allowed archery hunting on Sundays for deer, and previous legislation allowed Sunday hunting on private land, but prohibited hunting between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. except on private hunting preserves, and prohibited hunting of waterfowl and other migratory birds, as well as hunting deer with dogs on private land within 500 yards of places of worship or structures or residences not owned by the landowner.

On April 5, two Republican members of the House, Chris Malone of Wake Forest and Jay Adams of Hickory, along with Democrat Brian Turner of Asheville, submitted H614, “Scientific Wildlife Management Act.” The legislation would roll back all previous hunting season dates, and it declares that management of North Carolina’s natural resources — freshwater and saltwater fish, plus game animals — would be shared by the General Assembly, the Commission and the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, with the aim of protecting “the fundamental privilege to hunt, trap, fish and harvest marine, estuarine and wildlife resources” by the public. 

“The marine and estuarine and wildlife resources of the State belong to the People of the state as a whole,” the bill said.

H614 also prohibits any county from opting out of Sunday hunting; H559 and H640, the original “Outdoors Heritage Act,” allow counties to decline Sunday hunting if they asked the legislature before Oct. 1, 2017 — when the other two bills become law if passed.

Concerns that adding extra Sundays during waterfowl seasons might shorten North Carolina’s season lengths are unfounded, one expert said.

“North Carolina would have the same number of hunting days as in the past (60),” said Richard B. Hamilton, director of the N.C. Camo Coalition. “We used to get extra days for each Sunday we lost, so (the Commission) just spread out the season. We’ll still get 60 days.”