The Senate version of H640, the Outdoor Heritage Act, passed the N.C. Senate today by a vote of 35-14. The overwhelming support shows how much pent-up demand for Sunday gun hunting in North Carolina there has been. Supporters rallied behind the bill as a property rights issue and the Republican-dominated legislature obviously concurred.

The Senate version does not agree with the House version, in that it does not allow all-day Sunday gun hunting, but it has added language that gun hunting cannot begin until noon. Also in the Senate version, hunters may not hunt within 500 yards of a residence not owned by the hunter or within 500 yards of a house of worship.

The last-minute Senate substitute bill's backdoor change to the noon opening time from the all-day version sent to the Senate by the House caught hunters by surprise. Many have been expressing displeasure at their senators. However, the final version has not yet been prepared for Governor McCrory's signature and the differences between the two bills must be ironed out between the bill's sponsors and leaders of both chambers of the legislature.

Hunters should remain calm and not chastise their senators at this time, or it could prove counterproductive. The bill's passage is a significant victory. The final law may yet be subject to improvements.

A prohibition on hunting all migratory game birds will remain in effect, which is the same as with the House version. Also unchanged from the House version, no Sunday hound hunting for deer will be allowed and Sunday hunting can be conducted only on private property with permission from the landowner.