After years of frustration, Mike Marsh took a gobbler on Sunday, April 19, while hunting with a crossbow on private property in Pender County. While it was his first archery take of a gobbler, North Carolina legalized hunting with archery gear on private property Sunday several years ago. It is the only remaining Southeastern State that does not allow Sunday gun hunting after Virginia legalized Sunday hunting last year.
The Outdoor Heritage Act, House Bill 640, would pay it forward for North Carolina outdoor enthusiasts. However, an eleventh-hour end-run by a lobbyist for those opposing the bill had local ordinances sent to the legislature exempting more than 30 counties from its provision to allow Sunday gun hunting on private property. The OHA's primary sponsor is Jimmy Dixon (House Dist. 4, Duplin, Wayne). Dixon held many meetings with 26 stakeholder groups, ensuring everyone would gain from the legislation. Even N.C. Farm Bureau and N.C. Dept. of Agriculture, which once opposed Sunday gun hunting, supported the OHA. The only remaining opposition came from deerhound groups and the Christian Action League.
"It passed a vote of the Wildlife Committee, 10-to-4," said Dixon. "An amendment to exclude certain counties from the Sunday take provision didn't pass. In drafting the bill, I asked, 'Is our outdoor heritage economically and socially important? As we become more urbanized, do we want to pass it on to the next generation? Should we adjust our existing laws on take to include Sunday hunting?' Obviously, the answer is yes."
Dixon spoke with county commissioners, poultry growers, Eastern Band of the Cherokee, Blue Ridge Parkway Association, Horse Council, Christian Action League and hound-hunters and many other stakeholders then revised wording in response to concerns. Besides Sunday gun hunting, other provisions include expansion of youth opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, boating, sport shooting, archery, bird-and-wildlife watching, camping swimming, hunting, trapping and fishing. It initiates a $2 check-off donation during N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission license transactions to pay for the youth programs and establishes an 11-member Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council.
The OHA expands public access by encouraging the NCWRC to open game lands for hiking, horseback riding, boating, wildlife watching, swimming camping and other outdoor recreation where feasible. It increases penalties for wildlife violations. Sunday hunting of migratory waterfowl would be still be prohibited because most waterfowl hunting occurs on public waters and hunters would lose USFWS compensatory days. Also prohibited is hound deer hunting and hunting within 300 yards of a church. But, it gives landowners liability relief for granting hunters permission to retrieve wayward dogs and requires wildlife officers to wear cameras.
When Virginia allowed Sunday hunting last year, North Carolina remained the Southeast's sole holdout. When it seemed the OHA's passage was possible, opponents went to county commissioners' meetings to insert wording exempting those counties from Sunday gun hunting in routine ordinance packages sent to the legislature. Dixon said many of those commissioners might not have had time to read or comprehend the county Sunday gun hunting exemptions. Since the crossover deadline for bills between the House and Senate is April 30, Dixon said the only way hunters have to ensure their county is not exempt from the OHA's Sunday gun hunting provision is to contact their representatives.
Representatives of counties that would continue to ban Sunday gun hunting by ordinance include Bob Steinburg (Tyrell, Perquimmans, Pasquotank, Currituck, Chowan, Camden), Larry Bell (Duplin, Sampson, Wayne), James L. Boles Jr, (Moore), William Brisson (Bladen, Johnston, Sampson), Jeff Collins (Franklin, Nash), Leo Daughtry (Johnston), Nelson Dollar (Wake), Geroge Graham (Craven), Charles Graham (Robeson), Larry Hall (Durham), Susie Hamiltion, (Brunswick, New Hanover), Craig Horn (Union), David Lewis (Harnett), Pat McElfraft (Cartert, Jones) Jason Saine (Lincoln), Paul Tine (Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Washington), Ken Waddell, Bladen, Columbus, Robeson), Roger West (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon).
"The great safety net with this bill is we put the decision in the hands of property owners," Dixon said. "The right to own property and to use that property is one of the great principles upon which this country was founded."
Citizens can contact their representatives at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us.