Now that Virginia Allows Sunday Hunting, When will the North Carolina Domino Fall?
With Virginia setting aside its last blue law, the state's hunters are participating in their first legal Sunday hunt for wild game in modern times, leaving North Carolina surrounded by states that allow general Sunday hunting. Blue laws are those enacted at the behest of religious interests and once included prohibitions on alcohol, working, shopping, fishing and other activities on Sunday that are now the social norm. In North Carolina, a partial ban on alcohol sales and a ban on firearms hunting are the only remaining blue laws.
Matt O'Brien spearheaded the effort, setting up the Facebook Page, "Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting for All." A North Carolina group has since set up "Legalize North Carolina Sunday Hunting for All," to cash in on the domino effect.
Virginia's opposition to Sunday hunting was identical to North Carolina's opposition. Hound hunting groups helped shoot Sunday hunting bills down. Equestrian, hiker and biker groups wanted the woods to themselves. Churches opposed Sunday hunting. However, O'Brien said a perfect storm resulted in banishment of the Sunday hunting ban.
"I put up the status on bills and other obstacles and strategies to overcome them," he said. "I advertised on Craigslist and got my first 1,600 people. After that, it grew gigantically. Facebook drew people in and, the way I approached it, is that each person reached had 20 others they were talking to at their clubhouses, so they would spread word through the grapevine."
O'Brien, 43, is a retired Army Reservist who works as a safety, health and environmental manager for a pump company from Zuni, Virginia. He said a perfect storm finally allowed a Sunday hunting bill onto the floor of the House. The movement used a shotgun affect, introducing several similar bills, hoping one would surface.
"We took to the streets, handing out pamphlets," he said. "But, the Speaker of the House was not involved. We struggled because we could not get it out of the stranglehold by five Republican delegates on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee."
O'Brien said one delegate in charge of the committee had always killed Sunday hunting bills. She lost her seat. Last year, a bill to allow Sunday hunting in North Carolina died the same way, with the committee leadership blocking the bill's advancement to the House floor.
"Then an appointee of the Sunday hunting subcommittee made some people angry and we pounced on the opportunity. The Facebook group hit the radar. The NSSF and NRA influenced the Speaker and he got the bill before the full house. The win was a crushing victory, providing absolute clarity that it should have passed long ago."
Stiff opposition came from the Virginia Dog Hunting Alliance. Therefore, the bill threw hound hunters the bone they had asked for. Sunday hound hunting for deer and bear remains prohibited.
"Now they are angry because they were not included," he said. "We got horse people behind the compromise bill, answering their fears by only allowing Sunday hunting only on private property. We answered church people's fears by prohibiting Sunday hunting within 200 yards of a church. We also answered the hikers, bikers and acorn-sniffers with the private property provision."
Virginia already had a hound chase season and had recently allowed hunting on licensed hunting preserves as an economic measure.
Faced with the same outcry for Sunday hunting rights, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission allowed archery Sunday hunting a few seasons ago through an ambiguity in the law and the legislature did not block it. On Sunday, taking foxes with hounds is legal and trappers can shoot furbearers.
Another appeasement was a USFWS provision that allowed North Carolina waterfowl hunters compensatory hunting days for the loss of Sundays in recent seasons. However, compensatory days do not apply to other migratory game birds like rails, snipe, woodcock and doves, so North Carolina hunters lose those days. Compensatory days may lengthen the season, but for working folks, they do not make up for the loss of seven weekend days for ducks and more for some other waterfowl species. It also presents a quack-hunter's quandary because on military bases like Fort Bragg, where only military personnel can hunt on Sunday and not run-of-the mill North Carolina citizens, even they cannot hunt waterfowl because compensatory days would result in too many total season days under USFWS season frameworks.
Last Sunday, O'Brien posted an image of two fired shotgun shells on the "Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting for All" Facebook page. However, he did not hit any doves.
"It really hasn't hit me because we are not in my season, yet," he said. "I like hunting deer with black powder. I hunt doves because it is the beginning of the season. But, I was out there with my daughter. The day before, I spent doing sports with my kids. My three daughters play softball and my son plays baseball. I can already feel the pressure of getting out in the woods with them dropping off because I can do sports Saturday and hunt with my kids Sunday. I have not heard a single complaint. North Carolina just has to figure out how to break it out of the committee. Then, it will pass."