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.
Below is a statement from Richard Childress, a lifetime North Carolina resident, Second Vice President, Board of Directors Member and Chairman of the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Committee of the NRA and Board of Directors Member of the Congressional Sportsman Foundation regarding the NC House Bill 640; the Outdoor Heritage Act.
“Like many North Carolina property owners, I support (NC) House Bill 640, the Outdoor Heritage Act. While it allows limited firearm hunting on private property seven days a week, the provision that has received the most press attention, I support the act because it protects individual property rights while also providing a wide range of outdoor recreation for our youth. The bill will expand the opportunities for young people to engage in activities from hiking to boating to bird watching as passing on North Carolina’s heritage is becoming increasingly important.
“The bill will increase economic output and job creation, especially in rural counties, adding an estimated $311 million in total economic output. An additional 3,600 jobs with more than $94 million in wages will also be generated.
One of my favorite places to catch crappie is Tar River Reservoir, which is located near Rocky Mount and provides water for the city. The 1850-acre lake produced two state-record crappie within a few weeks of one another several years ago and has therefore been on my spring fishing circuit ever since.
I headed to the reservoir with Capt. Butch Foster, who operates Yeah Right Charters (910-845-2004) in Southport. He had recently been fishing at High Rock Lake, where he still has a second home. Before he became a saltwater inshore and offshore captain Foster fished for crappie and other freshwater fish and is a crappie fanatic.
The fishing had been off so far this year because of the lingering after-effects of February's cold, rainy, icy weather. So, I held off on calling Butch until a brief respite from all of the precipitation came. Still, when we arrived, we launched my trusty Alumacraft 16-footer into water that was less than ideal because the visibility was about 18 inches. Most of the lake was the color of brick, but a clearing effect was occurring in the Saponi Creek branch, so we decided to try our luck in that area.
I had 10 dozen small minnows swimming in a foam ice chest to keep them cool and alive. Recent trips to other waters had shown the water was still chilly enough that minnows were the ticket. Crappie begin striking jigs as the water warms, but seldom turn down live minnows if they are presented at nose length even for anglers who are ice fishing.
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.
For the second time this season, a black bear took over the second-place slot for the state's heaviest bear. Sixteen-year-old David Honeycutt Jr. was participating in his first bear hunt when he shot the sumo-sized bear with a Marlin .45-70, lever-action rifle borrowed from his host, Phil Barker. He shot the 784-pound bear on Thursday, Dec. 18 at a private farm in Hyde County that Barker owns with four other partners.
"We had been seeing this bear for a couple of months," said Barker, a building contractor from Wilmington. We turned dogs on the track at 7:45 a.m. and David shot it by 8:30 a.m."
The 7,500-acre private farm is adjacent to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, which has one of the highest black bear population densities in the lower 48 states. The group of hunters also took a 581-pound and a 480-pound black bear later the same day, bringing the total number of bears taken on the farm this year to 16.
"We try to take 20 bears a year off the farm," Barker said. "I have been hunting up there for 30 years. We have leased it since the early 90s before purchasing it nine years ago. We hunt ducks, bear and turkey and had taken David duck hunting the previous afternoon."
The farm has 3,500 acres of cropland and 4,000 acres of timberland. The hunters began by looking for tracks in the fields and roads.
"One of my partner's sons, Harris Shaw, and my daughter, Ann McBride Barker were along," Barker said. "David is a friend of my daughter and they go to New Hanover High School. He said he would like to go bear hunting, so I invited him up. Keith Nations, who is from Silva, N.C., came from the mountains with his dogs. He is the leader of the hound group."