By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Unless lawmakers take quick aim at controversial rule changes enacted by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission last year, hunters will soon be able to spend Sundays shooting game on private lands so long as they’re using a bow and not a gun.
“It is imperative that lawmakers act now to repeal the rules changes or else Sunday will be one step closer to becoming just another hunting day,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “This rule change to allow bow hunting on Sunday was, thankfully, held up when the Rules Review Committee received at least 10 letters of opposition. But if lawmakers don’t act this session, it will go into effect.”
The Rev. Creech urged those opposed to Sunday hunting to contact their lawmakers and ask them to push for a hearing for House Bill 1930, filed May 20 by Rep. Dewey Hill (D-Columbus) but stuck in the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House. The bill would simply reverse the changes regarding Sunday bow hunting and falconry and help shore up the Sunday hunting ban in effect in the Tar Heel state since 1869.
“We staunchly support hunting in North Carolina, but not on the Lord’s Day,” said the Rev. Creech. “Sunday is the churches’ prime time for reaching people, for training them to do good works of sacrifice and service.”
Creech pointed out that lawmakers often look for ways to help small businesses because of what they contribute to the economy and society at large. He said churches, which also make major contributions to the state’s well-being — from encouraging stable families and helping people escape poverty to promoting healthy, moral lifestyles and offering strength to those recovering from addictions — need support from the General Assembly as well.
“Granted there are already many things that are allowed on Sundays; but many of them undermine and compete for the time that churches would normally have with people,” he said. “Without approving a bill to reverse it, this rule change will be just one more thing.”
The Christian Action League is far from alone in opposing any form of Sunday hunting.
According to a 2006 telephone survey, 65 percent of North Carolina citizens oppose legalizing hunting on Sunday, with the majority of those strongly opposing legalization.
The survey was part of a larger study commissioned by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and performed by Responsive Management in Harrisonburg, Va., and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. It showed that even among hunters there is not widespread support for Sunday hunting.
Only 38 percent of hunters expressed support for legalized hunting on Sunday with 53 percent opposed. Some 63 percent of responding licensed hunters were strongly opposed to opening the door to bowhunters only. When Sunday hunting opponents were asked about allowing it, but only for bowhunters, 82.2 strongly opposed the idea with another 7.7 percent “somewhat opposed.”
According to the study, if hunting on Sunday were allowed only for certain species or during certain seasons, focus group participants felt that it would “discriminate against many hunters and thought it was important for hunters to remain united. The same was expressed regarding the option to allow hunting on Sunday only for certain species, weapons (e.g., bow) or methods (e.g., still vs. dogs).”
“While participants thought that restricting dog hunting and/or the use of guns on Sunday would be the restriction(s) most wanted by the public, they also explained that it would not be fair to dog and gun hunters, would increase the public image problem that these hunters are already facing, and would cause conflicts and division among hunters,” the report concluded. “Participants thought that it was important for hunters to remain united and that Sunday be ‘all or nothing’ from this standpoint.”
The “all or nothing” philosophy is further evidence that bow hunting would be just the beginning with all types of hunting soon allowed on Sundays in the interest of fairness if for no other reason, the Rev. Creech said. “I have no doubt that if the rules change stands it will be progressive until all Sunday hunting is legal.”
Besides the goal of keeping the Lord’s Day as one of rest, the most convincing reasons given in the study to oppose hunting on Sunday included consideration of Sunday as a day for other outdoor types to enjoy the woods without worrying about the presence of hunters, interference with church activities and concern that hunting on Sunday would strain the resources and personnel of the Wildlife Resources Commission.
At the time of the study, the WRC had estimated that at least 36 new game wardens would be needed statewide to maintain current levels of enforcement if hunting on Sunday were legalized. Even if only half that number were needed to handle limited hunting, it is unlikely that allowing Sunday hunting would cause license sales to increase enough to cover the added expense, an estimated $2.7 million over the first two years.
“We understand that the Wildlife Resource Commission is looking for ways to deal with the overpopulation of deer, but Sunday hunting is not the answer,” the Rev. Creech said.
The 19-member WRC announced the rule changes after what it described as “a year-long process of careful consideration and review of some 40,000 public comments received online and at nine public hearings held across the state.”
At least five more bills have been introduced to combat last year’s WRC decisions, including one filed by Rep. Cullie Tarleton (D-Watauga) that would allow Watauga County to hold a referendum that could exempt it from the bow hunting rule change. House Bill 1696 provides that if Sunday bow hunting is permitted, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners can direct the local board of elections to hold a referendum during the general election in November. If the referendum were approved, the rule allowing Sunday hunting would not apply to Watauga.
According to the High Country Press, the Watauga Board of Commissioners asked Rep. Tarleton to file the bill after holding a public hearing on the matter and getting numerous comments both for and against. Opponents of Sunday bow hunting there had apparently collected more than 750 signatures on a petition.
The bill passed the House Local Government II Committee on Wednesday and is headed to the Committee on Wildlife Resources.
Take Christian Action
To make sure your lawmakers know that you want Sundays kept sacred, with no hunting of any kind in any part of North Carolina, contact them and urge support for House Bill 1930 – Disapprove Rule Change/Sunday Hunting
To Contact Your Representative in the North Carolina House click here