By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League of North Carolina
December 31, 2008
RALEIGH – Unless North Carolinians speak out at a series of public hearings this month, they may soon lose the freedom of a Sunday walk in the woods as the Lord’s Day becomes hunters’ prey.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which seems to have the state’s 139-year-old Sunday hunting ban in its crosshairs, has proposed rule changes that would allow falconry, bow hunting and crossbow hunting on Sunday.
“We agree with the North Carolina Family Policy Council that this proposal is just ‘the camel’s nose under the tent,'” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “Once the door is opened to one kind of hunting on Sunday, the rest won’t be far behind.”
Like the majority of North Carolina residents, the Christian Action League stands staunchly behind citizens’ right to hunt six days a week, but not on Sunday.
“From our state’s earliest history, we have allowed our people and animals to rest on Sunday,” wrote Joe McClees, a longtime hunter and 2nd Amendment defender who has lobbied in the N.C. General Assembly for more than 20 years on gun issues as well as environmental and regulatory topics. McClees and his wife, Henri, who own McClees Consulting, resigned as lobbyists for the National Rifle Association two years ago when the NRA announced its support for Sunday hunting in the Tar Heel state.
“Our nation has departed from the ways of the Lord in many things. However it does not follow that we should take another step away from His ways,” McClees wrote then. “The time for compromise is over.”
“We continue to be opposed to Sunday hunting in any form,” said attorney Henri McClees this week. “The Wildlife Resources Commission is proposing several different rule changes, any one of which would be the ‘foot in the door’ they want. If they were allowed to open the door to any form of Sunday hunting, all the rest would be pushed through bit by bit.”
Beyond the religious argument to keep the Sabbath holy, lie the concerns of families who enjoy picnicking, hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, climbing, biking and any number of outdoor pursuits which would no longer be Sunday options without fear of being hit by an errant arrow or shot when mistaken for prey.
“Many people wait until Sunday to go in the woods, especially during hunting season,” Henri McClees said. “This would present conflicts and a terrible ‘public relations’ problem for the hunters, who have enough such conflicts already.”
More importantly, McClees said, “we do not want to increase the likelihood of hunting accidents by having hunters hunting on Sundays when non-hunting activities have been traditionally enjoyed.”
In fact, 77 percent of Sunday hunting opponents questioned in a recent survey cited the need for other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the woods without worrying about the presence of hunters. Seventy percent said Sunday should be a day of rest. And 65 percent said hunting would interfere with church activities.
The poll was part of a $143,000 study funded and commissioned by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and completed in late November 2006 by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences & Conservation Management Institute of Blacksburg, Va., Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va., and Southwick Associates of Fernandina, Fla.
The study showed that the majority of North Carolina residents – 65 percent – oppose the legalization of hunting on Sunday with most “strongly opposed.” In fact only 25 percent of those surveyed supported hunting on Sunday. The issue obviously touches a nerve with Tar Heel residents who overwhelmingly (81 percent) approve of hunting overall.
Even among hunters, there is not widespread support for Sunday hunting. According to the study results, 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.”
Further, the study showed that some three dozen new game wardens would need to be hired (at a cost of $5,476,104 over the first two years) to enforce the rules if Sunday hunting were legalized. Even if only half that number were needed to handle limited hunting, it’s unlikely that allowing Sunday hunting would cause license sales to increase enough to cover the added expense. The survey also showed that 65 percent of hunters said they would not be willing to pay more for licenses to help cover the cost of Sunday hunting.
“The Wildlife Resources Commission has limited resources…. We do not believe stretching these resources over seven days per week provides improved enforcement,” McClees said. “In this economy, they cannot simply expect more money from the legislature to fund more officers.”
As a longtime hunting advocate and spokesman for 10 clubs affiliated with the N.C. Sporting Dog Association, McClees said she does not believe the WRC understand the negative feelings Sunday hunting would create against hunters.
“They claim they want to increase the number of hunters by increasing the availability of time to hunt on weekends,” she said. “However, Sunday hunting would create more enemies of hunting. More conflict results in more political pressure to limit or abolish hunting, including but not limited to hunting with dogs. We think this is poor policy that would result in more troubles for the traditional hunters.”
“Whether you look at this from a cost standpoint or, more importantly, one affecting families across North Carolina, it is clear that we don’t need Sunday hunting of any sort,” said the Rev. Creech. “But to help stop this from happening, Christians need to speak out at one of the upcoming public hearings to let the WRC know how you feel.”
The hearings, each slated for 7 p.m., will be held on the following dates and locations:
- Jan. 5, Bladen Community College in Dublin
- Jan. 7, Graham High School Auditorium in Graham
- Jan. 8, South Stanly High School in Norwood
- Jan. 13, Morganton Municipal Auditorium in Morganton
- Jan. 14, Southwestern Community College in Sylva
- Jan. 15, Starmount High School in Boonville
- Jan. 20, Swain Auditorium in Edenton
- Jan. 21, Craven County Courthouse in New Bern
- Jan. 22, Brown Auditorium at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount
To find out more about the WRC’s proposed rule changes and to submit comments to the Commission via its Web site, go to www.ncwildlife.org, click on the 2009-10 Proposed Regulations and scroll down to H25, H26, H27 and H28.