The Sunday ban: Hunters hope to lift 1869 hunting law

Many hunters in Western North Carolina are hoping that an 1869 law banning hunting on Sunday might finally be lifted.


“Every other state around us has Sunday hunting,” said Rick Queen, who was hanging out at the gun counter in the hunting section of Cline Bradley Hardware Store in Waynesville last Friday afternoon.

Queen said whether to hunt on Sunday should be a personal decisions and not mandated by the government. Queen recalled a bear hunting trip to Michigan several years ago where one of his friends elected not to hunt on Sunday and instead hung around camp

“That’s his personal thing,” Queen said. But it shouldn’t be forced on everyone.

North Carolina is one of the last states that still has a law on the books banning Sunday hunting. As a result of the 19th century law, hunters from here flock to Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina on the weekends where hunting is allowed on Sunday. The economy takes a hit as a result, affecting hunting supply stores, outfitters, taxidermists and meat butchers.

“I think North Carolina is missing the boat on it,” said Lynn Bradley, owner of Cline-Bradley Ace Hardware in Waynesville.

For working men like Travis Rogers and Michael Corbin, the ban on Sunday hunting is a big blow. They work Monday through Saturday, leaving them only Sunday to hunt. So they load up Saturday night after work and head across state lines where they can hunt on Sunday.

“We work on Saturdays, so we have to load up and drive down to Georgia to hunt for one day and come back,” Rogers said.

Even hunters that can finagle three-day weekends during hunting season will still head out of town. They prefer to go somewhere they can pitch a camp for the entire weekend and not have their hunt cut short by a Sunday hunting ban.

“A lot of times they come in here Thursday after work and load up and head out for the weekend,” said Michael Corbin, who works at the Cline-Bradley gun counter.

Because of the Sunday ban, North Carolina can’t attract weekend hunters from other states to come here for a trip, said Queen.

According to public opinion research on Sunday hunting, those who cited work constraints during the week were more likely to support Sunday hunting.


Lifting the ban

Only the General Assembly can change the law, which has been in effect since 1869. The state legislature has considered lifting it in the past, but was hesitant to do so. This year, public opinion research was conducted at the request of the legislature and governor in hopes of gauging public sentiment on the issue.

According to random telephone surveys, the majority of state residents support the ban on Sunday hunting. But hunters are questioning the validity of the survey, which targeted anyone and everyone, not just hunters. That skewed the results, they said.

According to the survey, only 81 percent of the population approve of hunting. Those who are against hunting on any day of the week, not just on Sunday should be discounted from the results. With those folks out of the picture, sentiments on Sunday hunting are more evenly split down the middle.

Hunters hanging out in Cline-Bradley said no one ever asked them for their opinion in this survey.

“If they conducted the survey in here, I’d say 90 percent would support hunting on Sundays,” Corbin said.

Queen said the best way to conduct a survey is to ask every hunter when they fill out their hunting license for the year instead of random samples.

Elsewhere in the Bible belt, Sunday hunting has long been accepted, said Rodger McEntire, who grew up in Arkansas.

“I can remember the preacher cutting his sermon short during duck season because he was a duck hunter,” said McEntire, a regular at the Cline-Bradley hunting counter.

Nonetheless, McEntire said religious groups will lobby against any law change and could scare legislatures from voting for it.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission board met last week to discuss the results of the survey. They voted 9 to 5 to recommend to the state legislature to lift the Sunday hunting ban. But during a recess in the meeting, they apparently changed their mind and unanimously voted to take back the formal recommendation.

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