This week, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) opened up a public comment period for their 2021-2022 rulemaking cycle.
Included in this year’s proposals is a series of rules that would expand Sunday hunting on select game lands in the Old North State for the first time.
On July 8, 2015, H.B. 640, the Outdoor Heritage Act, was signed into law, allowing Sunday hunting on private lands. Two years later, on July 25, 2017, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed H.B. 559, giving WRC the authority to open Sunday hunting on public lands, building on the legislation from two years earlier.
This year, WRC held seven in-person public meetings, two virtual public meetings, three focus group meetings with stakeholders, a staff retreat, discussions with landowning partners, biological staff, and commissioners, and a follow up meeting with stakeholders to assess all options to open up game lands on Sundays.
Throughout 2020, Safari Club International participated in the lengthy stakeholder engagement process along with other sportsmen’s groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, and more, to provide input to WRC staff to develop criteria to evaluate the feasibility of Sunday hunting on these game lands. That criteria included identifying rural game lands that are not heavily used by non-hunters, lands that have close proximity to other game lands and public lands where hunting is prohibited, lands that have value and unique properties that are important to user groups, and recommended areas to avoid where past conflict has been a pattern.
Sportsmen and women in North Carolina pay for the purchase and maintenance of the vast majority of state-owned game lands and, until now, have not had equal access to those lands seven days a week to recreate. Allowing hunters another day a week to access public lands will help North Carolina hunters recruit new hunters and offer families another day afield.
The comment period runs through February 1, 2021, and sportsmen and women everywhere are encouraged to voice their opinions.