Lost Opportunity: Repeal Sunday Hunting Laws

Lost Opportunity: Repeal Sunday Hunting Laws

The term “weekend warrior” is  sometimes used disparagingly, but the truth is most hunters have little choice in the matter when it comes to time in the woods. Weekdays are consumed by the responsibilities of work, school and family, and hunting happens on Saturdays and Sundays. For most hunters, it is hardly the perfect scenario, but it works well enough.

Now just imagine if you lived in a state where “blue laws” restrict or outlaw Sunday hunting.

It’s no joke. Today, there are still eleven states that limit Sunday hunting, while four others ban Sunday hunting altogether. These regulations are some of the last examples of Puritanical blue laws that are still on the books.

Blue laws were created with the intention of ensuring high church attendance rates. Besides hunting restrictions, blue laws made drinking and working on Sundays illegal. Interestingly, blue laws that once outlawed fishing on Sundays were repealed long ago, but many hunting restrictions remain in place.

In some states, all hunting is illegal on Sundays. In others, hunting is limited according to species, times, places or methods. For example, in South Carolina, Sunday hunting is legal only on private property. In Connecticut, archery deer hunting is legal on Sundays, while firearm hunting is not.

The minority of hunters who support blue laws believe that game animals are given a much-needed rest on Sundays. Some non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts also support these restrictions. They believe that these laws will prevent them from becoming the victim of a hunting-related accident while on a Sunday stroll through the woods. Neither of these arguments are backed by any verifiable evidence.

Arguments in favor of repealing blue laws are more substantial and real. Eliminating blue laws would essentially double the amount of time available to many hunters. Allowing Sunday hunting should increase opportunity, participation and revenue, and state economies would also be rewarded.

In Virginia, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated that legalized Sunday hunting will boost the state’s economy by $300 million and create 4,000 new jobs. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation found that if blue laws were repealed in the six states with the most stingy Sunday hunting restrictions, well over 100,000 hunters would be retained and more new hunters would be recruited.

Finally, a survey of former hunters in Pennsylvania found that half of them would begin hunting again if Sunday hunting were legalized. Participants cited that the lack of time for the woods is the biggest factor for them to stop hunting.

The pressure to eliminate these outdated regulations has been significant. And, there have been some notable victories. Over the last 15 years, hunters in New York, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia have successfully petitioned to have blue laws relaxed or repealed. In several other states, hunters are building momentum towards eliminating blue laws.

In Pennsylvania, Sunday hunting is illegal except for the seemingly random exceptions of crow and coyote hunting. Recently, the state’s blue laws were challenged with the introduction of Senate Bill 147. If passed, the law would repeal Pennsylvania’s Sunday hunting restrictions. Both hunters and the Pennsylvania Game Commission support repealing the law, but the Farm Bureau opposes changing the regulations.

According to the Sportsmen’s Alliance, “The day before the Senate approved legislation many senators balked at being caught between sportsmen and the agricultural organization unless the bill was narrowed.”

An amendment to the law would only allow hunting on two Sundays during rifle season and one Sunday during archery season. While some hunters view this as a step in the right direction, most see it as kowtowing to a special interest, rather than supporting one of the biggest hunting constituencies in the United States.

If you live in a state where Sunday hunting is legal, consider yourself lucky to have that opportunity. But, if you are one of this country’s many hunters who are forced to sacrifice hunting time to blue laws, take the time to support legislative efforts to repeal them. You’ll find there’s a movement out there to eliminate Sunday hunting restrictions wherever they still exist.

Feature image via Captured Creative.

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