When the Outdoor Heritage Act of 2015 passed, it removed the absolute prohibition on hunting with firearms on Sunday in North Carolina that had been in place since 1868. On July 25, 2017, the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act was signed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper granting authority to the Wildlife Commission to implement new options for hunting on Sundays on its game lands, though hunters are still prohibited from hunting:

  • with a firearm between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.;
  • deer with the use of dogs; and
  • within 500 yards of a place of worship. 


The agency has been gathering data and public input to help inform its decision about allowing Sunday hunting on game lands. With the help of Group Solutions, the Commission undertook a comprehensive stakeholder process to gather data and diverse public input to inform this important decision. The Commission sought citizen and constituent participation in an online survey in late January through early February, to help identify issues and options related to Sunday hunting on game lands. 

Seven in-person public input meetings were held at locations across the state along with two virtual public input meetings in February 2020. If you were unable to attend a meeting, here are the meeting presentation slides. These slides provide information about Sunday hunting, the Game Lands Program, objectives of the public meetings, and a summary of the online survey.

The Commission then held three virtual focus group meetings with relevant stakeholder groups, a list of stakeholders is available here. These virtual focus group meetings were recorded and are available for viewing by clicking each date: June 9, June 10 and June 11. The main objective of the focus groups was to gather ideas and information about guidelines and specific criteria that the Commission should consider evaluating the feasibility of Sunday hunting on each game land. The main guiding principles identified were:

  • Changes and recommendations should be simple, easy, and understandable
  • Do not allow Sunday hunting where resources could be negatively affected
  • Focus on providing opportunities for all citizens
  • Move carefully and deliberately and adapt in the future as needed
  • Perception of safety differs among users


The main criteria that emerged from the focus groups for evaluating individual game lands were:

  • Focus on rural game lands that are not heavily used by non-hunters
  • Proximity to other game lands and public lands where hunting is prohibited
  • Value to unique properties that are important to user groups
  • Avoid game lands where past conflict has been a pattern

 

The final report is available here.


Once the focus group meetings were completed, a decision matrix was developed to help guide discussions about individual game lands. Information from the public input meetings and Focus Groups, in conjunction with input from game land managers, was used to create and populate the matrix. The scores for a given game land put the game land into one of three categories: 

  • Low Feasibility for Sunday Hunting 
  • Feasible with Compromise or Considerations
  • High Feasibility for Sunday Hunting


These categories were starting points to facilitate discussion during a staff retreat, where each game land and why it ranked into a specific category was discussed. After reviewing each game land, staff assigned one of the following recommendations for Sunday hunting: “yes”, “no”, or “not now”. Notes from the staff retreat along with the list of game land recommendations can be found here. Staff recommend allowing Sunday hunting on 56 of the agency’s 94 game lands. 

One of the main points heard throughout the public process was that the Commission should not proceed with any change that will negatively impact the resource. Therefore, after the staff retreat, a subgroup of game lands staff met with the NCWRC turkey, deer and bear biologists to get their thoughts on potential impacts to the resources that could be realized by allowing Sunday hunting on select game lands. The following are takeaways from those agency biologists:

Upland Game Bird Biologist: 

  • The turkey population would likely not be negatively impacted by allowing Sunday hunting on the selected game lands. 
  • Quality of the hunt could be affected.  


Deer Biologist: 

  • Allowing Sunday hunting on six of the game lands that are greater than 5,000 acres could negatively affect the local deer herd. However, these six game lands are all located in areas where hunting deer with hounds is allowed and that activity is prohibited on Sunday based on the current law. 
  • Staff will continually observe the local deer herd in and around these game lands and change rules as necessary to protect the resource.  


Bear/Furbearer Biologist: 

  • Additional opportunities to take bear in the Mountain and Piedmont regions would support the current objectives of the bear management plan for the Mountain Bear Management Unit and the Piedmont Bear Management Unit. In addition, the lands proposed for opening an additional day of hunting are significant in size and hunting pressure would likely be dispersed across those lands.  
  • There is concern about allowing additional take in the Coastal Bear Management Unit (CBMU) since the population objective of a 0% population growth rate is currently being met. Additional opportunities for harvest in the CBMU could result in negative population growth rate or a reduction in the population size. Since game lands with significant bear hunting traditions that staff recommended for Sunday hunting are limited in the CBMU, increased weekend hunting on these lands could impact hunt quality.
  • The recommendation at this time is to prohibit bear hunting on Sundays on the game lands in CBMU to meet the guiding principal identified by the focus groups, that the resources come first. If management objectives change or changes in the bear population are observed in the CBMU, staff will reevaluate the conditions and adjust the rule to allow for additional opportunities in the CBMU if warranted.           


Staff recommendations have been provided to the Commission’s Ad-Hoc Sunday Hunting on Game Lands Committee, the Commission’s Committee of the Whole, and to the stakeholders who participated in the focus groups. The presentation given to the stakeholders can be found here.


Next steps are as follows:

October 22, 2020: Present suggested rule text to the Commission for approval to notice, open the public comment period, and present at public hearings.

December 1, 2020 – February 1, 2021: Public comment period.

January 2021: Present proposed rule text at public hearings.

February 2021: Present public comments and final rule text to Commission for final adoption.

August 1, 2021: New rules become effective. 


 

More Details

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Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question not addressed in the FAQs below, email opinions@ncwildlife.org. Emails will not be answered individually, but the FAQs will be updated periodically.

Is Sunday hunting currently allowed on game lands? 
No, Sunday hunting is not allowed on any game lands at this time. All game lands are designated as three-day-per-week areas, six-day-per-week areas, or permit-only areas for hunting during open seasons. None of these designations currently include Sundays.

Does the Commission have the authority to allow Sunday hunting?
Yes, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been granted authority by the Legislature, to create regulations pertaining to Sunday hunting on public lands (Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act).

If the Commission allows Sunday hunting on game lands, will there be any restrictions?
Yes, as specified in the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act, the following activities will be prohibited: 

     - Hunting with a firearm between 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 
     - Hunting deer with the use of dogs, and
     - Hunting within 500 yards of a place of worship.