Sunday hunting?

Published 10:26 am Thursday, March 21, 2013

The abundance of woodlands and waterways in the Roanoke-Chowan region make it a prime area for local and out-of-state hunters.

But should that centuries-old way of life be permitted on the Sabbath….especially within the Bible Belt of the southeastern United States?

Over the past 144 years, the State of North Carolina has prohibited hunting on Sundays. However, a current bill (SB 244) is awaiting the approval of the North Carolina Senate, one that would remove a prohibition against Sunday hunting on private lands with shotgun, rifle or pistol as spelled out in N.C.G.S. 103-2.

That pending legislation has the backing of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission as they adopted a resolution on March 14 supporting a bill that would allow people to hunt on Sundays on private lands.

During the March 14 business meeting, the Commission adopted a resolution in support of Senate Bill 224, which would remove a prohibition against Sunday hunting on private lands with shotgun, rifle or pistol set out in N.C.G.S. 103-2.

“Allowing Sunday hunting on private lands will provide additional hunting days and additional options for youth and adults whose school and employment responsibilities limit their hunting opportunities to weekends,” said Gordon Myers, executive director of the Wildlife Commission.

The Commission’s resolution states that the prohibition against Sunday hunting serves no purpose with regard to conservation of wildlife resources and habitats. North Carolina residents who currently seek hunting opportunities in neighboring states that do allow Sunday hunting take substantial revenues elsewhere instead of keeping these dollars within North Carolina borders where they would generate tremendous economic benefits, particularly to rural areas and businesses.

In 2009, the Commission adopted regulations allowing hunting on Sundays on private lands with archery equipment. Beginning in September of 2010, Commission officials said North Carolinians have been hunting on Sundays on private lands with archery equipment without incident or conflict.

According to the Wildlife Resources Commission, private land includes “land not owned or controlled by a unit of government (federal, state or local). Property owned by persons, businesses and corporations is considered private. Public lands include game lands, federal refuges, city and county properties.”

Senate Bill 224 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources.

On the other side of this widely debated issue are those who believe that Sunday should remain a day of rest, for both man and beast.

The Rev. Tommy Tripp serves as Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in the Perrytown community of Bertie County. He is also the Moderator of the West Chowan Baptist Association, an Ahoskie-based organization that represents 60 churches in Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties.

“In issues such as this, no one individual can speak on behalf of all our churches as each church is autonomous,” Tripp noted. “If the Association takes a stance on a certain issue, it comes with the blessings of all member churches.”

However, Tripp did share his personal opinion on Sunday hunting.

“Personally speaking, six days is sufficient for those wanting to hunt,” he noted. “Sunday should be a day of rest, not one used to go out and shoot animals.”

The Rev. Mark Creech, Executive Director of the Christian Action League, also weighed in on the issue. He addressed the Wildlife Commission at their meeting last week.

“We recognize that there is not complete uniformity on how the Lord’s Day or the Sabbath Day should be observed. However, I do believe that I can say with some authority that the vast majority of Christians contend that both man and beast must have at least one day in seven for rest,” Creech said, citing the Fourth Commandment. “This principle of life not only helps mankind, but allows nature itself a reprieve from man’s use of the earth.”

Creech said he was particularly puzzled over the Commission’s contention in its resolution that “the current prohibition on Sunday hunting serves no purpose with regards to conservation of North Carolina’s wildlife resources and their habitats.”

“Are they saying the number of animals taken would not increase if we add another day of hunting each week?” he asked. “I can’t imagine that we could possibly go from six days of hunting to seven without increasing the number of animals killed, which would obviously affect conservation of resources.”

Creech pointed out that the Commission’s page-long resolution, which cited efforts to recruit new hunters and retain current ones by doubling weekend hunting opportunities, ignored the organization’s own 2006 survey results. That poll, part of a $143,000 study, found that 65 percent of Tar Heel residents oppose Sunday hunting, with most “strongly opposed.” In fact, only 25 percent supported it. Even among hunters, 53 percent opposed hunting on Sunday and only 38 percent were in favor.

Further, the study showed that some three dozen new game wardens would need to be hired at a cost of more than $5.5 million and that even if only half the number were hired, it’s unlikely that Sunday hunting would cause license sales to increase enough to cover the added expense, especially since hunters surveyed said they would not be willing to pay more for licenses to help cover the cost of Sunday hunting.

Creech said he was not surprised by the Sunday hunting bill, nor the Commission’s support of it as the push for hunting on the Lord’s Day has gained strength since the door was opened to bow hunters three years ago. He said hunting on Sunday, whether on private property or having been given permission by a landowner, poses a special kind of danger, especially around the state’s rural churches.

Showing the Wildlife Resources Commission members a photo of bullet hole in the sanctuary wall of a Johnston County church, Creech said the poor aim of hunters had sent the bullet through the door of the church’s left wing and across a path of pews at head level.

“One can only imagine the tragic scenario if this had happened during any period of worship or other meetings on Sunday when parishioners would have been present and sitting on those very pews,” he said. “Someone would have possibly been critically injured or mortally wounded.”

He said Sunday hunting poses a threat to the serenity and safety that rural church bodies across the state have traditionally enjoyed on the Lord’s Day.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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