hunting on sundays
Father hunting with son; (photo/Roman Kosolapov)

North Carolina Legalizes Limited Public Land Hunting on Sundays

Increased public land hunting opportunity on Sundays brings a sense of equity and relief to North Carolina’s hunting community.

Few states continue to abide by antiquated “blue laws.” Blue laws were originally religious efforts to restrict citizen activities on Sundays. And they’ve restricted everything from liquor sales to shopping to hunting. When it comes to the latter, North Carolina is among four states that hold onto blue laws in one form or another. But that’s changing.

North Carolina continues to incrementally move away from Sunday hunting restrictions in its latest rule adoptions for the 2021-2022 sporting year. And the latest move to open 1.6 million acres of public lands to limited Sunday hunting is a step toward parity for hunters that don’t have access to private land opportunities.

From Private to Public Land Opportunities in 2021-2022

Since 2009, limited Sunday hunting on private land has been available to those with access. Further, a series of rule changes over the past decade has allowed more flexibility for private land hunts.

In December 2020, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission reached out for comments on opening up game lands to public hunting opportunities on Sunday. And more than 30,000 comments were sent to the NCWRC for review.

sunday hunting
North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains; photo credit: MarkVanDykePhotography via Shutterstock

Ultimately, hunters ended up increasing their Sunday public land opportunities on 45 game lands within the state. Additionally, six other game lands move from a 3-day hunting opportunity to 4 days. Sunday restrictions do still exist.

“The statutory limitations for Sunday hunting, prohibiting hunting with a firearm between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., using firearms to hunt deer with the use of dogs, and hunting with a firearm within 500 yards of a place of worship or any accessory structure thereof will also apply on game lands. Additionally, hunting migratory game birds on Sunday is prohibited statewide,” stated the NCWRC.

A Show of Support From Public Land Hunters and Advocates

Advocates for public land hunting showed up in force, and among them was the North Carolina chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Members of the group showed up to each public hearing, participated in surveys, and voiced their concerns for increased equity in Sunday hunting.

“The new rules adopted for the 2021-2022 season are a significant step forward and are a tremendous win for access and opportunity in our state,” said Luke Weingarten, chair of the BHA North Carolina chapter.

“For some, this rule change functionally doubles their time in the woods, and for many others, it significantly enhances their opportunity to pass on our hunting heritage to current and future generations.

“[The Wildlife Resource Commission] showed their support for sportsmen and women by opening our public lands to hunting on Sundays. However, nothing happens by accident — things happen through sustained effort and collaboration.”

Nicole Qualtieri

Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.