First deer season with new Sunday hunting rules underway

“Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Law” in place for 2017 deer season

FILE PHOTO: White tailed deer

ALBEMARLE — If you live in Stanly County or one of its neighboring counties, you may have noticed more hunters on the roads this past Sunday. Black powder season for white-tailed deer started this past weekend with new rules in place. The new law, sponsored by recently retired Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender) and House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne), is called “Outdoor Heritage Enhanced” and gives authority to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and other public landowners to implement new options for Sunday hunting on public lands.

So what’s changed? One of the major pieces of the bill removes the general prohibition on hunting of migratory birds on Sunday and Sunday hunting in counties with populations over 700,000. The law does not immediately allow Sunday hunting of migratory birds, but allows for the Wildlife Resources Commission to allow it if they so choose after March 1, 2018. The bill also maintains a prohibition on hunting between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. as well as hunting within 500 yards of a place of religious worship on Sunday. Counties can prohibit or further restrict Sunday hunting by ordinance if a countywide referendum is passed by a majority of county voters.

More specifically, the bill impacts three key areas.

On public lands:

  • Public land managers, including the Wildlife Commission, may authorize hunting on Sundays with a firearm on the public lands for which they have jurisdiction.
  • If public land managers allow Sunday hunting on their lands, hunters remain prohibited from hunting with a firearm between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., from hunting deer with the use of dogs and from hunting within 500 yards of a place of religious worship.
  • Sunday hunting on the Wildlife Commission game lands remains prohibited. Approximately 1.5 million acres of approximately 2 million acres enrolled in the commission game land program are owned by corporate and federal partners. The commission will implement a collaborative and inclusive process of evaluating options and opportunities to hunt on Sundays with a firearm on its game lands after carefully considering landowner and user-group perspectives.

On private lands:

  • Hunters may hunt within 500 yards of a residence, potentially opening millions of acres of private land previously off-limits to Sunday hunters.
  • Hunters may not hunt at any time on Sunday within 500 yards of a place of religious worship, nor hunt deer with the use of dogs.
  • Shooting hours remain unchanged, meaning private lands may be hunted for wild animals and upland game birds with a firearm on Sunday prior to 9:30 a.m. and after 12:30 p.m.
  • Controlled hunting preserves are not restricted between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. if they are licensed pursuant to G.S. 113.273(g).

Migratory birds:

  • Hunting of migratory birds on Sundays remains prohibited. The new legislation gives the commission the authority to lift the prohibition on migratory bird hunting after March 1, 2018.
  • The law also mandates that a study be conducted by the commission to consider the biological and resource management, economic and social impacts associated with hunting migratory birds on Sundays.

As of Oct. 30, 2017, 239 deer had been taken in Stanly County. Of that total, 102 were antlered bucks, 3 were button bucks, and 134 were does.

Gun season for white-tailed deer in Stanly County begins Nov. 11, 2017 and ends Jan. 1, 2018.