By Jesse Wood
After holding a public hearing on a draft resolution requesting the N.C. General Assembly (NCGA) ban Sunday hunting locally, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners elected not to proceed with the resolution.
The commissioners decided to explore the matter after a request from citizens. Commissioner Perry Yates called the current laws on Sunday hunting “fair to both sides” and Commissioner Billy Kennedy called the matter a “non-issue.”
During the past several years, the commissioners – current and past boards – have been presented with multiple requests and petitions opposing the lifting of the ban on Sunday hunting in the county. Then in the summer of 2015, the NCGA mostly did away with the ban that had been in place for more than a century.
While hunting isn’t allowed on Sunday on public land, except for military installations, the current bill allows hunting on a landowner’s property on Sunday with a few exceptions. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays:
- between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the typical times for religious services
- for the hunting of migratory birds
- with the use of firearm to take deer that are run or chased by dogs
- within 500 yards of a place of worship, accessory structure
- in a county having a population of greater than 700,000
“I think this is a non-issue, and the state set a standard we think is OK. I just want people to realize we are not trying to take people’s rights away,” Kennedy said. “We are reacting to a changing legislative landscape to make sure we are where we want to be on that. That’s why we have public hearings.”
About 10 citizens spoke on the issue, and all of them favored the ability to hunt on Sunday. Advocates for Sunday hunting gave commissioners several reasons to not ban Sunday hunting any further than current regulations.
For one, several of the speakers such as Ryan Kirby said that people can both hunt on Sundays and be faithful. Speaking about his young son, Kirby said, “No one wants him to be an honorable Christian man more than I do. That’s a 365-day job, and I don’t think taking away Sunday hunting in any form is going to make him a better man.”
The draft resolution stated that “Watauga County is predominately rural and Sunday hunting has the potential to threaten the serenity and safety of churches and its members throughout the county.”
Everette Matheson, a native of Watauga, said, “The discord the Sunday hunting ban resolution is causing among our citizens is not good.”
Rita Turbyfill added, “If there are concerns from a safety standpoint … I think taking one day out of the week is the complete wrong approach. I think hunter education and safety courses is a much better approach.”
Sunday hunting advocates also noted that most people work Monday through Friday and taking away Sunday hunting eliminates half of the potential hunting days for working folks. Others said hunting provides a generational bonding activity for families; puts food on the table; and offers lessons on life and death.
Some questioned why hunting was being singled out compared to other outdoor activities people may pursue on Sundays.
“It’s a slippery approach to try to dictate what’s done on Sunday,” Jeff Talbot said.
Though the petition submitted to the commissioners during the past few years featured more than 700 signatures, no one spoke in favor of approving the resolution during the public hearing.