PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Some states are steadily getting rid of long-standing bans on Sunday hunting, and there is a campaign to repeal the laws in Maine and Massachusetts, the last two states to impose full bans.
The Maine Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit questioning whether a 19th-century state law prohibited hunting Large game animals such as deerMoose and turkeys on Sundays are still a must. And in Massachusetts, where hunters are also pushing for Sunday hunting rights, there are renewed efforts to change state laws that prohibit the practice.
Forty states have no ban on Sunday hunting.
The ban stems from so-called “blue laws” that also regulate which businesses can remain open and where alcohol can be sold on Sundays.
Animal welfare groups, conservation organizations and others are rallying to defend the ban, but the end of the laws may be in sight. Other states, such as Virginia and South Carolina, have in recent years eliminated the remainder of their restrictions on Sunday hunting.
Residents of states where hunting is part of the culture are divided on the issue. Some hunters argue that the laws protect the rights of private landowners, while others say the rules deprive them of hunting opportunities, or are just ridiculous.
Athletes who oppose these laws see them as remnants of the Blue Laws that date back to the 17th century and limit the activities that citizens can do on a day that governments used to devote to prayer.
Allowing hunting seven days a week will give people the opportunity to harvest their own food in a state with many poor rural communities that can’t afford high grocery costs, said Jared Bornstein, executive director of Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting.
“I’m not saying that Sunday fishing will save the world economically, but I’m saying that for a group of people, there’s a greater objective benefit to it,” Bornstein said. “It is the last vestige of a generation to control the working class.”
The states that still have full or partial bans on Sunday hunting are all on the East Coast, where every fall sportsmen hunt wild turkeys and white-tailed deer with firearms and archery.
Last year, South Carolina opened limited hunts on public lands on Sundays, and the year before Virginia made a similar move.
A few years before North Carolina began allowing Sunday hunting on about 75% of public hunting lands, according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Laws have also been relaxed in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware in the past five years.
The ongoing lawsuit in Maine, which could legalize Sunday hunting, involves a couple who filed a lawsuit stating that… “Right to food” An amendment to the state constitution, the first of its kind in the United States, would allow them to hunt any day of the week. Andy Schmidt, the couple’s attorney, said the Maine Supreme Judicial Court had heard arguments in the case, but it was unclear when it would issue its ruling. The state first banned Sunday hunting in 1883.
In Massachusetts, where some sources trace the ban to the Puritan era, a campaign to repeal it made progress before stalling in the state legislature in 2014. Some continue to try to repeal the law, which “discriminates against hunters.” said John Kjellstrand, president of the Mass Athletes Council. A new proposal to allow Sunday hunting with bow and arrows was introduced earlier this year.
Efforts to roll back Sunday hunting up and down the East Coast face opposition from a wide range of interest groups, including animal protection advocates, state wildlife management authorities and private landowners.
Maine Woodland Owners, a group representing rural landowners in the nation’s most forested state, sees the Sunday hunting ban as critical to keeping private lands open for hunting access on other days of the week, said Executive Director Tom Doak.
“We’re not asking for money. We’re not saying pay us. We’re not asking for anything except to be left alone one day a week,” Doak said. “They will close off their land. They certainly will.”
Sportsmen’s groups, including the National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, have long lobbied to repeal Sunday hunting restrictions, with great success over the past 30 years. At the time, states including New York, Ohio and Connecticut relaxed their Sunday hunting laws.
Lifting the ban has created hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity, said Fred Byrd, assistant director of northeastern states for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Getting rid of the rest of those laws would remove “regulations that have no basis in wildlife management,” Baird said.
“Simply put, if hunters do not have available days to go into the field, they must decide whether to continue to devote their time, energy and financial resources to a hunt in which they cannot fully participate,” he said.
Wildlife managers in states that practice Sunday hunting sometimes back away from efforts to overturn the ban. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife testified against a proposal earlier this year that would have allowed Sunday hunting with a bow and arrow or crossbow.
Agricultural, landowner and conservation groups also opposed the proposal, which was supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and some hunters in the state. The Maine Farm Bureau Association testified that it was important for landowners to have “one day of uninterrupted rest.”
The proposal was eventually voted on in committee. However, the odds of a similar proposal coming before the Maine Legislature appear high again, Wildlife Department Commissioner Judy Camuso testified.
“The topic of Sunday hunting has been a heated social discussion for years,” she said.