The term “weekend warrior” is usually used as an insult but the truth is most hunters have little choice in the matter. Weekdays are consumed by the responsibilities of work, school, and family and hunting happens on Saturdays and Sundays. For most hunters, it is hardly the perfect scenario but it works well enough. Now just imagine if you lived in a state where “blue laws” restrict or outlaw Sunday hunting.
It’s no joke. Today, there are still eleven states that limit Sunday hunting opportunities while four other states ban Sunday hunting altogether. These regulations are one of the last examples of Puritanical blue laws that are still on the books. Blue laws were created with the intention of ensuring high church attendance rates. Other blue laws made drinking and working on Sundays illegal. In some cases, all hunting is illegal on Sundays. In other cases, hunting is limited according to species, times, places or methods. For example, in South Carolina, Sunday hunting is legal only on private property. In Connecticut, archery deer hunting is legal on Sundays while firearm hunting is not. In Pennsylvania, all Sunday hunting is illegal except for the seemingly random exception of crow hunting. Interestingly, blue laws that once outlawed fishing on Sundays were all repealed long ago, but many hunting restrictions remain in place.
The minority of hunters who support blue laws believe that game animals are given a much-needed rest on Sundays. Some non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts also support these hunting restrictions. They believe that these laws will prevent them from becoming the victim of a hunting-related accident while on a Sunday stroll through the woods. Both of these arguments are debatable and aren’t backed up by any evidence from states that allow Sunday hunting.
Arguments in favor of repealing blue laws are much more substantial and real. Eliminating blue laws would essentially double the amount of time available to many hunters. Allowing Sunday hunting would automatically increase opportunity, participation, and revenue. License sales will increase and funding for fish and wildlife agencies will benefit directly from these increases. State economies will also be rewarded. In Virginia, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated that legalizing Sunday hunting would result in boosting the state’s economy by almost three hundred million dollars and create almost 4,000 new jobs. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation found that if blue laws were repealed in the six states with the most severe Sunday hunting restrictions, well over 100,000 hunters who might have quit hunting would be retained and more new hunters would be recruited. A survey of former hunters in Pennsylvania found that half of them would begin hunting again if Sunday hunting were legalized because a lack of time is one of the largest factors that lead to people to stop hunting.
The pressure to eliminate these outdated regulations has been significant. And, there have been some notable victories. In the past ten to fifteen years, hunters in New York, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia have successfully petitioned to have blue laws relaxed or repealed. In several other states, hunters are building momentum towards eliminating blue laws.
If you live in a state where Sunday hunting is legal, consider yourself lucky to have that opportunity. But, if you are one of this country’s many hunters who are forced to sacrifice much of your available hunting time to blue laws, take the time to support legislative efforts to repeal them. You’ll more than likely find there’s a movement out there to eliminate Sunday hunting restrictions wherever they still exist.
For more information on blue laws and Sunday hunting check out these links:
Brody Henderson is a hunter, fly fishing guide, writer, wilderness production assistant for the MeatEater television show and MeatEater‘s editorial contributor