Hunters often cite insufficient access as one of the primary factors in the decline of hunter participation. Yet the word “access” can have many different meanings. To those in the West, it can mean acquiring more public lands or opening up landlocked public lands. To hunters in the East and South, access is summed up by the commoditization of private land through hunting leases; unless you’ve got the cash, you don’t get the access. There just simply are not enough places open to the public in many parts of the country.
However, I want to tell you about another important access issue, one that would double hunting opportunities for the average hunter and help increase hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation. You see, access isn’t just about places; it’s also about time.
Believe it or not, in some parts of the country laws still exist that tell us which days we can and cannot hunt. I am talking about blue laws. A vestige of our religious colonial past, these laws traditionally restricted activities that could be done on Sundays, from shopping and drinking (oh, the loss of pint nights!) to hunting.
That’s what we are facing here in my home state of Maryland, which, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, experienced a loss of 4,400 annual hunting license buyers over an 11-year span from 2004 to 2015. Over the last several years, Sunday hunting restrictions have been eased, but only on private land. This is great for those individuals who own land or have enough money for a lease, but it’s not enough for the average hunter or new hunters wishing to engage with us in the heritage we love. Opening up Sunday hunting in Maryland would effectively double the number of days in the field for the average hunter who works during the week and who currently gets to hunt only on Saturdays.
Please join us in our efforts to lobby our state representatives to repeal current restrictions on Sunday hunting. It’s not just our hunting seasons that are at stake; it’s the future of hunting and conservation.
Shawn McCardell is a member of the Capital Region Chapter.