Sunday Hunting Legislation

S. 472, S. 468, S. 487H. 782H. 884H. 887: Sunday hunting legislation

MSPCA Position: Oppose
Sponsors: Senator Gobi (S. 472 and S. 468), Senator Humason, Jr. (S. 487), Representative Frost (H. 782), Representative Straus (H. 884), Representative Sullivan (H. 887)
Status: Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture

Take Action to Prevent Hunting on Sundays

Ever year a number of bills are filed that would eliminate in whole or part the statewide ban on Sunday hunting. Eighty-six percent of Massachusetts residents support this 300-year old Sunday hunting ban,* while hunters represent just 1% of the Massachusetts population. Sunday hunting bills prioritize a small minority over an overwhelming majority of Massachusetts residents who do not hunt, and who enjoy non-consumptive uses of nature and wildlife. The public highly values the one day of the week during hunting season when they can enjoy our natural resources without having to worry about conflicts with hunting activities.

Read an editorial from the Boston Globe opposing this change: “After 300 years, Sunday hunting ban still makes sense.”

For Massachusetts residents, Sundays are a day of respite to enjoy activities such as hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, and other wildlife-related activities without concerns about conflict with hunting activity. Tragically, hunting accidents can and do happen. And with Massachusetts being the third most densely populated state in the country, it is likely precisely because we have this ban that more incidents do not occur.

Further, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data show that non-hunting nature lovers not only outnumber, but also outspend, hunting constituencies by fourteen times each year in the Commonwealth. Non-consumptive nature lovers spend $1.28 billion on wildlife watching while hunting constituencies spend a fraction of that total—just 7%, or $87 million.

Though arguments have been made that permitting Sunday hunting would address human-wildlife conflicts these assertions are not true. MassWildlife data show that, on average, a total of 1,334 deer were killed during the archery season’s Saturdays from 2013 through 2018. This amounts to about 1% of the current deer population—hardly enough to control the deer population or mitigate conflicts. In addition, and contrary to popular belief, deer hunting does not lower the incidence of Lyme disease or control tick populations. According to leading Lyme disease experts, including Dr. Richard Ostfeld, human risk of exposure to Lyme disease is correlated with the abundance of immature rodent hosts and their food resources, not deer numbers. Further, no major health organization has identified hunting as an effective means of addressing Lyme disease.

Additionally, hunting accidents tragically can and do happen; there are several examples of hunting-related incidents in recent years in the state. In 2017, errant shots from hunter firearms on two separate occasions damaged vehicles in Tyngsboro; in 2015 a father and son were shot by another hunter with birdshot; in 2014, in Barnstable a hunter mistook a man and his dog for a herd of deer, shooting him in the neck, back, and hand; in 2011 a woman was shot when her dogs were mistaken for deer in Norton; in 2010 a high school runner was shot in the leg in Mattapoisett; and in 2008 a hunter accidentally hit a man with a shotgun on Nantucket. The man who was shot underwent three surgeries as a result of his injuries, which included a broken leg, nicked femoral artery, pierced intestines, and shredded nerves and muscle.

Given both the public safety protection and the peace of mind that the Sunday hunting ban provides to our citizens—hunters and non-hunters alike—it is simply common sense to uphold the ban on Sunday hunting. Hunters represent just 1% of the Commonwealth’s population, and they have six out of the seven days of the week to hunt.

In the interest of fairness, and also in the interest of protecting public safety, it is entirely reasonable for Massachusetts, the third most densely populated state in the nation, to uphold this law—a law that allows non-consumptive nature users to enjoy our natural resources with their families, friends, and companion animals for one day a week during hunting season without risking conflicts with hunting activity.

*This survey was conducted via telephone among a representative sample of 1,000 adults (ages 18 and over) residing in Massachusetts.  Respondents were divided between survey forms A and B, yielding a final sample size of 500 for each question and a margin of error of +/- 4%.   The question asked, “Hunting on Sundays has been restricted in Massachusetts for over 100 years, allowing citizens and their families to enjoy nature without worrying about conflicts with hunters.  Do you agree with keeping this restriction?”  86% of the participants agreed.  The responses were collected by Pacific Market Research from August 24-30, 2007.

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