MSPCA Position: Oppose
Sponsors: Representatives DeCoste (H. 781); Frost (H. 800), Pease (H. 877), Sullivan-Almeida (H. 912), Vieira (H. 920) and Zlotnik (H. 925); Senator Anne Gobi (S. 500)
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Hearing held November 29, 2023. (Watch the hearing.)
Every year a number of bills are filed that would eliminate in whole or part the 100-year old statewide ban on Sunday hunting. 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. A 2022 representative survey found that 1.5 times more Massachusetts voters support the Sunday hunting ban than oppose it. Hunters represent just 1% of the Massachusetts population and have six out of the seven days of the week, including half of the weekend, to hunt.
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. For example:
- In 2017, on two separate occasions errant shots from hunter firearms damaged vehicles in Tyngsboro.
- In 2015, a father and son were shot by another hunter in Gardner.
- 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.
- In 2008, a hunter accidentally shot a man with a shotgun on Nantucket [PDF].
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 figure—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.
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.