By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Rooted in the Puritanical blue laws that once governed Massachusetts, that state's ban on Sunday hunting could be headed for the historical archives.
House Democrats are poised to bring forward legislation this week that would take a baby step toward lifting the Sunday hunting prohibition by allowing the use of bow and arrows to hunt deer on Sundays during the last three months of year, which is deer-hunting season.
The bill, originally sponsored by Rep. William Straus, D-Mattapoisett and Rep. Paul Frost, R-Auburn, was given an initial vote of approval on Tuesday in anticipation of being considered Wednesday when the full House meets.
The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opposes the bill on the grounds residents should be able to enjoy the outdoors on one day during the weekend without worrying about hunters.
"With the number of Massachusetts citizens interested in wildlife-watching being so prevalent and with so few hunters, it is patently unfair to deny Massachusetts citizens access to areas where they may enjoy wildlife-watching activities one day a week, without being concerned about potential conflicts with hunters," the organization wrote on its website.
The MSPCA cites a 2007 survey done by Pacific Market Research that found 86 percent of residents would prefer to keep the ban.
Massachusetts is one of about 11 states that still have hunting restrictions on Sundays, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all of which were among the original 13 colonies or their territories.
A group called the Sunday Hunting Coalition has been pushing for repeal of these laws, and in Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill in March to allow hunting on Sundays on private land and public waters.
The Connecticut House also passed legislation earlier this month to allow Sunday deer hunting with bow and arrows in designated "deer management zones."
The Sunday Hunting Coalition is made up of a number of organizations, including the National Rifle Association, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and Bass Pro Shops.
The group estimates that legalizing Sunday hunting in Massachusetts could lead to the direct and indirect creation of more than 500 new jobs and $51 million in economic activity by keeping hunters from traveling to neighboring states like New York, Rhode Island and New Hampshire where Sunday hunting is legal.