17 States Guarantee Hunting and Fishing as Constitutional Right

17 States Guarantee Hunting and Fishing as Constitutional Right

17 States Guarantee Hunting and Fishing as Constitutional Right


In November of 2012, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reported that 17 states now guarantee its citizens the constitutional right of hunting and fishing.  Voters approved the right to fish and hunt in 16 of the 17 states. 

Vermont was the first state to introduce language into its constitution about the right to fish and hunt in 1777, but the rest of the states have approved similar state constitutional rights since 1996.  Vermont and the following states have specific language in their constitutions for the right to fish AND hunt: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

Many consider Alaska’s constitutional language as giving rights to fish and hunt as well.  They state’s law reads: “Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use.”

Two states, California and Rhode Island, guarantee fishing as a constitutional right, but these states don’t provide hunting as a constitutional right—partly due to their strict gun laws. 

During the November election in 2012, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming, passed legislative ballots to add the right to hunt and fish into their state constitutions.  The state of Mississippi deferred the legislative amendment to the 2014 ballot. 

Seven states introduced legislation to give constitutional rights for fishing and hunting in November of 2012, but the legislation did not pass.  These states include Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania. 

During the 2010 ballot, four states attempted to provide the right to fish and hunt in their constitutions.  The legislative measures passed in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee, but Arizona rejected the initiative and stood as the first state to reject the initiatives. 

Years that States Passed Constitutional Rights for Fishing and Hunting

Alabama, 1996

Arkansas, 2010

Georgia, 2006

Idaho, 2012

Kentucky, 2012

Louisiana, 2004

Minnesota, 1998

Montana, 2004

Nebraska, 2012

North Dakota, 2000

Oklahoma, 2008

South Carolina, 2010

Tennessee, 2010

Vermont, 1777

Virginia, 2000

Wisconsin, 2003

Wyoming, 2012

Numerous issues have caused a large percentage of sportsmen and sportswomen to push for such legislation in recent years.  Cities and suburbs are pushing into wooded land, the number of sportsmen and sportswomen is decreasing, and there are more and more restrictions on hunting and fishing.  Other recreational activities like hiking and off-road biking have also reduced land for people who hunt and fish.  The constitutional right guarantees that those who hunt and fish can continue to do so in the future. 

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures




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