The right to hunt is something early colonists took seriously. In England, the right to hunt was limited to the the King and landowners. Commoners did not have a right to hunt. In the American colonies, hunting was important for survival. Vermont included the right to hunt in its constitution in 1777. The right to hunt was considered for the United States Constitution, but ultimately was not explicitly included. It falls under the 10th Amendment.
Nineteen states have the right to hunt in their state constitutions. In the last 20 years, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming have passed amendments to protect the right. The language in Alaska's Constitution does not explicitly guarantee the right to hunt, but reserves fish and wildlife for "common use". There is case law that shows this as a protection of the right to hunt and fish.
This year, right to hunt amendments are up for a vote in Indiana and Kansas.
It is Question 1 on Indiana ballot. From ballotpedia.org:
Section 39.It is Amendment 1 on the Kansas ballot. From ballotpedia.org:
(a) The right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife:
(b) The people have a right, which includes the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to the laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly to:
- (1) is a valued part of Indiana's heritage; and
- (2) shall be forever preserved for the public good.
(c) Hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.
- (1) promote wildlife conservation and management; and
- (2) preserve the future of hunting and fishing.
(d) This section shall not be construed to limit the application of any provision of law relating to trespass or property rights.
§21. Right of public to hunt, fish and trap wildlife. The people have the right to hunt, fish and trap, including by the use of traditional methods, subject to reasonable laws and regulations that promote wildlife conservation and management and that preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights or water resources.It is hard to say how effective these amendments are. They allow for management of fish and game resources by the state. The power to manage is power to eliminate, given the will. They provide protection against popular and emotional movements to enact laws. As with any constitutional amendment, the can be repealed, misinterpreted or ignored. The bolster and and enhance the political strength of those who support the rights protected.
They are useful. As long as a strong minority support hunting, they are an aid in protecting the right to hunt. I support them. But any Constitutional amendment ultimately depends on the will of the people and strong institutions to support and defend the rights so protected.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.