Mississippians made it clear Tuesday just how strongly they feel about hunting and fishing, overwhelmingly supporting an amendment making the two sports a constitutional right in the Magnolia State.

House Concurrent Resolution 30 was approved by 88 percent of voters. With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, the statewide tally was 481,631 in favor, to 66,944 against.

“I figured it would pass with somewhere around 70 to 75 percent, but, wow, now that’s a mandate,” said Jeremy Brown, 18, of Brandon, who was voting for the first time in his life. “It was my first trip to the poll and I am happy that I was a part of that. I love to hunt and I love to fish. I started with Dad and Grandpa, and now I go fishing and hunting with my friends.

“I know this changes nothing now. We will go (fishing and hunting) this weekend just like we would have anyway, but I guess the thing is that I know that it will always be that way. If I have kids and they have kids, what we did (Tuesday) will give them the right to fish and hunt no matter what.”

Well, they will, provided they do it legally and have the necessary permits.

While hunting and fishing have been added to the constitution as rights, the amendment comes with language that allows the Legislature or state wildlife officials to pass and enforce regulations including limits and licenses. 

It that respect, the two sports remain more of a privilege in the eyes of some, who doubt the need for the legislation even though they supported it.

“That’s what disturbs me about this, even though I did vote for it,” said Dwight Parker of Terry. “It’s still nothing more than a privilege, for which I will pay a privilege tax just like I do to own a car and drive. If it’s truly a right, like free speech, free press or religion, why do I have to buy a license? Why is there a limit on what I can kill and when I can kill it, if there is no limit on what or when I can worship?

“I know that sounds ridiculous, but you know there will be somebody, somewhere, sometime, who will challenge this. I just hope we didn’t open a can of worms by passing something we don’t really need and is really nothing more than a feel-good piece of legislation that politicians can point to and say ‘see, we’re doing good for you people.’”

Comments posted online range from outrage from animal rights groups who “worry about the resolution leaving too much gray area” to supporters who feel the measure provides protection from “backdoor efforts to usurp second amendment rights (to bear arms).”

Free speech is a right, after all.

Now, in Mississippi, as is in 17 other states, hunting and fishing are, too.