Wednesday, February 26, 2014


As this column is being penned, Governor Terry McAuliffe awaits the arrival of a bill that will legalize Sunday hunting on private land in Virginia—a bill he previously indicated he will sign into law.

        House Bill 1237 (HB 1237), which has a twin in the Virginia Senate (SB 154), was introduced and passed by the Virginia House of Delegates last month by a vote of 71-27 and moved on to the Senate for approval.  On Feb. 18, the Senate responded with a vote of 28-11 in favor of the bill.

        Governor McAuliffe, whose signature represents the last obstacle for the bill, has been a supporter of Sunday hunting during his term, and revealed through a spokesperson that he intends to grant his signature to either bill when they land on his desk.

        The ban on Sunday hunting historically belongs to a group of regulations called “blue laws,” laws that restrict certain activities on the Sabbath day, such as operating a retail store or the sale of alcohol. The blue law on hunting was established in Virginia in the early 1900s, and has seen growing opposition in recent years.  Finally in 2012, Sunday hunting activists had a breakthrough, as a bill was passed in the Senate, only to be shot down in the House by an opposing subcommittee.  Heading into 2014 with a fresh batch of executive and legislative officials taking seats in Richmond, and with legislation already being passed, the future for Sunday hunting looks promising.

        With the bill’s passage, more hardworking Virginian’s will be able to find the time and energy to hunt on the weekends, rather than have to sacrifice a time-honored tradition to recuperate and prepare for the week ahead.  More kids will become involved with hunting, as their parents find the time to introduce them.  This will in turn result in the sale of more hunting licenses and increased funds available to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for managing and improving game populations and habitat.

        On the contrary, the majority of the bill’s opposition comes in the form of non-hunters.  Trail runners, bird watchers, horseback riders, and other non-hunting outdoorspeople argue that Sunday is a safe day to be in the woods during hunting season, and has been traditionally in Virginia for the past 100 years. 

        While I certainly understand this position, and recognize regrettably that not all hunters are safe hunters, by my experience, the majority of hunters are quite responsible and courteous.  Just as the deer and bear hunters of the national forests and wildlife management areas sometimes must share the woods with fishermen in the fall, fishermen, small game hunters, hikers, equestrians, and photographers all too must learn to respect the others’ space and right to the woods.  They must don blaze orange in recognition of that seasonal relationship, and do their best to maintain a safe and effective cushion.  Those that hunt on public land accept in doing so the possibility of crossing paths with another sportsman.  If that doesn’t satisfy, consider private land or public areas where hunting is prohibited.  It works for the majority of the country.

        Overall, if (or when) this bill is signed into law, I firmly believe that both the sporting public and wildlife will benefit.  

Originally published in the Rural Virginian

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