Of the 11 states in America that place restrictions on Sunday hunting, Virginia has some of the most rigid regulations. Now, hunters are voicing their optimism after a bill seeking to lift the Sunday hunting ban passed a major hurdle. On Wednesday the Virginia House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill and sent it to the full house for consideration.
“This is our best shot in years of making real progress,” said Sunday hunting advocate Matt O’Brien, who founded the online group Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting for All.
The bill, HB 1237, is not the complete eradication of the Sunday hunting ban that many hunters wanted, but it is a compromise that many sportsmen say they prefer over current restrictions. If passed into law the bill will allow Virginians to hunt on private land during Sundays with the written permission of landowners. Of course, hunters are still subject to all other restrictions imposed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and two further caveats were added: no hunting can occur within 200 yards of a house of worship and deer hunters are prohibited from using hounds.
Still, O’Brien claims it is a big win.
“This is historical for Virginia and for private property rights in the state,” he told The Virginian-Pilot. “Opening Sundays to hunting has overwhelming support across Virginia and the House of Delegates recognized that.”
Also supporting the bill is the Sunday Hunting Coalition, a collection of sportsmen’s associations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and National Shooting Sports Foundation. Others, like Safari Club International, have considered filing a lawsuit against the ban on the grounds of its constitutionality.
Perhaps the most encouraging new voice, however, is support for the bill from the state’s own DGIF. For years the department has remained silent on the matter, but recently passed a resolution to lift the Sunday ban.
Opponents of the ban say it is one of the many remainders of the religious “blue laws” from the 1800s, and serves no place in a modern society. Hunters who can only hunt during the weekend due to work say the ban can be frustrating, as it essentially eliminates half of their hunting time.
The ban is not without supporters, however, especially from landowners and farmers who fear the bill would lead to trespassing. Hikers also say that the presence of hunters make them feel uneasy. Hunters counter these arguments by saying that Sunday hunting is allowed in many states with little to effect.
Indeed, other states are also keeping an eye on Virginia’s Sunday hunting bill. The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action branch hailed the bill as a “big win” when it passed committee on Wednesday, encouraging members in the state to write to delegates. Notable hunter and musician Ted Nugent also chimed in on the issue, saying that it was “insane” that such laws still exist.
“I urge in the strongest of terms that these states eliminate these bizarre Sunday hunting bans immediately,” Nugent wrote on his Facebook page, adding that the laws were “downright un-American.”
Efforts in nearby states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts and others also seek to overturn their own Sunday hunting bans.