The long fight by Virginia sportsmen to lift a decades-old ban on Sunday hunting is finally over. Last week Governor Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 1237, one of two bills with language to end the ban, into law. HB 1237 will allow hunting on Sundays with a few exceptions, such as hunting deer and bear with the assistance of hounds or hunting within 200 yards of a place of worship. Hunters will also need to seek the written permission of landowners beforehand, if hunting on private land. Otherwise, all state hunting regulations are still in effect.
“The governor has signed the bill,” activist Matt O’Brien, who worked to lift the Sunday hunting ban, wrote to his supporters on Facebook. “Well done everyone, celebrate our victory for the future hunters who will have no idea that this battle was even waged.”
According to the Capital News Service, the law will take effect on July 1. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) is currently working to determine how the state’s wildlife will be affected by the new hunting opportunities.
“The Bureau of Wildlife Resources will recommend setting (season) dates that will make sure additional hunting days will not negatively impact those hunted species,” Walker said. “We’re trying to make as few changes possible.”
The DGIF supported the end of the Sunday hunting ban, stating that it served no biological purpose and was often counterproductive in game management. The agency previously passed a resolution to support lifting the ban, further arguing that the ban was hurting Virginia’s hunting tradition and youth participation. A number of hunting and conservation groups also supported the ban’s removal, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Attempts in previous years to overturn the ban failed, but wide-ranging and vocal support of the recent bills moved the legislation quickly through both the state’s House and Senate. Some dissenters opposed the bills on the grounds that the new regulations would lead to more trespassing and endanger hikers, or due to religious reasons.
While supporters say that HB 1237’s passage is a momentous win, they also add that there is still more work to be done. There are now 10 states that still have Sunday hunting bans. These laws are mostly the last remainders of the religious “blue laws” adopted in the 1800s and later. Currently the states of Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maine, North Carolina, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and West Virginia still enforce such laws.
Image courtesy Michaele White/Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe