Sunday hunting likely to pass

Published 10:34 pm Friday, February 28, 2014

By Liz Butterfield

Capital News Service

Weekend hunters in Virginia may be able to enjoy more hunting opportunities if Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs a law lifting the traditional ban on Sunday hunting within the commonwealth.

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House Bill 1237, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, passed the General Assembly and now is in the hands of the governor. A similar bill, Senate Bill 154, is expected to pass the General Assembly later this week.

Both bills would allow for Sunday hunting of deer and wild animals only on private property. Hunting would be prohibited, however, within 200 yards of a house of worship.

Although seen as a bipartisan bill, some lawmakers did not approve of lifting the ban on Sunday hunting.

Delegate Thomas Wright, R-Victoria, said the bill would act like a Christmas tree in the legislature, a bill that allows for amendments, like ornaments, to be added over time.

Wright predicts the General Assembly gradually will chip away at some of the restrictions in the current bill to eventually make hunting on Sundays the same as any other day.

“This time, it was just private land and still-hunting,” Wright said. “In the future, I think there are going to be other bills amending this bill allowing eventually … the same hunting like on any other day of the week.”

Only 10 other states —Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia — have prohibitions against Sunday hunting, according to the Coalition to Lift State Bans on Sunday Hunting.

Both Wright and Gilbert are regular hunters in the commonwealth. Gilbert told Capital News Service earlier this month that the legislation is meant to counter a decline in hunting license purchases in Virginia.

“Virginia has such a strong hunting heritage that we thought this would be a great opportunity to attempt to reverse that trend,” Gilbert said. “The high-powered rifle season for deer is only two weeks long. So if you’re a hardworking person, you really only have two Saturdays in which to engage in that activity all year. This would simply give you a couple extra days to enjoy a sport you love and be able to put food on the table.”

McAuliffe could not be reached for comment.