Support For Sunday Hunting Has ‘Momentum’

Posted: January 21, 2014

Stacy Knighten, a 10-year employee at the Rockingham Co-op in Harrisonburg, strings a crossbow Monday. Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, has filed a bill to lift the ban on Sunday hunting in Virginia, the last of the state’s “blue laws.” (Photos Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
A sign on a shelf at Rockingham Cooperative in Harrisonburg advertises in-store sales on Monday for hunting gear. Advocates for lifting the Sunday ban on hunting in Virginia cite the millions of dollars spent on the activity.

HARRISONBURG — The potential lifting of the ban on Sunday hunting will go where it’s never gone before this week: the full Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee in the House of Delegates.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, filed a bill Friday to lift the ban, an idea that’s traditionally been killed by a subcommittee of the agriculture panel.

But with the support of House Speaker Bill Howell, Gilbert said his proposal will get its chance at a hearing in front of the full committee, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“I think we have some momentum,” he said. “A lot of folks are eager to get this done and we feel like our chances are better than they’ve been in the past. I’m not confident of the outcome, but I feel better about it than in the past.

“This is just an opportunity to expand what are very limited opportunities for people to be able to go hunt. We have a lot of pressures on our daily lives. Most hardworking people only have two or three opportunities as it stands to enjoy what is a family pastime.”

The hunting prohibition was a part of Virginia’s “blue laws” restricting a variety of activities on Sundays. Hunting is the only activity that remains banned, and Virginia is one of only 10 states that still prohibits Sunday hunting.

Gilbert is hopeful his proposal is limited enough to sway the opinion of those who want to keep the ban. The bill would allow hunting only on private property and prohibits the use of dogs.

Hunting also cannot occur within 200 yards of a house of worship.

The arguments on both sides are plentiful, and hunters are divided on the issue, too. The Western Virginia Deer Hunters Association has cited declining deer harvests in the past as a reason to keep the ban, while hikers, horseback riders and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy having a day free from hunters.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the 213,597 deer harvested in 2012-13 was down 8 percent from the previous year.

Also, organizations such as the Virginia Farm Bureau have offered faith-based reasons to keep the ban in place.

The Virginia Sunday Hunting Coalition, comprising various hunting interest groups around the state, has taken the lead on pushing for a lift of the ban, citing the hundreds of millions of dollars hunters would spend at hotels, convenience stores and restaurants, among other reasons.

Gilbert adds that lifting the ban will not result in hunting on Sundays all year, but only those during the season.

“The real issue is that Virginia is one of the very few [states] not allowing hunting on Sundays, and you have not seen any problems with that being legal in other states,” he said.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com



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