For the first time in years, proponents of lifting Virginia’s ban on Sunday hunting have real reason to be optimistic. On Wednesday the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee voted 12 to 10 to approve HB 1237 and sent it to the full house for consideration.
“This is our best shot in years of making real progress,” Matt O’Brien, founder of the online group Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting for All, told Outdoor Hub.
The bill, HB 1237, would not completely do away with the Sunday hunting ban, but it would certainly be a step in that direction. If passed into law, it would allow Virginians to hunt on private land on Sundays with the written permission of landowners. Two amendments were added to the bill in committee: Hunting is banned within within 200 yards of a house of worship and deer hunters are prohibited from using hounds. It is identical to SB 154, and both bills are similar to a Senate proposal that had widespread bipartisan support in 2012.
Despite the limitations in the bill, 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.”
As Outdoor Hub reported: 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.
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.”
Two years ago the board of the DGIF gave the repeal movement momentum by coming out in support for the first time in its history. Efforts in nearby states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts and others also seek to overturn their own Sunday hunting bans. In total, 11 states still maintain some prohibition on Sunday hunting.