By Chris Larsen
Believe it or not, hunting on Sundays is illegal in some form in eleven states. Virginia is one of those states. But breakthroughs are occurring that appear to be changing the tide in Virginia. After a bill supporting Sunday hunting was soundly defeated in the state legislature earlier this year, residents picked up the phone and began calling their representatives to express displeasure. According to Will Jenkins, Virginia hunting blogger on the website thewilltohunt.com, many of the legislators didn’t realize how strong the support for Sunday hunting was.
Hunters across Virginia and surrounding states are actively working to make Sunday hunting a reality there. Now the state’s wildlife management agency is also taking notice. “The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has never taken a stance on the issue. They have been neutral.” said Jenkins. “In their board meeting on June 7(2011) they went ahead and decided to publicly endorse Sunday hunting.”
While momentum is building, there are major obstacles to overcome. “The law in Virginia traces back to the British Colonies and continues to the early 20th century as a means to protect Virginia wildlife because there were no seasons. People hunted or could hunt all day, any day for whatever they wanted to provide for their families. It was also connected religiously as a day of rest.” said Jenkins. The usual anti-hunting groups are opposing Sunday hunting as well as some agricultural agencies and other recreational interest groups such as the Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Horse Council. They say Sunday hunting would infringe upon other users of the land.
Still, the support of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is a game changer. In the agency’s statement they provide 15 reasons for repealing restrictions on Sunday hunting. These reasons include, increased license revenue, economic impact from travel, recruitment of new and younger hunters, and creation of another tool to more effectively manage wildlife populations. They state the current ban has no current biological basis and in fact, is counterproductive to game management.
Virginia is not alone. Pennsylvania bans Sunday hunting as well. However, the Keystone State is also considering legislation to lift restrictions. Seven states currently have outright bans on Sunday hunting including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maine. Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, and West Virginia restrict Sunday hunting in some fashion. In the past 15 years New York, Ohio, and Michigan have lifted bans on Sunday hunting.
For the average person who works five days a week or a youngster who attends school, repealing Sunday hunting restrictions effectively doubles the amount of hunting days available. “As a child that is one of the reasons I didn’t really like hunting, I couldn’t do it very much.” said Jenkins. If a young person plays a sport on Saturday, they may not have the opportunity to hunt without missing school.
Jenkins doubts the Game and Inland Fisheries Department’s support is enough to make Sunday hunting a reality in 2011. But he believes if momentum continues, Virginia hunters could be enjoying much more time in the field in 2012. To listen to my entire conversation with Will Jenkins, press play at the top of this page.