Sunday hunting bills progress through General Assembly

By Liz Butterfield
Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Two bills seeking to allow Sunday hunting of deer and wild animals on private Virginia property and state waters are progressing through the General Assembly. However, hunting with dogs or hunting within 200 yards of a house of worship would be prohibited.

The House passed House Bill 1237 this past week and sent the legislation to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. Senate Bill 154 is expected to go before the full Senate next week.

Although seen as a bipartisan bill by many in the General Assembly, the bills are facing unanticipated push-back from some rural area representatives and the Virginia Farm Bureau.

Del. Tommy Wright, R-Victoria, said the majority of people supporting HB 1237 are not the ones most affected by the legislation.

“The people that are affected the most don’t have the majority of the votes,” Wright said. “You’re not going to have much hunting going on in Fairfax, Va. You may have people coming from Fairfax into the rural areas that want to hunt, but this is going to affect the rural areas. It’s going to affect hunting and it’s going to affect the Lord’s day.”

A self-proclaimed “avid” hunter and lifelong NRA member, Wright said he doesn’t believe the extra day of hunting will have a positive economic impact on his community.

“We hear that argument over and over again,” he said. “The statistics show there has been no [economic] improvement and [increase in] hunting-license sales in states that have had Sunday hunting.” Wright said more than 95 percent of his constituents who contacted him about the bill do not support Sunday hunting legislation.

“It’ll be a big impact negatively on hunting in general,” Wright said, “and on the lifestyle we’ve enjoyed . . . the peace and quiet in rural Virginia we’ve enjoyed.”

Patron of the House bill, Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, said the legislation is meant to counter the decline of hunting-license purchases in Virginia. Gilbert said license purchases have decreased by 50 percent over the past 30 years.

“Virginia has such a strong hunting heritage that we thought this would be a great opportunity to attempt to reverse that trend,” Gilbert said. “Where I live, 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.”

The Virginia Farm Bureau is lobbying the General Assembly against lifting the ban on Sunday hunting. ”Hunting on Sundays will cause conflict among a lot of people,” said Virginia Farm Bureau lobbyist Wilmer Stoneman.

The bureau represents approximately 30,000 members in the commonwealth. Stoneman said the bureau does not believe lifting the ban on Sunday will have a positive impact on the state because hunters typically choose to hunt on either Saturday or Sunday, not both.

“We’re not necessarily convinced that the economic boom will happen because hunting seasons are so long,” Stoneman said. “An extra day isn’t really going to bring that much money to the commonwealth.”

Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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  1. This article starts off by describing Del. Wright as an “avid hunter.” First of all, he doesn’t think that people hunt deer in Northern Virginia. An avid hunter would know that’s untrue. An “avid hunter” would have a high school level understanding of statistics, and would be smart enough not to claim that “95% of his district” agrees on anything. Heck, 95% of Virginians don’t even agree that the White House is White, or the name of the last Governor. But yet, magically “95%” support his position on this bill (while 70% of elected officials in both parties do not). All this leads me to the most indicting evidence of whether Del. Wright is an “avid hunter” : he doesn’t even know how to tell a convincing lie, or at least turn that lie into a good story. Good riddance.

  2. Delegate Wright is just plain wrong. I am a landowner in Lunenburg County and once this is passed into law, I will have the RIGHT to either allow hunting or not allow it. Everytime I go to Lunenburg to hunt, I buy groceries at the local grocery store, I buy gas at the local gas station. I often eat out at one of the few restaurants in town. Why is this bad for rural (Lunenburg) areas? I’d hope Republicans, like Delegate Wright, would be more in tune with personal property rights.

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