At its meeting on June 7, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries passed a resolution supporting Sunday hunting in Virginia. For years the board has maintained a neutral stance on this issue.
The right of Virginians to hunt and harvest game is protected by Article XI, Section 4 of the Constitution of Virginia, subject only to authority and restrictions prescribed by the General Assembly. The ban on Sunday hunting is set in the Code of Virginia by the Virginia General Assembly and repealing it would take legislative action.
If the ban on Sunday hunting is repealed, the responsibility for determining hunting dates and times will rest entirely with the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries.
“We welcome this opportunity to work directly with the stakeholders on setting hunting dates and times to include Sundays,” said James Hazel, chairman of the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries.
During the public comment period on the proposed hunting and fishing license increase that ran from Dec. 16, 2010, through April 14, 2011, a significant number of the 1,200 comments received expressed support for Sunday hunting. Surveys of hunters over the years have yielded a similar theme. Additionally, suburban landowners and rural farmers agree that greater opportunity to harvest nuisance wildlife is desirable. With such strong support, the board felt compelled to take action and developed a formal resolution.
The resolution outlined more than a dozen positive outcomes should Sunday hunting be allowed in Virginia. The board recognizes that many hunters who work Monday through Friday feel that having only one day a week to hunt is restrictive and limits hunting participation. Furthermore, with an additional weekend day to hunt, more youth could participate in deer and spring gobbler hunting, two of Virginia’s most popular hunting seasons.
Virginia would become more attractive to hunters from out-of-state and for resident hunters who choose to travel several hours to their favorite hunting destinations. Having a full weekend to hunt would encourage greater participation and generate additional revenue for more rural communities in the form of lodging, food, gasoline and equipment.
Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries state that there is no biological reason to continue a ban on Sunday hunting. States that have lifted the ban on Sunday hunting have seen no impact on wildlife populations. Forty-seven states have some form of Sunday hunting. Some limit hours, locations, or species. Of the remaining hold-out states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia—all were part of the original 13 colonies which shows how far back these “blue laws” go. For many hunters, allowing them to pursue their passion on Sunday is no different from allowing people to fish.
It remains to be seen what the Virginia General Assembly will do if Sunday hunting is raised during the 2012 session—as it has been every year for more than 15 years. But in a bold move, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries established itself as having a leadership role in the Sunday hunting issue.
NRA, along with many of the nation’s leading hunting and conservation groups, formed of a new multi-organization coalition earlier this year to remove bans and restrictions on Sunday hunting in the states where they exist, including Virginia. The Sunday Hunting Coalition includes the National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Archery Trade Association, Boone and Crockett Club, Cabela’s, Delta Waterfowl, Mule Deer Foundation, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
The board-led initiative passed by a vote of 10-1.
Below is the board’s official position in favor of ending the ban on Sunday hunting:
Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries:
Official Position Regarding Hunting on Sunday in Virginia
RICHMOND — The Board of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (the “Board”) declares its support for the repeal of the statutory prohibition on Sunday Hunting in Virginia.
Board Supports Lifting Statutory Prohibition on Sunday Hunting
WHEREAS, the right of the people to “hunt, fish, and harvest game” is protected by Article XI, Section 4 of the Constitution of Virginia, subject only to regulations and restrictions prescribed by the General Assembly; and
WHEREAS, Virginia’s Sunday laws can be traced back to the early British colonies in Virginia; then continued in the early 20th century ostensibly as a means of protecting Virginia wildlife populations from over hunting, and
WHEREAS, modern science confirms the Virginia ban on Sunday hunting serves no biological purpose and is counterproductive to matters of game management; and
WHEREAS, those states that have removed prohibitions on Sunday hunting have not experienced any discernible impact on the desirable health or vibrancy of game populations; and
WHEREAS, Sunday hunting will provide the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (the “Department”) and its biologists with a new tool to manage wildlife populations by encouraging increased and concentrated hunting in areas of overpopulation; and
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth has experienced a substantial decline in hunting participation by both in-state and out-of-state hunters over the past several decades, with license sales falling in both absolute and relative numbers; and
WHEREAS, youth participation is necessary to maintain a hunting tradition in Virginia, we can effectively double the number of hunting days for youth during the school year by opening Sunday, and
WHEREAS, Sunday hunting is an effective means of recruiting new hunters and increasing the value of the licenses for existing hunters of all ages by providing additional opportunity for adults and youth to spend time in the field; and
WHEREAS, Sunday hunting is expected to generate a substantial increase in out-of-state licenses sales and resultant revenues for the Department due to an additional weekend hunting day; and
WHEREAS, Sunday hunting will provide a substantial economic benefit to the Commonwealth’s tourism industry, particularly in rural areas and businesses, by increasing the money spent locally by resident and non-resident hunters alike on hunting equipment, gas, food, lodging and other incidental items; and
WHEREAS, the Department is funded almost entirely by the constituents it serves, a large number of whom are hunters; and
WHEREAS, hunting license sales and their associated federal matching funds are the largest single revenue source available to the Department for carrying out its mission, including acquisition of public lands and private easements for wildlife management, hunting access and conservation; and
WHEREAS, Sunday hunting will help ensure that future generations have the opportunity to participate in a sport that is an important part of the Commonwealth's heritage; and
WHEREAS, the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries recognizes that this facet of game management is entirely within the purview of the General Assembly; and
WHEREAS, if the General Assembly lifts the ban on Sunday Hunting, it is recognized that this action will affect a much broader stakeholder group than just hunters, and the Board will engage these groups in dialogue before passing any new regulations.
NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Board of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, do hereby urge the General Assembly to REPEAL the PROHIBITION ON SUNDAY HUNTING IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA.
Coalition Formed to Fight Sunday Hunting Bans