Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Director
Why It Matters: The passage of the Sunday hunting legislation is a huge win for the Virginia sportsmen’s community, working with the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, to provide seven-day access on more than 2 million acres of public land. The defeat of the anti-trapping bills and the predator hunting tournament ban bill are significant as well but represent a trend of increasing anti-sportsmen’s legislation in Virginia. The takeaway is that the sportsmen’s community can be effective in influencing policy but needs to remain vigilant to protect sporting traditions in the Commonwealth.
While the Virginia General Assembly wrapped up the 2022 regular session earlier this spring, this is a good time to reflect on the session and what it means for hunters and anglers in the Commonwealth.
Notably, marking the culmination of a multi-year effort, public lands Sunday hunting legislation was signed into law. Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Senator Chap Petersen, was the fourth public lands Sunday hunting bill introduced in the three years. After introducing full repeal public lands Sunday hunting bills in the last two sessions, Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Delegate James Edmunds introduced a scaled-back Sunday hunting bill (House Bill 111) that would have only allowed seven-day hunting on Wildlife Management Areas. Ironically, that bill failed to advance, but the full repeal public lands Sunday hunting bill, Senate Bill 8, made it over the finish line thanks to coordinated support from the sportsmen’s community.
Three of the four anti-trapping bills that were defeated aimed to restrict the use of snares. House Bill 1175 would have made it illegal to trap any game animal with a snare with a circumference larger than 12 inches. House Bill 1176 would have made it illegal to trap any game animal with a snare, regardless of size. Senate Bill 492 would have made it illegal to trap any game animal east of Interstate 95 during deer hunting season. The last bill, House Bill 725, would have made it illegal to trap with any size steel-jawed trap. Thanks to a coordinated effort from the Virginia sportsmen’s community, none of these bills advanced to the Governor’s desk ensuring that modern restraining animal traps will continue to be legal in the Commonwealth.
Last, while the bill to ban predator hunting tournaments never made it out of Committee, the bill was introduced following a similar regulatory proposal last year that failed to move forward. The sportsmen’s community strongly opposed House Bill 1247 this session and will likely need to keep an eye out for similar bills in future legislative sessions as anti-sportsmen’s groups have this issue in their sights.
Along with numerous in-state and national partners, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation was heavily involved in the Sunday hunting effort as well as the work to defeat the anti-sportsmen’s bills. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work on behalf of Virginia’s 1,068,000 sportsmen and women to ensure that hunting, trapping, and other outdoor sporting traditions will carry on in the Commonwealth.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?