Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Assistant Director
On January 16, Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Delegate James Edmunds introduced legislation that would allow Sunday hunting on public lands.
Specifically, HB 1632 would expand the exception to public lands on the prohibition against hunting or killing any wild bird or wild animal, including nuisance species, with a gun, firearm or other weapon on a Sunday. Hunting deer or bear with the assistance of dogs on a Sunday would still be prohibited.
“Reducing barriers to participation in hunting is critical to recruiting the next generation of hunters, and this legislation would increase access and opportunity to enable more families to spend time together afield,” said Delegate James Edmunds.
In 2014, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing Sunday hunting on private lands. Hunters are required to have written permission from the landowner and not hunt within 200-yards from a place a worship or accessory structure. Additionally, the legislation permitted Sunday hunting on private and public lands for waterfowl and rails subject to geographical limitations established by the Director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
In 2018, legislation was signed into law that expanded Sunday hunting opportunities for raccoon hunters on private and public lands by removing the prohibition against hunting after 2:00 a.m. on Sundays.
Adjacent states Kentucky and Tennessee have no Sunday hunting restrictions. In North Carolina, the legislature transferred regulatory authority for public lands Sunday hunting to the state fish and wildlife agency in 2017. In 2018, West Virginia repealed the law prohibiting Sunday hunting on public lands.
Sunday hunting restrictions are “blue laws” with no basis in wildlife management. Expanding Sunday hunting opportunities increases access for sportsmen and women which supports hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation and conservation funding. In 2019 alone, Virginia’s sportsmen and women generated more than $62.6 million for conservation funding through the “user-pays, public-benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding.
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?