By John Culclasure, Central Appalachian States Manager
Legislation to expand Sunday hunting opportunities in West Virginia has passed both legislative chambers and is expected to be signed into law by Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) member Governor Jim Justice. Sponsored by West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Mark Maynard, Senate Bill 451 would permit Sunday hunting on public lands throughout the state.
Sen. Maynard said, “Expanding seven-day hunting to include public lands would be a tremendous win for West Virginia families as youth and hardworking adults with limited opportunity to hunt would benefit greatly by having expanded access to 1.5 million acres of public land.”
Director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Stephen McDaniel said, “As an agency, we support policies that increase access and opportunity for sportsmen and women. Senate Bill 451 was a major priority for us this year, and we look forward to seeing the bill signed into law and having public lands across the state open to seven-day hunting this fall. In addition to benefiting our state economically by attracting out-of-state hunters, this legislation is critical to recruiting, retaining, and reactivating hunters in our state.”
On March 1, a broad coalition of local and national sportsmen’s groups submitted a letter to members of the West Virginia House of Delegates urging them to support the bill. The letter noted the successful track record of Sunday hunting in the state, the importance of increasing hunting opportunities for families with limited access to private lands, reducing barriers to participation in hunting to support hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation, and the economic and conservation funding benefits provided by removing Sunday hunting restrictions.
Letter signatories included 12 sportsmen’s conservation groups including the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
In 2017, the West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and the Sunday Hunting Coalition worked successfully to legalize Sunday hunting on private lands statewide with written permission of the landowner.
Senate Bill 451 would be effective 90 days after passage. While Sunday hunting on public lands would not be allowed during the 2018 spring turkey season, public lands Sunday hunting would be open for the 2018 fall hunting seasons.
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?