By John Culclasure, Central Appalachian States Coordinator
With the end of the 2018 legislative session in West Virginia approaching next month, numerous bills favorable to the interests of sportsmen and women in the Mountain State are moving forward with the support of the West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.
Senate Bill 451, sponsored by West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Mark Maynard, would open Sunday hunting on public lands throughout the state, including state forests, state wildlife management areas, National Wildlife Refuges, and National Forests. The bill passed the Senate 33-1 on February 20 and passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on February 21. The first reading in the House was on February 28.
Sen. Maynard said, “Improving access for sportsmen and women and removing barriers to participation in hunting is a top priority for the West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. Not everyone has access to private property for hunting, and this legislation would ensure that all West Virginians have the option to hunt seven days a week.”
Sunday hunting is currently allowed only on private lands with the written permission of the landowner. The West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus was instrumental in the passage of Senate Bill 345 last year that expanded private lands Sunday hunting statewide.
Senate Bill 451 would also prohibit the use of drones to wound, harass, or transport wildlife. Other states have also recently passed legislation limiting the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles. Additionally, Senate Bill 451 bill would clarify that catching catfish by hand, also known as “noodling,” is lawful provided the angler has the requisite fishing license.
Other notable legislation currently under consideration:
Many of these bills and other sportsmen’s conservation issues were discussed in-depth at the West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus policy breakfast last month in Charleston.
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?