On November 8, voters in nine West Virginia counties will decide whether to allow Sunday hunting on private property. Sunday hunting is legal on a county-by-county basis in West Virginia on private lands only with written permission of the landowner.
Sunday hunting prohibitions are one of the few remaining “Blue Laws” on the books. Sunday hunting restrictions have no basis in wildlife management and negatively impact conservation funding and hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation. Thirty-nine states have no restrictions on Sunday hunting, but 11 states have various restrictions.
In 2002, the West Virginia Legislature removed the ban on Sunday hunting but gave counties the option to prohibit Sunday hunting by voter referendum. After the ban was repealed, 41 counties voted to prohibit Sunday hunting. Since that time, however, a strong grassroots movement in conjunction with the efforts of the Sunday Hunting Coalition, has successfully worked to expand seven-day hunting opportunities in counties across the state. Today, Sunday hunting is legal in 22 of West Virginia’s 55 counties.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources supports Sunday hunting, and members of the West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus sponsored bills to expand Sunday hunting opportunities in the 2016 legislative session. Although these legislative efforts ultimately stalled, Sunday hunting advocates are optimistic that further advancements can be made.
To that end, voters in Jackson County approved Sunday hunting in May 2016, and testimony from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and National Rifle Association staff before the Joint Commission on Economic Development in September this year on the economic benefits of Sunday hunting was well-received by in-state papers and editorial boards.
If Sunday hunting is approved in at least six of the nine counties (Berkley, Kanawha, Marion, Mercer, Monongalia, Pleasants, Preston, Richie and Wood) voting on it this November, Sunday hunting will be legal in more than half of West Virginia’s counties.
In recent years, Virginia and North Carolina eased Sunday hunting restrictions on private property.
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?