West Virginia: 2020 Legislative Updates

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Assistant Director 

Many pro-sportsmen’s bills were signed into law during West Virginia’s 2020 legislative session. Very few anti-sportsmen’s bills were filed this session, and none were signed into law. 

Working alongside conservation partners and the state fish and wildlife agency, the bicameral and bipartisan West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus), which is led by Co-Chair Senator Ron Stollings along with recently confirmed Co-Chairs Senator Bill Hamilton and Delegate Eric Householder, works to ensure that the voices of sportsmen and women are represented at the statehouse. 

Crossbows

On February 24, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Jim Justice signed legislation into law that reduced the minimum bolt length for crossbows from 18 to 16 inches. Specifically, the length is measured from the leading end of the shaft, including the insert, to the trailing end of the shaft, including the nock. The use of crossbows supports hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation efforts by providing sportsmen and women with another tool to hunt. Caucus Member Senator Sue Cline sponsored SB 470. 

Special Crossbow Hunting Permit

On February 24, Governor Justice signed legislation into law that removes the requirement that an applicant for a Class Y special crossbow hunting permit for a disabled person provide a written release authorizing examination of all medical records regarding a qualifying disability. Caucus Co-Chair Senator Bill Hamilton sponsored SB 500 which retains the requirement that an application form for a Class Y permit include a written statement or report prepared by a physician verifying that the applicant is physically disabled. 

Wildlife Resources License Eligibility

On March 5, legislation was signed into law that makes it unlawful for a person to make a false statement when applying for various permits. Previously, it was only unlawful for a person to make a false statement when applying for licenses. 

Lifetime Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Licenses for Adopted Children

On March 5, Governor Justice signed legislation into law that provides for resident children who have been legally adopted and have not reached their twelfth birthday to obtain lifetime hunting, fishing and trapping licenses for one half the adult fee. The legislation is aimed at supporting hunter recruitment efforts in the Mountain State. 

Increased Replacement Costs for Wildlife

On March 25, legislation was signed into law that increases the penalties for game, fish and protected species taken illegally. Caucus Co-Chair Senator Bill Hamilton sponsored companion legislation SB 469. Specifically, the legislation applies to the illegal harvest of bear, deer, wild turkey, elk, native brook trout, raven, hawk and owl species. Additionally, violators may have their hunting and fishing license revoked for five years and shall not be issued any other hunting license for a period of five years. 

Use of Tracking Dogs to Recover Game

On March 25, legislation that authorizes the use of leashed dogs for tracking mortally wounded deer or bear was signed into law. Legislation allowing the use of tracking dogs to recover game has been a priority for the Caucus for a number of years, and this law will support increased recovery of harvested game. The hunter must accompany the dog handler, and only the hunter may kill the deer or bear. 

Apprentice Licenses 

On March 25, legislation that removes the limitation on the number of hunting and trapping apprentice licenses that a person may purchase. Individuals were previously prohibited from purchasing more than three hunting and trapping apprentice licenses was signed into law. By providing novice hunters with the opportunity to experience hunting under the supervision of a licensed hunter without first having to complete a hunter safety course, apprentice licenses support hunter recruitment efforts. Caucus member Delegate Amy Summers sponsored the legislation.  

Weapons Preemptions

On March 25, Governor Justice signed knife preemption and firearms preemption legislation into law that prohibits municipalities from limiting the right of any person to purchase, possess, transfer, own, carry, transport, sell or store any deadly weapon or firearm. Preemption prevents regulation by local jurisdictions and creates uniformity across the state so knife and firearms owners are not subject to a confusing patchwork of local regulations. 

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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?

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