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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Candidates Address Sunday Hunting

Last Thursday, both Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds addressed the issue of Sunday hunting. Virginia is one of only a few states that do not allow hunting in any form on Sunday.

Roanoke Times outdoor writer Mark Taylor reported in his Sunday column that while announcing formation of his sportsman group, Creigh Deeds said he is in favor of referendums that would allow localities to set their own Sunday hunting rules.

Bob McDonnell was then contacted for a response and according to Taylor, said he would support lifting the ban, but only on private land.

Sunday hunting has been a fiercely debated topic in Virginia for years. It's not just folks who believe Sunday should be a day where those who choose to should be able to go to church without having to hear gun shots outside the church window. Historically, hunters have been equally split in support and opposition to lifting the Sunday hunting ban. One of the leaders of a large sporting group in the state told me he believes the ban relieves some of the pressure on wildlife thus making the other days in the field a better experience. One proposal introduced in the General Assembly in the past would have allowed hunting after noon so as not to have any impact on church services in rural areas. It has rarely been an issue in a statewide election and bills introduced in the General Assembly never make it out of committee.

But as lifestyles have changed and people have more commitments on Saturday, whether it be work or attending the extracurricular activities of children, the option of being able to go into the field on Sunday gains more traction.

Taylor writes that the local option sought by Deeds and the private land only option supported by McDonnell may well meet the strongest opposition from delegates and senators who are in favor of allowing Sunday hunting.

For example, few serious Sunday hunting advocates would be too excited about a local option bill. Yes, if a few localities take the step and others see that the change is not a big deal, others may follow suit.

But is taking that baby step with county-by-county laws worth the certain logistical and law enforcement nightmares it would create?

The private land option, which could appease non-hunters who are concerned about sharing public recreational space with hunters, is less problematic but still far more complicated than a blanket law.

Will taking a stand supporting some form of Sunday hunting help or hurt the candidates? Given the traditional split in the sporting community it is hard to say. But with both candidates for governor supporting some form of Sunday hunting, then the emphasis of the hunting community should focus on members of the General Assembly, because if a majority of the delegates and senators do not support allowing hunters the opportunity to go afield everyday of the season, then it doesn't make much difference what the guy in the Governor's Mansion says.

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