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Monday, January 24, 2011

Bills Seek to End Sunday Hunting Ban

There were articles in state newspapers this weekend and today on the effort to end the ban on Sunday hunting in Virginia.  A hunting blogger in Chesterfield even contacted this blog last week pushing the issue. 

In the Senate SB850, sponsored by State Senator Chap Petersen, would allow unrestricted hunting on Sundays.  The bill in the House of Delegates, HB2443, would allow hunting with bows, including crossbows, on Sunday.   In the past, the issue has never made it out of committee.  But according to a 2006 survey of hunters by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) a majority of hunters support ability to hunt on Sunday.  This is much different than the survey conducted by DGIF in 1997 which should a majority opposed to repealing the ban. 

The hunting community is not of one mind on the subject as the clip from a recent WTKR news story illustrates:
There are several reasons however for supporting the option to hunt on Sunday.  First, in tough economic times, many people are working two jobs to make ends meet.  The option to hunt on Sunday provides an opportunity for those who cannot get out any other day of the week.  Second, family responsibilities also may make it harder to get out on a Saturday.  Anyone with children knows that extracurricular activities on Saturdays can run most of the day, whether it is football, cheering, or soccer.  Even some of these activities are taking place on Sunday now.  Having the option to hunt on Sunday means one would no longer have to choose between attending our children's activities and hunting.

But there are also important reasons related to continuing our hunting heritage to support the option of Sunday hunting.  DGIF numbers show that the number of hunting licenses issued annually is half what it was in 1974. Further, DGIF says hunting licenses are down 1 percent to 2 percent every year.  The number of licenses purchased in 2010 decreased 3.3% from 2009, going from 253,425 in  to 245,185 in 2010. As the number of hunters decrease, DGIF looks to find other ways to make up the lost revenue - i.e. increased hunting fees.  This has the effect however of pricing more hunters out of the sport.  If a hunter decides to hunt deer during the early muzzleloader season, it now costs $54.  That's $18 for the state resident hunting license, $18 for the muzzleloader license, and $18 for the big game tag. 

When they raise fees, DGIF doesn't just raise them on the resident hunting license, they go up on all three.  So, if the current increase of $5.00 that DGIF is seeking is approved by the Board, that same hunter will now pay almost $70 to hunt deer.  In these tough times, that may be enough for some to not go afield.  If we still had the 250,00 hunters that hunted in 1974 but that no longer hunt, in our ranks, these fee increases would not be necessary.

Further, it is increasing difficult to find a place to hunt as farmland is turned into subdivisions and strip malls.  I used to hunt 15 minutes from where I lived as a teenager.  Now I drive almost an hour because the land where I used to hunt in 1974 is now occupied by a major housing development.

We should be looking for ways to increase opportunities to hunt, not decrease them.  With the numbers not moving in the right direction, Sunday hunting may be one way to help reverse the decline.  The General Assembly should give hunters the choice of choosing whether or not to hunt on Sunday.  Currently, they don't have that choice.

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