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Sunday hunting ban wanes in Senate / February 05, 2014
Following the lead of the House of Delegates, the Virginia State Senate was poised Tuesday to lift Virginia’s blanket ban on Sunday hunting.

Senate Bill 154, a companion to House Bill 1237, had its first reading on the Senate floor Monday on its way to quick passage.

State Sen. Frank Ruff (R-15) expected the bill to pass the full Senate during Tuesday’s session.

Sponsored by state Sen. Phil Puckett (D-38), the bill opens up Sunday hunting on private lands, with permission of the landowner, while retaining the buffer around houses of worship, and the ban on use of dogs.

It passed out of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on a 9-4 vote Friday. Voting against the bill were senators Ruff, Richard Stuart (R-28), Ryan McDougle (R-4) and Emmett Hanger, Jr. (R-24)

The National Rifle Association, which backed the legislation, called it an “important pro-hunting piece of legislation [that] encourages hunter retention and recruitment.” The bill also has the endorsement of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), which sees it as a way to generate revenue by issuing more hunting licenses.

Ruff said he had several concerns that led him to vote against the legislation. “While this bill limits hunting to private property, it’s just a matter of time before hunting is allowed everywhere.” He added that as hunting lands grow more scarce in northern Virginia, hunters will migrate to Southside Virginia: “It’s one thing to hunt in an area where you know and see each other around town. There is less respect for property rights from those living outside the area.”

Ruff expressed concern that overzealous hunters in pursuit of game could cause problems from downed fences to torn up property.

Last year a similar bill passed the Senate only to be killed by a House natural resources subcommittee. During the debate on that earlier legislation, members of the pro-hunting coalition noted that Sunday hunting already is legal in Virginia for those privileged few with the resources to hunt on a licensed game preserve. It is also legal to hunt raccoon until 2:00 a.m. on Sundays.

Currently, Virginia is one of only six states in the nation that strictly bans hunting on Sundays.

One senator who voted in favor of Sunday hunting was David Marsden (D-37). He is the same Senator who, for two years, has tried to push through a bill banning hunting in fox pens.

His Senate Bill 42 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person to erect or maintain an enclosure for the purpose of pursuing, hunting, or killing or attempting to pursue, hunt, or kill a fox or coyote with dogs. The bill also makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to pursue a fox or coyote within an enclosure with dogs, to stage or participate in any competition where pursuit occurs, or to give or accept any award relating to such a competition.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources on December 16, 2013, and so far, no hearings have taken place.

A similar bill passed the Senate last year on a 24-16 vote. It was later killed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. The legislation would have curbed activities at the 37 pens that now operate in Virginia, mostly in Southside.

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