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Sunday hunting clear for passage / January 30, 2014
Sunday hunting in Virginia is poised to become a reality after legislation in the House of Delegates passed Tuesday by a 71-27 margin.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Del. Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County, succeeded over the objections of most Southside lawmakers who sought to give localities the authority to determine if Sunday hunting should be allowed within their borders.

The legislation is now set to cross over to the Senate, where passage is expected. state Sen. Frank Ruff (R-Clarksville) noted that a similar bill easily cleared the Senate last year with bipartisan support.

Attempts to stop the bill in the House Tuesday were “not even close,” conceded Del. Tommy Wright of Lunenburg, who opposed the measure.

Del. James Edmunds of Halifax, another opponent, noted that the constituents he heard from in the run-up to the House vote were overwhelmingly opposed to Sunday hunting.

“I’m disappointed. The majority of my constituents — several hundred of them — opposed this bill,” said Edmunds. “I had a tremendous response to my earlier e-mail asking for comments, although the message was out for only a short while.”

The bill’s passage Tuesday was sealed after a key committee vote the preceding Wednesday. After years of seeing Sunday hunting die in subcommittee, the full House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee reported the bill out on a 12-10 vote, paving the way for full consideration by the House.

Gilbert tailored the legislation — HB 1237 — to attract the support of upstate lawmakers. Among its provisions: Sunday hunting is restricted to private lands where the owner grants permission; hunting cannot take place within 200 feet of houses of worship; and Sunday hunters will not be allowed to use dogs.

Del. Matthew Fariss (R-Rustburg) offered an amendment to allow localities to opt out of the law by adopting their own ordinances, but that effort failed. Wright, who worked on the amendment with Fariss, said he was both surprised and saddened that the amendment was defeated.

“So many localities had passed resolutions opposing Sunday hunting, I thought the amendment had a chance,” said Wright.

Wright said he’d heard from a number of constituents, all of whom are against Sunday hunting on a variety of grounds. Some are birdwatchers, hikers or like to ride horses through the woods without concern for hunters nearby, he said; others say Sunday is the only day they can enjoy outdoors activities in peace during hunting season. Others feel that Sundays should be respected as a day of worship and for family time, said Wright.

Those in favor of the legislation, including members of the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), countered that families with school aged children often spend their Saturdays on school and sport activities, leaving little time to hunt together. By allowing Sunday hunting, busy families now have a day to teach hunting to the next generation. They see the bill as a way to encourage hunter recruitment and provide a substantial economic benefit to the Commonwealth’s tourism industry, particularly in rural areas.

Wright disputed DGIF’s assumption that Sunday hunting would benefit tourism: “There is no proof that allowing Sunday hunting increases the number of licenses issued,” Wright argued on the House floor during Tuesday’s debate.

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

Last year the House Natural Resources Subcommittee, of which Edmunds and Wright were members, killed a similar bill by a 4-3 vote. This year’s bill bypassed the subcommittee. Instead it went straight to the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, where it narrowly passed before heading to the full House for a vote.

The bill was heavily supported by the NRA, Edmunds said, and he said the outcome demonstrates how little clout rural legislators have in state government. He also said he could not agree with proponents that passage of the bill does not have fiscal implications. “With just one game warden, how is one person supposed to work everyday, answer the telephone and respond to all the needs of the office?” said Edmunds.

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First, it's important to know that none of these men represent a district where it's unlawful to hunt during any hour of any Sunday. Second, if they were opposed to hunting on Sunday why haven't any of the four carried legislation removing access to hunting on Sunday? I'm fully confident that none of these four would support a "local ordinance" amendment that required counties to choose "yes" or "no" to all forms of hunting on Sunday.

A "no", would mean the closure of commercial and private shooting preserves, closure of fox pens, closure of trapping, closure of chase with intent and without.

If Virginia's lawmakers wanted no Sunday hunting, we'd allow none. What these four want to do is continue the Virginia tradition, where most folks believe there is no hunting on Sunday, and others know that there is always hunting on Sunday.


What you also failed to say in the article is that the local option proposal failed on a 14-7 vote. Listen to what all those against lifting the ban are saying and ask your self one question. Is what they are saying enough to limit the constitutional rights of ALL Virginians and is it enough to tell private property owners what they can and can not do on their own property? The answer is an obvious NO it is not.


You are slightly incorrect when addressing the limitation on private property. It is more strict than you describe. Guests of the landowner MUST have written permission to hunt a private property on Sunday regardless of whether or not that property is posted. Failure to produce the documented permission to a CPO or other law enforcement on Sunday will be equivalent to trespassing. Bikers, hikers, birdwatchers, and naturists are free to utilize public lands, many of which were purchased using revenue from hunting licenses, free of the terrifying experience that might possibly occur the other six days of the week.


I am neither deer hunter nor fan of venison, but if Sunday hunting will rein in Virginia's deer overpopulation, then let's do it. DGIF certainly doesn't manage its livestock and we pay for it in higher car insurance rates.

I have, many times, questioned the wisdom of the people who introduced those deer herds to this area some 40 years ago. What appeared at the time to be a noble wildlife conservation experiment sure went south after a couple decades. Deer have destroyed five of my cars in addition to loss of landscaping, fruit trees and crops.

The Virginia Whitetail is one species I wouldn't cry if it were eradicated from Earth. Pests.


I for one think that if done correctly hunting should be allowed on Sundays. The hard working men and women that like to hunt only have about 6 weeks to deer hunt. Now if you are like most people and have to work a job, 5 days a week, that only gives the average hunter about 6 days a year to deer hunt. This would give a far better chance to help cut down on the over population of deer.

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