Virginia DGIF Supports Sunday Hunting

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At their June 7, 2011 meeting, the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries passed a resolution supporting Sunday hunting in Virginia. For years the Board has maintained a neutral stance on this issue. The right of Virginian's to hunt and harvest game is protected by Article XI, Section 4 of the Constitution of Virginia subject only to authority and restrictions prescribed by the General Assembly. The ban on Sunday hunting is set in the Code of Virginia by the Virginia General Assembly and repealing it would take legislative action. If the ban on Sunday hunting is repealed, the responsibility for determining hunting dates and times will rest entirely with the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries. "We welcome this opportunity to work directly with the stakeholders on setting hunting dates and times to include Sundays," said James Hazel, Chairman of the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries.

During the public comment period on the proposed hunting and fishing license increase that ran from December 16, 2010 through April 14, 2011, a significant number of the 1,200 comments received expressed support for Sunday hunting. Surveys of hunters over the years have yielded a similar theme. Additionally, suburban landowners and rural farmers agree that greater opportunity to harvest nuisance wildlife is desirable. With such strong support, the Board felt compelled to take action and developed a formal resolution.

The resolution outlined more than a dozen positive outcomes should Sunday hunting be allowed in Virginia. The Board recognizes that many hunters who work Monday through Friday feel that having only one day a week to hunt is restrictive and limits hunting participation. Furthermore, with the additional weekend day more youth could participate in deer and spring gobbler hunting, two of Virginia's most popular hunting seasons.

Virginia would become more attractive to hunters from out-of-state and for resident hunters who choose to travel several hours to their favorite hunting destinations. Having a full weekend to hunt would encourage greater participation and generate additional revenue for more rural communities in the form of lodging, food, gasoline, equipment.

Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries state that there is no biological reason to continue a ban on Sunday hunting. States that have lifted the ban on Sunday hunting have seen no impact on wildlife populations. Forty-seven states have some form of Sunday hunting. Some limit hours, locations, or species. Of the remaining hold-out states - Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia - all were part of the original 13 colonies which shows how far back these "blue laws" go. For many hunters, allowing them to pursue their passion on Sunday is no different from allowing people to fish.

It remains to be seen what the Virginia General Assembly will do if Sunday hunting is raised during the 2012 session — as it has been every year for more than 15 years — but in a bold move, the Board of the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries established itself as having a leadership role in the Sunday hunting issue.