By LIZ BUTTERFIELD
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Weekend hunters in Virginia may be able to enjoy more hunting opportunities if Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs a law lifting the traditional ban on Sunday hunting within the commonwealth.
House Bill 1237, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, passed the General Assembly and now is in the hands of the governor. A similar bill, Senate Bill 154, passed the General Assembly Friday.
Both bills would allow for Sunday hunting of deer and wild animals only on private property. Hunting would be prohibited, however, within 200 yards of a house of worship.
Although seen as a bipartisan bill, some lawmakers did not approve of lifting the ban on Sunday hunting.
Delegate Thomas Wright, R-Victoria, said the bill will act like a Christmas tree in the legislature. He was referring to a bill that allows for amendments, like ornaments, to be added over time.
Wright predicts the General Assembly gradually will chip away at some of the restrictions in the current bill, eventually making hunting on Sundays equitable to any other day.
“This time it was just private land and still hunting,” Wright said. “In the future I think there are going to be other bills amending this bill allowing eventually … the same hunting like on any other day of the week.”
Forty other states do not have prohibitions on Sunday hunting, according to the Coalition to Lift State Bans on Sunday Hunting. Only Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have kept these laws intact.
Both Wright and Gilbert are regular hunters in the commonwealth. Gilbert told Capital News Service that the legislation is meant to counter a decline in hunting license purchases in Virginia.
“Virginia has such a strong hunting heritage that we thought this would be a great opportunity to attempt to reverse that trend,” Gilbert said in February. “The high-powered rifle season for deer is only two weeks long. So if you’re a hardworking person, you really only have two Saturday’s in which to engage in that activity all year. This would simply give you a couple extra days to enjoy a sport you love and be able to put food on the table.”
McAuliffe could not be reached for comment.