By Joe Beck
A ban on hunting on Sundays would be partially lifted under legislation that recently passed the House of Delegates.
The sponsor of the bill, Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, said Friday he has high hopes for its passage. A companion bill passed a Senate committee Thursday.
Gilbert said similar legislation has been proposed many times before, but this is the first year it won approval in the House.
"I took this on this year because I have come to believe it is critical to the future of hunting in Virginia that we expand opportunities for people to engage in a pastime they love," Gilbert said.
Gilbert said demanding work schedules make it hard for many to free up several hours at a time for hunting.
"In most of our area, you only have about two weeks to hunt with a rifle," Gilbert said. "That means if you can't afford to take off work, as many people cannot, then you essentially have two Saturdays on which you can hunt," Gilbert said.
An additional two days would not only be welcomed by hunters, but "it would have benefits in controlling our deer population, which is out of control," Gilbert said.
Gilbert said changing lifestyles and demographics have been taking a toll on the popularity of hunting. He cited a 50 percent drop in the issuance of state hunting licenses over the last 30 years as clear evidence of declining interest.
Gilbert said the bill limits Sunday hunting to private property. Landowners could also grant written permission to allow others to hunt on their property.
The ban would remain intact for public property to meet the objections of some critics who want at least one day a week free from worries about stray bullets while they enjoy other outdoor activities, Gilbert said.
The current law declares it is unlawful "to hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, with a gun, firearm or other weapon on Sunday, which is hereby declared a day of rest for all species of wild bird and wild animal life, except raccoons, which may be hunted until 2 a.m. on Sunday mornings."
Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, was among those who voted in favor of the bill last Tuesday.
"As an avid hunter and someone who's very, very busy, I would like to have an extra day to go out into the woods or, in my case, a duck blind," Webert said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org