By Dave La Rock
One of the more interesting issues to come before the House of Delegates this year was a measure to allow Virginians to hunt on private land, not within 200 yards of a place of worship, on Sundays. This is an important issue, and I received input from many constituents both supporting and opposing this measure. Since the House of Delegates' decision to support this bill will affect the entire commonwealth, I think it's important to discuss why I supported it.
First, let me state that I am a man of faith who believes in the God of the Bible. Sunday is a special day for us to reflect on God's goodness and take time to rest. For many Virginians, to reflect on God's goodness means to enjoy the land and animals He has provided for us through outdoor activities, such as hunting. Though this is not the way I spend my Sundays, I do not feel it is my place to restrict one sport over another.
The Virginia legislature has approved Sunday hunting, so it is now up to the governor. The new law amends Virginia's outright ban on Sunday hunting to permit hunting of deer and open water fowl on private property only, with the written permission of the landowner. It includes compromises, excluding hunting within 200 yards of a place of worship, and prohibits hunting deer with dogs or bear with firearms on Sunday. By restricting this bill to private property, we have respected the rights of landowners to use their land how they see fit, while acknowledging the desire of hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, equestrian enthusiasts, and others to keep our local, state, and federal parks free from hunters on Sundays.
By allowing hunting on a second weekend day, I think it is likely hunting will lessen the problems connected to having an overabundance of deer. Deer related automobile accidents are on the rise, deer are believed to be carriers of the ticks which carry Lyme disease, and deer damage crops and landscaping.
This new law is about saving a Virginia institution that is declining so rapidly that its long-term existence is in serious jeopardy. Hunting is simply not being passed along from one generation to the next; hunting license sales have steadily declined over the last 30 years. By extending the hunting week an extra day, we are increasing hunting opportunities for Virginia's families and opportunities for our youth to learn a tradition that has been part of our culture for centuries.
Finally, there is also a strong economic component to this bill. Hunting is an economic activity, with hunters travelling to and from Virginia to hunt, buying equipment, licenses, services, food and fuel. Estimates show a solid economic boost can be gained by allowing hunting on Sundays, and I see that as a strong positive.
Some of my close friends expressed opposition to allowing hunting on Sunday, and I appreciated the discussion and weighed all opinions very carefully. I hope time will prove the decision to allow Sunday hunting to be the right decision.
Delegate Dave LaRock represents Virginia's 33rd District.