Sunday hunting considered

Published 9:29 am Friday, June 24, 2011

RICHMOND—The Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries recently passed a resolution supporting Sunday hunting.

Now it’s up to Virginia lawmakers to decide whether to repeal the 108-year-old law, which VDGIF had maintained a neutral stance on until now.

Western Tidewater lawmakers and hopefuls on Thursday expressed mixed opinions on the matter.

State Delegate Bill Barlow, D-Smithfield, said he opposes Sunday hunting, while Sen. Harold Blevins, R-Chesapeake, who is running for re-election in a reconfigured district that includes Franklin and portions of Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, is on the fence.

Rick Morris, a Republican from Carrollton who is running against Barlow, and Al Peschke, a Republican from Wakefield running against Delegate Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt, both said they favor Sunday hunting.

Tyler and Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, did not return phone calls.

Barlow has opposed Sunday hunting in the past for several reasons.

“It just seems to me that Sundays should be a day set aside for worship, if people want to,” he said.

Barlow doesn’t see any pressing need to change the law and is concerned that the sound of gunshots could interfere with church services.

“People enjoy walking in the woods,” he said. “This is the one day of the week we can walk in the woods and not be concerned about getting accidentally shot.”

He also said he understands Sunday hunting is supported to reduce the deer population. Barlow recommends, instead, to extend the season.

Blevins said that until he sees a bill, no matter what the proposed legislation, he doesn’t like to form an opinion.

“I have a lot of constituents on both sides who want me to commit and ask how I’m going to vote,” Blevins said. “I don’t think it’s fair (to say how) I’m going to vote on an issue without hearing the argument on both sides of the issue. It’s a little premature right now.”

Peschke said he has mixed emotions, yet favors Sunday hunting.

“Some guys work Monday through Friday, and the only days they have off is Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “I can see the pros and cons for and pros and cons against, but I think in fairness to people who might have only Saturday and Sunday, it’s only right.”

A retired Naval officer, Peschke remembers the days of the “blue laws,” when Sunday was considered a day of rest and most businesses were closed.

“It’s just a different world today,” he said. “I’m a God-fearing man, but I would support it (Sunday hunting).”

A Navy retiree and Virginia Beach lawyer, Morris said he favored hunting on Sundays, but his cell phone connection was lost before he could say why.

During the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ public comment period on the matter that ran from Dec. 16 through April 14, a significant number of the 1,200 who commented 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.

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, the resolution says. 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 and equipment.

Wildlife biologists with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries say there is no biological reason to continue a ban on Sunday hunting. States that have lifted the ban have seen no impact on wildlife populations.

Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the only other states that prohibit Sunday hunting.