Getting the facts on prohibition of hunting on Sundays

Published 9:17 am Saturday, July 2, 2011

by Richard G. Vaught

I read comments about not hunting on Sundays due to dogs running, shotgun noises and how people like to walk on Sundays in the woods without being disturbed, or how it might disturb church services.

So I thought I would write and give a few facts about this prohibition.

First, the prohibition against hunting on Sundays is a 1950 law in Virginia Code 1950, 29-143, and Virginians could and did hunt on Sundays like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and my ancestors, among many other Virginians since 1607. Interesting that no one complained for hundreds of years.

Now I read that a husband and his wife walk in the coldest and wettest months of November and December during hunting season and find that the hunting dogs, which are going to run anyway, disturb them along with shotgun noise.

Having talked to more than nine hunt clubs in this region, I can find no hunter who has witnessed anyone out walking on a Sunday during hunting season in the woods, nor can I find a preacher who says a shotgun going off would disrupt services. I am assuming that these walkers are walking on his private property and not utilizing someone else’s private land or the taxpayers’ state parks or such for Sunday walks, as Virginia law states very clearly that during hunting season, hunting dogs can go on private or public land and their owners may retrieve them.

This is a long-established tradition in Virginia that goes back to at least 1685. George Washington was a huge proponent of hunting with dogs. He owned almost 50 hunting dogs at Mount Vernon and hunted on Sundays as did the majority of other Virginians (see John Campbell’s dairy 1870 and Grover C. Vaught’s hunting logs of 1903 — my two grandfathers).

Of course, I could be wrong but as one 84-year-old hunter told me very bluntly, the dogs are going to run anyway, and this is nothing more than the usual small minority of anti-hunting, anti-dog people who move to the outskirts of the cities, buy a few acres and did not read the hunting laws and such, and then get disappointed because things aren’t like they expected or wanted them to be.

Of course, if there had been a prohibition against hunting on Sundays in 1799, then George Washington might have lived longer as he refused to change into dry hunting clothes on the Sunday afternoon he returned to Mount Vernon after hunting all day with his hunting dogs because of guests.

He caught a severe cold because of his refusal to change from wet hunting clothes into dry ones, and the blood leeching by his doctor did the rest.

In conclusion, my ancestors who came over here in 1613 on the Nepture (the Campbells) and the Charming Betty in 1750 (the Vaughts), for the express purposes of freedom of worship, freedom of individual liberty and freedom from having a government telling them what to do, would not tolerate this law as nor would George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc. Who knows, when this law is repealed the farmers might be happy as fewer of their crops will be destroyed; it might have a small impact on lowering food prices.

More hunters in the field generates more money for the state’s coffers like 43 other states that have hunting on Sundays. The 100-plus Virginians who are either killed or maimed every year due to deer and car crashes and their families might be happy, and I know my ancestors would be too, as I would.

I am sorry, but no deer is worth a human life or the minor inconvenience of dogs running. I guess what I find so disheartening about these few negative comments is that all are based on selfish emotions, or off-the-cuff remarks with no regard to why or how it (the 1950 law) even came about, and if it is even needed anymore.

I know my ancestors did not take Sundays off and seriously doubt deer do either. But I may be wrong about that; maybe deer do take Sundays off.

Lt. Col. Richard G. Vaught is retired from the Air Force and lives in Windsor. He can be reached at