Landowners’ rights should prevail in muzzleloader debate

Published 9:40 am Friday, January 13, 2012

by Bob Rudzik

Well, the regular deer season is over. We had a great time in the field. No injuries, other than scratches and cuts, and a good supply of venison. It will have to be rationed out, as is always the case.

We met some really good people, had our moments of excitement, and have already made some plans for next year. Overall, for starting over, we did well. I hope you had just as much, if not more, success.

I’ve never wanted this to be a controversial column; I’ve always been open to reason. In this case, I am still searching for reason, and I just can’t seem to find it. I started it by looking for a little help from the hunt clubs in managing the deer herd in order to lower the number of auto/deer collisions on Route 58. I also said that if we couldn’t knock those numbers down, maybe we should talk about allowing muzzleloaders.

Hunt club members responded very loudly, thinking I was trying to bring up a topic put to bed many times before. Landowners responded very quietly, and what they said made sense. It boils down to landowner rights and a simple determination of what is right and what is wrong. Who has the right to tell a landowner what they can and cannot do on their own land? It seems that right now that ability is in the hands of hunt clubs when it comes to deer hunting. It seems that the county Board of Supervisors has historically been ruled over by the hunt clubs because it is the supervisors’ voting that keeps this ruling in place.

If someone can explain to me a logical reason for maintaining the shotgun-only regulations, I am willing to listen and possibly even change my stand. So far, I have not found one such logical reason, and I have found many willing to talk rationally in support of the landowners regaining their rights.

I am standing on the side of landowner rights. I want to make it clear that this time it isn’t about muzzleloading or managing a deer herd; it is about landowner rights. The state makes provisions for these rights in regard to hunting, and the previous Southampton County Boards of Supervisors have taken them away because of intense pressure from the hunt clubs.

History has shown that taking away landowner rights is something worth fighting over, so I guess you can put me down for standing on the side of the individual landowner and his right to hunt his property under state and federal guidelines, not the guidelines dictated by hunt clubs and put in place through the county Board of Supervisors.

I’ll take this a step further and question the use of rifles also. Even Chesapeake (and you can’t get much flatter or populated than that) allows the use of rifles when hunting from a stand at least 12 feet above the ground. I bring this up because we lost two deer this year due to wounding from buckshot, and I hate losing deer. The discussion about safety for this topic has been put to rest many times over and has been proven wrong in Chesapeake and across Virginia year after year.

I’ve heard from enough landowners, and, in my opinion, only one is enough to convince me to call on the new Southampton County Board of Supervisors to return the landowners their rights to hunt their own property in a manner as they see fit in accordance with the state and federal guidelines already in place.

The new Board of Supervisors was elected because the voters are tired of the way things have always been done in Southampton County and their desires for less government involvement. One very personal topic is what they can and cannot do on their own land. If you don’t think this is a hot topic, I can assure you that you are wrong. Until the landowners’ rights are returned, this will remain a very hot topic to them.

If a landowner wishes to surrender his hunting rights to the hunt clubs, then the hunt clubs will still call the shots on that land, but give that right to each and every landowner of Southampton County. As it stands now, those rights are only held by the landowners wanting to participate with the clubs, and that’s just not right.

BOB RUDZIK is a Newsoms resident. He can be reached at