Coyote-hunting vote delayed

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

COURTLAND—Southampton County supervisors on Tuesday delayed acting on whether to allow the use of higher-caliber rifles to hunt coyotes.

“I want to get it right,” said Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronnie West. “If you just open it and keep it wide open (people will say) ‘Let’s go to Southampton County. I’ll carry my big gun and we’ll have a good time.’”

After a public hearing in which four out of five who spoke favored the proposal, supervisors wanted more discussion. If they had approved it, hunting coyotes could not begin until mid-2013 because the matter would require approval from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Board when it meets next May.

In an unscientific poll at, the majority favored allowing the use of rifles to hunt what game officials consider varmints.

Capron District Supervisor Bruce Phillips and Boykins-Branchville District Supervisor in March proposed the change.

The county code makes it illegal to hunt anything with a rifle larger than a .22 caliber, except for groundhogs from March 1 to Aug. 31. The county code also prohibits muzzleloader rifles or muzzleloader shotguns loaded with slugs. Shotguns are allowed.

Phillips and Faison indicated that residents who hunt coyotes have asked about using larger-caliber rifles. They claim the coyotes are becoming more of a problem and shooters being limited to a .22 caliber make the animals tougher to hunt.

Phillips and Faison suggested the county law be changed to allow for rifles for groundhogs and coyotes outside the general firearms deer season. They feel this will give landowners control over a nuisance while keeping rifles out of the woods when people are deer hunting.

During the hearing, John Burchett of Sebrell questioned the safety of using rifles, given the flat terrain.

“What’s the chance of a slug killing somebody?” Burchett asked.

Mitch Booden, a conservation police officer with the Virginia Department of Game, said during his nine years of working in the five-county and three-city area, he has never investigated an injury or death due to a rifle.

“We have had zero incidents of people being hit,” Booden said. “Eighty percent of the incidents involved shotguns.”

He said his agency has received numerous complaints about coyotes.

“People who hunt them are restricted by the (Southampton) County ordinance,” Booden said. “We have other counties that allow high-powered rifles.”

Southampton is among six localities in Virginia that do not allow hunting with rifles. Others are Isle of Wight, Goochland, New Kent and Prince William counties and Virginia Beach.

West acknowledged the coyotes are a problem, but opposes hunting them at night. The proposed ordinance did not provide for time limits. He suggested sunrise to sunset.