Supervisors challenge hunting bill

Published 12:05 pm Saturday, February 1, 2014

COURTLAND—A majority on the Southampton Board of Supervisors is sending a message to people who want to hunt more freely on Sundays: give it a rest.

Should Sunday hunting be allowed in Southampton County?

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During late matters brought up at Monday’s meeting, a resolution was passed 5-2 that the county “opposes hunting in any form on Sunday beyond what is currently authorized, and hereby urges members of the Virginia General Assembly and members of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to oppose any additional laws or regulations that would authorize expanded hunting on Sunday.”

The resolution was done in response to House Bill 1237, which passed 71-27 on Tuesday in the Virginia General Assembly. On Friday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources passed an identical version, Senate Bill 154, with a vote of 9-4. The matter goes next to the Senate.

Both bills aim to amend Code of Virginia 29.1-521 in regard to hunting wild animals or birds on private property of state waters on Sundays.

As noted in the supervisors’ agenda packet, “Among other things, the bill makes provision for Sunday hunting for any landowner or member of his family or any person with written permission from the landowner, except within 200 yards of a place of worship or any accessory structure thereof.”

Vice Chairman Ronnie West, who made the motion, was joined by Chairman Dallas Jones and supervisors Dr. Alan Edwards, Bruce Phillips and Glenn Updike.

Supervisors Barry Porter and Carl Faison voted against the resolution.

‘A day of rest’

“The issue to me is that I feel that it’s a day that should be reserved for activities of Christianity,” said Supervisor West, who included worship as one of them. He added that he strives to abide by such guidelines in being respectful of Sunday as a day of rest.

The pressure to shoot holes in the law comes from outside, most specifically, Richmond.

“Everybody keeps pushing these issues on us. The government is getting too big and I resent it,” he said.

West added that representatives – he named no names – too often forget where they came from once in the state capital.

“They disregard what’s good for localities,” he continued. “We have always prided ourselves on being unique and different in Southampton County. We don’t want Sunday hunting.”

Supervisor Jones also referred to his religion and upbringing.

“I support it [the resolution] because I’m a Christian – and this is me speaking on my behalf. It has nothing to do with anyone else’s religion. I was raised a Methodist and we did not do certain things on a Sunday. Now I’m a Baptist, and we don’t do those kinds of things on Sunday.

“I have a bit of land, but I don’t want nobody hunting on my land on Sunday,” Jones continued. “I have nothing against hunting. I used to hunt.”

Supervisor Phillips said he opposes Sunday hunting for different reasons. For one, he is a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau, which has gone on record as being opposed to Sunday hunting. Another is that he knows a number of the hunters, several of who will not hunt that day.

“These are my neighbors and constituents,” said Phillips.

Max Porter of Courtland, who said he’s hunted all his life, is pleased with the board’s resolution.

“The majority reflected the will of the county…it reflected the will of rural Virginians, and they’re not in favor of Sunday hunting,” said Porter.

When asked, he said he was a 30-year member of the David-Ridley Hunt Club, but no longer. Porter added other family members still belong, but he’s not been able to hunt as in the past.

“One day out of seven is set aside for people to rest and worship,” he continued. “We also need to think in terms of our naturalists, so they can enjoy the outdoors.”

Porter also thinks that Gilbert’s bill is being “pushed by urban interests and big business interests, such as big box sporting retailers.”

He thinks that there’s some “short-sightedness” on the part of legislators wanting to ease whatever restrictions exist. Once Sunday hunting is made more open, said Porter, the competition for hunting rights will increase and could have unintended consequences. For example, a full weekend of hunting could create the potential and pressure for outside interests that want to lease land for hunting. He thinks that land rents for the activity could be increased as a result.

At the same time, Porter said he recognizes the right of property owners to do as they wish.

“I certainly support the right of the landowner. I have to respect private property,” he said.

Joining in support of the resolution against hunting on Sunday is Joe Jordan of Franklin.

“I’m opposed to it. I think everyone and everything should be given a day of rest,” he said. Jordan added that he hunts as an individual, but he only goes after turkeys in the spring and fall.

Safety is another concern he has on why hunting on Sundays shouldn’t be permitted, and it extends to people who don’t hunt, but prefer to walk or ride through woods. Jordan thinks they should be able to do so without fear of accidentally being shot and killed.

Logic in question

In contrast to the majority vote, Supervisor Barry Porter is not so much in disagreement with his colleagues, as he’s concerned about individual rights.

“Neither one of us [referring to Supervisor Carl Faison] endorses hunting on Sunday. We would ourselves not hunt on Sunday. But we didn’t feel comfortable denying non-Christian people,” he said.

“I’m a Christian, but I’m not going to force my religion or Christian values on someone else. I believe Mr. Faison was very similar.

“I’ve been known to hunt occasionally, but not recently. I’m from a hunting family.”

In response to a request for comment by The Tidewater News, Supervisor Faison emailed the following statement [remarks in boldface are his, for emphasis]:

“Please understand that I am not an advocate for hunting on Sunday. Sunday is a day of worship for me. This is because of my faith. I recognize that not everyone shares my faith. Already, people fish, shop, work, watch football and do many things on Sunday. These things do not interfere with Sunday worship for those us who worship on Sunday. If hunting on Sunday were allowed in Southampton County, I expect anyone who chooses to hunt to have the respect for those of us who worship on Sunday to hunt in such a way that it does not interfere with worship. Also, I would want hunting on Sunday to be regulated so that it would not interfere with worship. I believe that this can be done in such a way that the rights and privileges of everyone can be recognized. Again, I emphasize that I am not an advocate for hunting on Sunday.”

A county resident who questions the logic of refraining from hunting on Sunday is Teresa Preston of Ivor. She’s familiar with the bill, which she mentioned didn’t make it out of a committee last year.

“The first issue is the Sabbath, and that not everyone celebrates it on a Sunday,” said Preston. “If we want to be politically correct, that other people who have recognized religions of the non-Christian variety, celebrate their Sabbath on days other than Sunday. In essence we have hunting on their Sabbath, such as Friday or Saturday.”

Another issue is the rights of landowners.

“Basically, it’s a landowner’s prerogative. They still have right to ban it on Sunday on their own property,” Preston said. “With these two [points] I presented to the committee and pointed out our country’s supposed to be about freedoms.”

She added that if people want traditions such as hunting to be available for the next generation, then opportunities should be made available. Preston said that is what she does on her land and never has charged for it, contrary to accusations she’s heard.

“When I allow people to hunt on my farm, I give preference to the military and those adults training their young people, who have taken hunter-training course and are properly licensed,” said Preston

Another reason she favors allowing hunting on Sundays is time.

Preston noted that adults’ schedules often don’t allow for hunting on weekdays, and sometimes it can come to just “one day a week if we’re lucky. But if parent isn’t free that day, then the children can’t go in the field.”

She also wonders about why hunting is singled out, but not other activities.

“If we have other sports we can do on Sunday, why is it that we have to limit this one sport? I don’t see a reason; it’s not a safety issue. If you own property and it’s up to the landowner, ‘Yes you may or may not. Period.’ Sunday would not be excluded.

“We golf on Sunday, we fish on Sunday. I don’t know of any other sport banned on Sunday. If it was truly connected with Christian beliefs, we wouldn’t fish on Sundays.”

House Bill No. 1237 and Senate Bill 154 are identical in their language. You can read each in their entirety at Type in HB1237 or SB154 in Track a 2014 Bill, located within the Search Legislation with LIS box on the home page.