Virginia hunters may finally get the chance to pursue wild game on Sundays for the first time since the colonial era, pending the passage of a state bill.
House Bill 1237 was introduced by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-15th District, passed by the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Chesapeake Committee 12-10 Wednesday, and will now move to the full House of Delegates for a vote.
The bill would allow hunting on Sundays by “a landowner and his immediate family or a person with written permission” as long as they are on the landowner’s private property. Waterfowl hunting would be allowed, though subject to rules by the Director of the Department of Game and Fisheries. But, the bill also restricts hunting to within 200 yards of a “house of worship” and continues to prohibit hunting with deer dogs.
A similar bill was introduced to the state Senate in 2012 that received bipartisan support, but was tabled 4 to 3 by the House Natural Resources subcommittee. The bill bypassed the subcommittee this time, giving advocates for Sunday hunting legislation hope that it may reach the governor’s desk for a signature.
Virginia is one of 11 states that prohibit or restrict hunting on Sunday. Sunday hunting bans, also known as “Blue Laws,” were once commonplace across the country during the colonial era and lasted well into the late-19th Century. However, toward the latter part of the last century, most states lifted the bans.
According to the Virginia Sunday Hunting Coalition, allowing land owners to hunt on their own property on Sunday is not only their constitutional right, but also has the potential to boost the state’s number of steadily declining hunters.
Over the past 20 years, hunting “has declined more than 34 percent,” according to the VSHC, and lifting the ban could help curb that number and give families an extra day to introduce younger generations to the sport.
Hunting license sales in the state have also waned – by 50 percent since the mid-70s and they continue to do so at a rate of 1 to 2 percent each year – and the VSHC point to the Sunday hunting ban as a possible reason.
The Sunday Hunting Coalition provides data on the economic impact of Blue Laws, stating the removal of Sunday hunting bans in all 11 states “could result in over 27,000 new jobs being created, paying over $730 million in wages, and contributing about $2.2 billion in additional economic activity.”
For more information on the economic impact of Sunday hunting bans, view the full report here.