- Last Updated on Friday, 04 April 2014 12:35
- Published on Thursday, 03 April 2014 00:03
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It took years for activists to get what they wanted. Starting July 1, hunters will be permitted, under certain circumstances, to hunt on private lands on Sundays.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ (VDGIF) website sums up the new law this way: “A person may hunt waterfowl, subject to restrictions imposed by the Director of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and a landowner and his immediate family or a person with written permission from the landowner may hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including nuisance species, on the landowner’s property. However, the aforementioned hunting activities cannot occur within 200 yards of a house of worship and prohibits the hunting of deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with the aid or assistance of dogs on Sunday.
The Department is currently developing regulation amendments resulting from the new Sunday hunting legislation that will be presented to the Board of Directors at their April 8 board meeting and at their June 10 meeting. Final seasons and dates will be posted on the Department’s website July 1, as well as in the new 2014–2015 Hunting and Trapping in Virginia Guides, available statewide on August 1.”
There is no real point in rehashing the issue, as it has not only passed but was signed into law. It was a very controversial issue with some just saying it was flat out wrong to allow Sunday hunting, and others saying it was wrong to take the option away from private landowners to do what they wanted on their property on Sunday. I suspect it will remain controversial, and I have already started hearing grumbling from landowners and hunters about how this is going to cause problems for hunter and landowner relations; how those that like to go for walks in the woods on Sundays during hunting season now are going to have to be extra careful and so on. One prominent official painted the issue as urban vs. rural. After some thought, I feel that person may be correct. Regardless, change is on the way.
Some of that change will impact everyone living in the state. Game officials are quickly trying to figure out how to change the seasons to adapt to the extra weekend day of hunting. That extra weekend day is very likely going to affect hunting pressure. More out-of-state hunters will stay in our state to hunt on a weekend. More in-state hunters are going to hunt that day, particularly urban residents that want to come to rural Virginia to shoot some game. As a result, the seasons will be impacted, at least waterfowl and big game. The staff biologists’ recommendations are due to be put on the VDGIF website very soon, and then we will get a look at what we are in for. I did speak to a wildlife biologist, and his take on the matter was that they were striving to keep opening day for various weapons for big game on Saturdays.
He did not comment on how long the seasons might or might not be. I am reluctant to speculate, but my thought is that areas where there are high deer densities such as northern Virginia may not initially see a big change in when the season begins and ends. However, areas where deer are moderately populated may see shortened seasons (ending dates), and that may impact those of us that choose not to hunt Sundays. Small game hunters may not see much change at all until population numbers dictate otherwise.
The first year or two of working with the Sunday hunting will be a work in progress, as biologists examine all the variables associated with the harvest data for turkey, deer and bear. Seasons will require tweaking. Waterfowl seasons are set by VDGIF, but the number of days that waterfowl can be hunted is set by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. So, if VDGIF allows waterfowl hunting on Sunday, then that will certainly shorten the length of the traditional season or there will be intermittent closures throughout the season to extend it to the traditional end of January closure.
Whatever your view on Sunday hunting, do remember that if you choose to hunt on Sunday, you should familiarize yourself with the restrictions. Remember that ALL hunters hunting on Sunday will be REQUIRED to have written permission to do so from the landowner. Landowners have the right to deny hunters not only to hunt their property, but they can simply deny them the right to hunt on Sunday. If they choose to do that, they should note it on their permission card that they sign for the hunter.