Delegate proposing Sunday deer hunting in Northern Virginia
Hunting on Sunday has long been prohibited in Virginia, thanks to old “blue laws” and a desire to let outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the rural countryside without worrying about stray bullets at least one day a weekend during the fall and winter hunting season.
But a combination of factors – including a growing deer population and increasing occurrences of Lyme disease – have inspired state legislation to allow county officials to permit Sunday hunting on private land within their jurisdictions if they want to.
Del. David Ramadan, a Republican whose district includes Loudoun and Prince William counties, is expected to introduce a bill this week that would allow officials in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties to pass ordinances permitting hunting on Sundays on private land.
Ramadan’s bill would join a similar bill that has already been introduced by state Sen. Phil Puckett, D-Tazewell.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse Sunday hunting bills, citing concerns about both Lyme disease and growing numbers of deer in the county, which have sparked increasing complaints from property owners as well as automobile accidents.
“I think we need to support this because this is less about hunting and more about public safety,” said Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles. “What we’re hearing from our fish and game professionals is that we need to thin our deer herd.”
“It is a public safety issue, it’s a public health issue and it’s good for the deer population itself,” said Board Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large. “Frankly, it’s good all the way around, in my opinion.”
Ramadan’s bill had yet to be filed as of press time, but an aide said Ramadan planned to file it prior to the Friday deadline. Attempts to reach Ramadan for comment Tuesday and Wednesday were not successful.
Puckett’s bill is currently awaiting a vote in the Virginia Senates Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.
A similar bill Ramadan proposed last year never made it out of committee. But efforts to end the Sunday hunting ban could be more successful this year because current bills are more narrowly defined – allowing hunting only on private land – and have won the support of the Virginia Farm Bureau, which had opposed ending the ban in the past.
The Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries is also in favor of Sunday hunting, both because they say it will increase access to hunting by about 40 percent – since most recreational hunters only do so on the weekends -- and because of they believe allowing hunting on Sundays will bring more tourist revenue to the state.
Still, Sunday hunting remains unpopular among some in Virginia, including fox hunters (who don’t use weapons), equestrians and hikers who would say they should be able to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about stray bullets one day of the weekend.
There are no public hunting areas in Prince William County. Even if Sunday hunting is eventually allowed by the state legislature and the county board of supervisors, hunters would still need to receive permission of landowners before hunting on private property.