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Sunday hunting debate returns

The full House of Delegates will take up HB 1237 this week to decide whether hunting will be allowed across the state on Sunday.

Last week, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee narrowly voted 12-10 to send the bill, sponsored by Shenandoah-area Del. Todd Gilbert, to the full House for a vote.

The hunting bill was scheduled for its second reading on Friday, however legislators passed it by for the day on Friday, so now it is scheduled for a second reading on Monday and final consideration later this week, said a legislative aide in Del. James Edmunds’ office on Friday afternoon.

Edmunds opposes the bill and voted against the legislation in committee, saying he is very opposed to allowing hunting on Sundays.

The bill would allow Sunday hunting by repealing the current ban on Sunday hunting on private lands.

It would still require hunters to have written permission from the landowner, and hunting with deer dogs would be prohibited. Hunters also would not be allowed to hunt within 200 yards of a house of worship, according to the bill.

“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 may hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including nuisance species, if they hunt on the landowner’s property,” according to the bill.

“My office has received well over 200 emails and other contacts on this issue and overwhelmingly — five to one — people who live in my district are opposed to changing the law,” Edmunds said.  

The Halifax delegate said the best solution would be to give localities an option “since our state is very geographically diverse on this issue.”

Currently, Virginia is one of six states that ban Sunday hunting.

Numerous hunting groups along with the National Rifle Association support Gilbert’s legislation.

However, rural lawmakers and the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance political action committee are opposed to the bill. 

Since 1990, Edmunds said Sunday hunting has been an issue during General Assembly sessions. However, this year was the first time the legislation has bypassed the Natural Resources subcommittee and gone straight to the full committee.