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Read & React: Virginia to Repeal Sunday Hunting Ban

by David Hart   |  February 12th, 2014 26

It looks like Virginia is on the verge of stepping into the 21st century.

Barring any last-minute underhanded attempts by opponents, a 20-plus-year effort to overturn the state’s ban on Sunday hunting appears to be drawing to a close. Bills that will allow hunting on Sundays on private land with written permission and on public waters sailed through the House and Senate in early February, clearing the way for Governor Terry McAuliffe to sign the legislation into law.

Supporters of the bill, including the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, argued the addition of Sundays might help reverse a long-term decline in hunting license sales. However, some proponents framed the argument as a property rights issue. A number of legislators who supported the bills latched onto that.

“That was an important part of the process. In many ways, this really is about private property rights. Government should not tell me I can’t take part in an activity on Sunday that is legal the rest of the week. A lot of legislators agreed,” according to Matt O’Brien, who launched a grassroots effort to overturn the ban through a Facebook page in 2010.

O’Brien’s Facebook page has over 5,500 members and drew the attention of various pro-hunting lobby groups. O’Brien also served as the de facto voice for the cause. He was interviewed by a number of local and national media outlets.

“We also had some heavy-hitters patron bills. The senate bill patron is a Democrat. The House bill patron is a Republican,” O’Brien said.

Efforts to overturn Virginia’s Sunday hunting prohibition, the last of the state’s “Blue Laws,” were thwarted in recent years by four members of a seven-person House sub-committee.

Dubbed the “Sunday hunting death panel,” the four—all Republicans—voted against a Sunday hunting bill every time it came up for consideration. This year, however, a procedural move helped the bill bypass that death panel, allowing it to go to a full committee vote. That move by Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford) proved to be the tipping point, O’Brien said.

“I don’t think he is an advocate of Sunday hunting. I think he just got fed up with four men continuously killing legislation that had broad bipartisan support,” he added.

The House bill passed the committee and then went to the full House, where it passed by a vote of 71-27. The Senate then passed their version of the same bill 29-10, also with bipartisan support.

“The fact that these bills had very strong bipartisan support, including a number of legislators from some very Democratic areas, was very important,” O’Brien said.

Surprisingly, the strongest opposition came from a handful of rural Republicans, even though they all claimed to be hunters and private property rights advocates. Some even fell back on religion.

Delegate Tommy Wright (R-Lunenburg) said, “Sunday is the Lord’s day, it’s a day of worship, and hunting is not going to do a thing but continue to chip away at that day.”

Wright didn’t do his research. Of the ten states with the highest church attendance, nine allow hunting on Sunday.

Facts aside, opponents continued to fight the bills throughout the legislative process by adding an amendment that would have given individual counties the ability to vote for or against Sunday hunting within their borders. It would have created a hodgepodge of regulations difficult to enforce. That “local option” amendment was shot down, also by a large margin.

Despite the victory, some Virginia hunters will still be left out. It remains illegal to hunt on public land, including the state’s 1.8 million acre George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, as well as 39 wildlife management areas purchased with license revenue.

The bill also prohibits the use of deer or bear hounds on Sundays. That was at the request of the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance, which then lobbied unsuccessfully to defeat these Sunday hunting bills.

The private land-only wording was part of a compromise to appease hikers and horseback riders who feared getting shot, despite any evidence supporting their claims. Even with the public land exclusion, various lobby groups, including the Virginia Horse Council and the Virginia Farm Bureau, continued to oppose the bills. They are expected to survive any last-second challenges and Governor McAuliffe has stated he will sign it into law.

That’s not just good news for Virginia hunters. O’Brien expects other states will see the victory as a test case of sorts.

“I believe there will be a domino effect. There needs to be a grass-roots effort in those other states like we had in Virginia, though,” he said. “That really got the attention of groups like the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Once they realized we had good momentum, they really got behind us on this.”

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  • bb66

    Although hunting on Sunday in Virginia should be legal statewide and by all current legal methods, this is a good starting compromise. In 2, 3,or even 5 years, the ‘anti’ crowd that often went to shoving matches over this issue will look back and realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal after all. Thanks for remaining steadfast Matt O’Brien. db

  • bb66

    Although hunting on Sunday in Virginia should be legal statewide and by all current legal methods, this is a good starting compromise. In 2, 3,or even 5 years, the ‘anti’ crowd that often went to shoving matches over this issue will look back and realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal after all. Thanks for remaining steadfast Matt O’Brien. db

  • River Mud

    bb66 is right. 10 years after receiving limited Sunday hunting in Maryland, there has not been a single recorded conflict/incident/accident between Sunday hunters and non-hunters. The data for New Jersey, wrapping up its fifth year of archery hunting on Sundays, is identical.

    • Ray Cortoluzzo

      EVERY STATE I HUNT THAT HAS SUNDAY HUNTING HAS LESS PRIVATE LAND OPEN TO HUNTERS COMPARED TO PA. EVERY STINKING ONE OF THEM. ENOUGH SAID.

      • River Mud

        In acres? Percentage? You can type it in all caps Dan Reda, but it doesn’t make it fact. In Ohio, a whopping 3% of landowners banned hunting on their land as soon as Sunday hunting passed. 2/3 of them changed their minds after getting torn up by deer the next year. So…..”enough said” is that 1% of landowners are likely to change how they allow hunting. So scary.

        • River Mud

          I guess “Ray” is still compiling all those “facts.”

  • Raymond

    Is There an Environmentally Extreme Agenda Behind H.U.S.H?

    HUSH SUNDAY HUNTING LAWSUIT ALL ABOUT KILLING MORE DEER?

    Exactly who is HUSH (short for Hunters United for Sunday Hunting). That is the question everyone is asking. That is what we have explored and the results are not quite fitting in with hushes claims that this is all about the future of hunting, constitutionality etc. Many believe they are just politically driven environmentalists as opposed to the “hunter advocates” they would like legislators and others to believe.

    Lets take an in depth look at the 4 people who make up HUSH and their motives for doing so.

    First, we start with Kathy Davis, the groups founder. A known enviroextreme type, Kathy has pushed and lobbied for legislation and regulation that would lower the states deer herd for years. The causes she has championed pretty much mirror those suggested by the audubon deer forum for things “needed” to further reduce the deer herd. She has also many environmental connections, and has voted for further herd reductions on a citizen advisory committee where she took part, even though the Pa Game Commission had a set goal of stabilization. She was voted down by the majority of the other participants on the committee, and her initiative failed. She had also had an interest in obtaining a PGC commissioner seat for unit 2A, but her attempt was quashed by concerned sportsmen voicing concerns over the proposed nominee. Ms. Davis has also alienated several legislators with her percieved extremism and dogged determination when it comes to her misguided lobbying efforts. There are also multiple pgc commissioners that have also said they have “tuned her out” for the same reasons. Some members of one of the larger sportsmen groups in the state, apparently confused by so much percieved extremism, have actually inquired about her being an ANTI-hunter.

    Vern Ross, another of the hush members is, interestingly enough, the former executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission who was a driving force behind getting deer herd reduction into place. Vern will forever be looked back upon as one of the most controversial figures in Pa game management history for the role he played in forever changing Pa deer management under the Ridge administrations deer program.

    Don Heckman, a very active participant when it came to weighing in on game issues, has consistently voiced strong support for the deer management plan and reductions. Taking a very extreme stance on the issue for years. A very adament supporter of the Pa Game Commission deer plan, as were some of his close nwtf colleagues. Mr. Heckman has certainly done some good things for wild turkey management in the state, and that should not go ignored in this brief summary.

    Josh First. Mr. First has quite the lengthy list of environmentalist ties. He is also very active in the environmental arena, so much so, he was pointed to as being an environmental extremist by one of the states largest sportsmen groups who opposed his nomination when he tried to gain an appointment to the Pa game commissions board of commissioners. He has also worked at the Environmental Protection Agency, Dcnr (under Tom Ridge) is on the policy council of 10,000 friends of Pennsylvania and is coordinator for ‘Pa Habitat Alliance’ which is headed by the Audubon Society. His environmentalism resume is far too lengthy to list here, but much informtion is available online. Mr. First also made a failed attempt to gain the senatorial seat of Pa district 15 in 2012.

    Many believe that these people are nothing more than very willing pawns in the “deer wars” and it certainly looks that this may indeed be the case. Sunday hunting would go a long way towards being able to harvest more deer, and thereby further what some are calling an “environmentally extreme” agenda.

    It is our belief that the unsupportable deer herd reductions and resulting maleffects of extremely low hunter satisfaction and drop out is very damaging to our hunting heritage in Pennsylvania and it has gone on long enough.

    * THE IS A PUBLIC ALERT COURTESY OF THE CONCERNED SPORTSMEN OF PENNSYLVANIA.*

    • River Mud

      Let’s take an in depth look at the one guy who thinks QDMA is a fringe environmentalist group, has 35 false internet personnae, and ask a psychologist the possible motives for doing so. Then let’s post the same, poorly written drivel all over the internet for three straight years.

      • Hunting787

        Let me guess. A husher? You people are amazing if even one tenth of what I have read and seen on the internet is true about you. I also didn’t see where anyone said anything about qdma overall. One person or even two doesn’t make up qdma. No matter how hard they try to gain credibility by joining. ;>).

        • River Mud

          Not a HUSHer at all. But haven’t hunted my family’s camp in PA for almost a decade due to the lack of Sunday hunting. I know it’s you, the same guy, responding but I figured I’d prove yet another one of your assumptions false. Now go make up another ID and password so you can pretend to gang up on me. I’ve seen your antics on Field and Stream and other states, how in the world do you keep all those fake ID’s straight? Kudos for that.

          • River Mud

            Wow…radio silence. What a surprise.

  • Raymond

    I wish I could support sunday hunting here in Pa, but too much dirty politics right now here. Hunting is getting screwed up royally thanks to the wrong people being involved in our business and running our management agency too.

  • Bryan Strouphauer

    Raymond=Dan Reda. Stop stocking people and get a job. Kathy Davis is nothing who you say she is.She is and outstanding person who does a lot of good for the sport of hunting. I wish she would seek legal action and get you for slander. Go ahead with your 50 identities and give me a thumbs down.

    • Raymond

      I think you misworded your post. I have no idea who that joker, maybe part of one of your strange fantasies? But everyone knows all about you and your fake names. So now you want to fool some of the good people of virginia. Speaking of job, I have a fine one. But you are gainfully unemployed and the funny part is, word is all over the internet that you lied about being a BIOLOGIST! HA HA HA. Seriously? According to some of them, you also told legislators that for years while lobbying for less deer and biodiversity extremism, now they are saying they found out it is NOT TRUE? What is that all about?? Just to refresh your memory, you even said it on taped hearing! I don’t know what was funnier you claiming to be a avid hunter & fisher or that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zux_jbx2cag

      And why are you here pictured with environmentally extreme ex rep. Levdansky, the guy many say rigged the deer audit was ranked by nra as a solid “F” and flanked by environmental extreme group representatives?
      yeah….youre a real hunter advocate!

      • Hunting787

        I too would like to hear an explanation on this.

        • River Mud

          Explanation: it’s a made up conspiracy and one guy responding to himself. <>

          • Bryan Strouphauer

            Yes sir. His real name is Dan Reda and he is Kathy Davis’s stalker. He won’t post under his real name because he lacks the testicles to do so.

          • River Mud

            Figured as much. Know that I don’t have a game in this PA stuff. I just know the guy cut and pastes the same thing all over the internet, and it’s written by someone with the writing abilities of a 9 year old.

          • Ray Cortoluzzo

            REALLY? THAT SURE LOOKS LIKE KATHY DAVIS IN THAT VIDEO!
            FOR THE RECORD I HAVE HEARD THAT SHE PRETENDS TO BE AHUNTER AND BELONGS TO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS. JUST WANTS POLITICAL WEIGHT IN DECISION MAKING THAT EFFECTS ENVIRONMENT, THAT ALSO EFFECT HUNTING. LIKE DEER MANAGEMENT. I HAVE BEEN TOLD THIS BY TRUTHFUL PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED AND KNOW ALL ABOUT THE POLITICS OF HUNTING IN PA.

      • Ray Cortoluzzo

        WOW! I KNEW THOSE PEOPLE WERE NOT WHAT THEY SAID THEY WERE! AND SHE WONT EVEN ANSWER ABOUT THE VIDEO, JUST INSULTING PEOPLE HERE! I THINK THAT TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT “HUSH”

    • http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-for-hb-5080-authorizing-bow-and-arrow Ed Meneg

      I’m from Connecticut and have spoken with Kathy a few times over the last year or two and traded a number of e-mails. She is an outstanding person that has has done nothing but support and advance hunting. I applaud her efforts for bringing sunday hunting to PA.

      We are going through the smae in CT.

      If you want to support the CT effort, Please visit my petition page and sign it at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-for-hb-5080-authorizing-bow-and-arrow Enter your state in the coments section. Please share with all hunters.
      I also have a facebook page named “SUNDAY HUNTING IN CONNECTICUT”. Please visit, like and share.

      • Bryan Strouphauer

        Signed and liked Ed! Kathy is outstanding at what she does. To say she hates deer is a vastly inaccurate. She supports the deer program so this guy who disagrees with it must slander her all over the net. It’s time for him to grow up.

  • Hunting787

    Very interesting Raymond. It sounds like more to it than meets the eye with those characters.

  • http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-for-hb-5080-authorizing-bow-and-arrow Ed Meneg

    We are going through the same here in Connecticut. We have a propposed bill that would end the sunday hunting ban with bow and arrow only.

    Please support us by signing the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-for-hb-5080-authorizing-bow-and-arrow please enter your state in the coments.
    I also created a facebook page named “SUNDAY HUNTING IN CONNECTICUT”. Please visit, like and share with every hunter out there.
    Thanks

  • Ray Cortoluzzo

    Raymond • a month ago

    Is There an Environmentally Extreme Agenda Behind H.U.S.H?

    HUSH SUNDAY HUNTING LAWSUIT ALL ABOUT KILLING MORE DEER?

    Exactly who is HUSH (short for Hunters United for Sunday Hunting). That is the question everyone is asking. That is what we have explored and the results are not quite fitting in with hushes claims that this is all about the future of hunting, constitutionality etc. Many believe they are just politically driven environmentalists as opposed to the “hunter advocates” they would like legislators and others to believe.

    Lets take an in depth look at the 4 people who make up HUSH and their motives for doing so.

    First, we start with Kathy Davis, the groups founder. A known enviroextreme type, Kathy has pushed and lobbied for legislation and regulation that would lower the states deer herd for years. The causes she has championed pretty much mirror those suggested by the audubon deer forum for things “needed” to further reduce the deer herd. She has also many environmental connections, and has voted for further herd reductions on a citizen advisory committee where she took part, even though the Pa Game Commission had a set goal of stabilization. She was voted down by the majority of the other participants on the committee, and her initiative failed. She had also had an interest in obtaining a PGC commissioner seat for unit 2A, but her attempt was quashed by concerned sportsmen voicing concerns over the proposed nominee. Ms. Davis has also alienated several legislators with her percieved extremism and dogged determination when it comes to her misguided lobbying efforts. There are also multiple pgc commissioners that have also said they have “tuned her out” for the same reasons. Some members of one of the larger sportsmen groups in the state, apparently confused by so much percieved extremism, have actually inquired about her being an ANTI-hunter.

    Vern Ross, another of the hush members is, interestingly enough, the former executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission who was a driving force behind getting deer herd reduction into place. Vern will forever be looked back upon as one of the most controversial figures in Pa game management history for the role he played in forever changing Pa deer management under the Ridge administrations deer program.

    Don Heckman, a very active participant when it came to weighing in on game issues, has consistently voiced strong support for the deer management plan and reductions. Taking a very extreme stance on the issue for years. A very adament supporter of the Pa Game Commission deer plan, as were some of his close nwtf colleagues. Mr. Heckman has certainly done some good things for wild turkey management in the state, and that should not go ignored in this brief summary.

    Josh First. Mr. First has quite the lengthy list of environmentalist ties. He is also very active in the environmental arena, so much so, he was pointed to as being an environmental extremist by one of the states largest sportsmen groups who opposed his nomination when he tried to gain an appointment to the Pa game commissions board of commissioners. He has also worked at the Environmental Protection Agency, Dcnr (under Tom Ridge) is on the policy council of 10,000 friends of Pennsylvania and is coordinator for ‘Pa Habitat Alliance’ which is headed by the Audubon Society. His environmentalism resume is far too lengthy to list here, but much informtion is available online. Mr. First also made a failed attempt to gain the senatorial seat of Pa district 15 in 2012.

    Many believe that these people are nothing more than very willing pawns in the “deer wars” and it certainly looks that this may indeed be the case. Sunday hunting would go a long way towards being able to harvest more deer, and thereby further what some are calling an “environmentally extreme” agenda.

    It is our belief that the unsupportable deer herd reductions and resulting maleffects of extremely low hunter satisfaction and drop out is very damaging to our hunting heritage in Pennsylvania and it has gone on long enough.

    * THE IS A PUBLIC ALERT COURTESY OF THE CONCERNED SPORTSMEN OF PENNSYLVANIA.*

    • Cortoluzzo

      WOW SOMEONE SURE DID DO A GOOD JOB COMPILING THE FACTS ON THESE CHARACTERS! LOTS OF TALK ABOUT THIS AT THE CAPITAL.

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