Sunday Hunting Bill Passes In Virginia

Following years of close calls and disappointing conclusions, hunters in Virginia are finally on the verge of experiencing legal hunting on Sundays for the first time in their lives.

Last week, in a 28-to-11 vote, the Virginia State Senate approved legislation to repeal the 19th Century Blue Law that prohibited Sunday hunting. The legislation allows Sunday hunting on private property during designated seasons by hunters who have a landowner's written permission. Hunting within 200 yards of a place of worship is prohibited. In January, the House of Delegates approved the measure by a vote of 71 to 27.

The final step for HB 1237 is the signature of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who indicated throughout the legislative process that he supported the bill.

The enactment marks a major victory for Virginia Sunday hunting advocates, who have stepped up their lobbying efforts in recent years to lift the ban that has stood since colonial days. While it might seem decidedly bizarre to millions of hunters from other parts of the country, the prohibition of hunting on Sunday has been an annoying fact of life for those in the Northeast.

Now, with success in Virginia, 10 states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia — still have some type of Sunday hunting restriction or prohibition dating back to "blue laws" originally enacted in the 1700s. Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware all have full Sunday hunting bans, while states such as Maryland and West Virginia have partial bans in which Sunday hunting laws are decided by individual counties.

Sunday hunting advocates in Virginia achieved initial success in the 2012 legislative session, only to have their measure stall in a House subcommittee with a reputation for killing Sunday hunting legislation. This year, a House version of the bill purposely bypassed the subcommittee and instead was directed to the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, where it advanced to the full House for a vote.

"The Senate vote is a real accomplishment for sportsmen in Virginia, but it is equally a victory for the economy of the Commonwealth that will see a more than $120 million annual direct economic benefit as the result of hunters going afield on Sundays," said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation..

The NSSF heads a coalition of sportsmen's groups working to pass Sunday hunting legislation in the remaining 10 states that restrict it. The Sunday Hunting Coalition is comprised of the NSSF, National Rifle Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, Archery Trade Association, Boone and Crockett Club, Cabela's, Delta Waterfowl, Mule Deer Foundation, National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the Wildlife Management Institute.