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Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: Winners, stinkers among Assembly bills

The Virginia General Assembly began its second full week in session with more than 1,500 legislative proposals filed, including several of interest to the outdoors community.

Several bills attempt to overturn all or part of the ban on hunting on Sundays. Most will be heard at 2 p.m. tomorrow in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.

These are among the bills the nearly 3,000-member “Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting for All” Facebook page proponents endorse. Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter’s bill (HB 921) currently has seven co-patrons in the House of Delegates and two in the Senate.

Other bills that would partially alleviate the ban include Del. Michael J. Webert’s HB 369, which would allow Sunday hunting on private lands by anyone who has permission of the landowner.

Sen. J. Chapman Peterson has SB 173, which would allow landowners to hunt on their own property on Sundays. It would also allow persons who have the written permission of the landowner to hunt on the landowner’s property on Sundays.

Del. James W. Morefield’s HB 989 would allow Sunday hunting between 2 p.m. and sunset, while Del. David I. Ramadan’s HB 1002 would modify the law to allow Sunday hunting on private lands in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Analysis: There seems to be more elected support than ever for overturning the ban. The issue may hinge on whether any bills are allowed out of committee. Some of the bills will be heard at 2 p.m. today in the House of Delegates Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.

A host of bills targeting Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries operations, especially in the law enforcement area, have come out of the Northern Neck.

Sen. Richard Stuart wants to change the name of conservation police officers back to game warden with SB 17. His SB 26 would limit their authority to stop a person for the purpose of determining compliance with the laws, rules and regulations of the commonwealth or its localities without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

The bill also would repeal a section of the code allowing conservation police officers to inspect game and fish for the purposes of enforcing bag and creel limits without first making an arrest.

In a bit of Northern Neck piling on, freshman Del. Margaret Ransone introduced HB 150, which would require the DGIF board to prohibit conservation police officers from hunting or fishing in areas they are assigned to patrol.

Analysis: This appears personal between Stuart and the DGIF, and there isn’t space here to address possible motives.

The Conservation Police Officer chapter of the Police Benevolent Association issued a statement noting that the current title of conservation police officer defines their law enforcement role, adding that the word “police” is universally recognized by numerous cultures. The officers feel the current name provides for “enhanced safety of our officers.”

The PBA’s response to SB 26 was succinct: “Stripping Conservation Police Officers of their authority to conduct inspections of hunters and anglers would set conservation law enforcement back to a time before 1903 when the first Game Warden was appointed. This bill places our wildlife resources and the safety of the public at risk.”

I think most sportsmen and law-abiding conservationists would agree on most of these points.

Stuart also wants to remove Virginia from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Compact, and his SB 18 would remove authorization for membership.

Analysis: The Coastal Conservation Association has strongly condemned this bill. The compact is designed to promote better utilization of the marine, shell and anadromous fisheries of the Atlantic seaboard through the development of a joint program for the promotion and protection of such fisheries and by the prevention of the physical waste of the fisheries from any cause. It recently declared that menhaden are being overfished, especially by the commercial menhaden fishery, and recommended reducing total harvests. The largest commercial menhaden fishery is centered on Omega Protein, which operates out of Reedville and Louisiana.

Del. Bobby Orrock’s HB 538 would eliminate six full-time hunter education positions within the DGIF in favor of simply providing administrative support for the statewide delivery of the hunter education course.

Analysis: Volunteers shoulder much of the teaching load around the state, but some level of centralized coordination and support should be maintained.

The bear hound hunting lobby always has a few bills. Del. Tony. O. Wilt opens with HB 95, which would allow bear hound training 24 hours a day during bear hound training season. Currently, training dogs to hunt bears is limited to one half-hour before sunrise until 4 hours after sunset.

Analysis: This would pound a bigger wedge between non-hunters and hound hunters. Bad bill.

Del. Anne B. Crockett–Starke has HB 311, which specifies that any person can hunt bears by any legal method, including use of dogs, during any established open season for bear.

Analysis: Another bad bill. Bear hounders don’t own all the bears.

Finally, with HB 338, Wilt resurrects a legislative proposal from recent years to give the authority to the DGIF board to establish separate bear, deer and turkey licenses.

Analysis: Bear hound hunters apparently don’t want deer hunters taking bear as a target of opportunity. Bad then; bad now.

Del. G. Manoli Loupassi’s HB 172 would prohibit hunting without permission or authority, while carrying a firearm, on land where the hunter knows a “No Trespassing” sign is posted or where the hunter should know entry is prohibited. The fine would be $500 to $1,000 and a conviction could result in license revocation for one year and forfeiture of any firearm used in the violation.

Analysis: Trespassing is a problem, and is one of the reasons why some landowners who may support Sunday hunting are leery. “Should know” is legally challenging language, but it’s an overall good bill.

Wilt’s HB 342 tweaks a bill championed last year by the Farm Bureau. It would let landowners or lessees designate a person to kill deer or bear that are damaging property. The DGIF director would have to establish a website where a landowner can register property and establish hunting conditions. The DGIF then would have to pay the landowner at least half of the fee charged to provide a written authorization permit to the designated person.

Analysis: Why should any landowner receive money for enlisting support of “designated persons” to kill problem animals? Plus, it seems to assert landowner ownership of the animals. Bad bill that commercializes wildlife.

Sen. David W. Marsden’s SB 202 would make it illegal to erect or maintain an enclosure for the purpose of pursuing, hunting or killing, or attempting to pursue, hunt or kill a fox or coyote with dogs. The bill doesn’t preclude such activities on open land or killing foxes or coyotes when they are killing any domestic stock or fowl.

Analysis: Can anyone say “fair chase”? Good bill.

Sen. A. Donald McEachin’s SB 379 would make it a Class 2 misdemeanor for a person who is not a licensed dealer to sell, rent, trade or transfer a firearm to any other person who is not a licensed dealer.

Analysis: Forget ever selling your old shotgun to a hunting buddy or relative under this proposal. Bad idea.

Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at outdoors@freelancestar.com.

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