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Outdoors: Legislative changes take aim at Sunday hunting
PROPOSED legislative changes related to outdoors issues that will be considered by Virginia’s General Assembly are fewer this year.
An effort to overturn—or at least chip away at—Virginia’s blue-law ban on Sunday hunting is again present in several bills.
Last year, the Senate easily passed legislation that would have allowed Sunday hunting statewide on private property—only to see it scuttled in a subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Natural Resources, Agriculture and Chesapeake Committee.
None of the bills entered thus far, though, attempts to eat the elephant in one bite, as in unrestricted Sunday hunting statewide. But Del. James W. Morefield’s House Bill 2225 comes closest. It would enable any person to hunt on private lands with landowner permission. And Morefield is a member of the House committee that has traditionally sunk Sunday hunting.
Among other proposed Sunday hunting bills, Del. David Ramadan’s House Bill 1762 would permit Sunday hunting (except for wild birds) on private lands in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William counties. Del. Michael J. Webert’s HB 2036 would allow Sunday hunting for wild birds and animals, including nuisance species, with bow and arrow or crossbow.
In the Senate, Thomas A. Garrett’s SB 806 would make hunting designated nuisance species, such as coyotes, crows, feral hogs, groundhogs and more, legal on Sunday.
An interesting proposal is Del. Scott A. Lingamfelter’s HB 2112, which would open Sunday hunting to state or federal military bases, installations and facilities, with the approval of commanders or other appropriate officials.
This is one issue where military installations, at least federal ones, may have been able to unilaterally offer Sunday hunting anyway. Some in state government may debate that, but these are federal lands and commanders have a responsibility to manage wildlife. Hunting access is often limited due to military training or other day-to-day operational and administrative requirements.
If an installation commander determined that Sundays afforded optimal or the only access for wildlife management activities, it’s unclear how a state blue law could block it, but a state head nod would make things easier.
As the paper was preparing to go to press, word was received that is was possible the House Natural Resources Subcommittee was going to entertain all Sunday hunting bills Wednesday evening.
Proposed new licenses are being considered.
Del. Anne B. Crockett-Starke’s HB 1413 would establish a one-day fishing license for nonresidents to fish Virginia’s inland waters. The license would specify the date the license is valid. The Board of Game and Inland Fisheries would establish the license cost.
Del. Margaret Ransone’s HB 1805 would let Virginia residents age 65 and older buy a lifetime saltwater recreational license for $5. Sen. Richard Stuart has introduced an identical bill.
Del. Tony Wilt’s HB 1497 would give the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries board the authority to create separate special hunting licenses for deer and turkey, noting authority now exists for a separate bear license. Wilt also has a bill that would let landowners shoot muskrats or raccoons at any time.
While one would hope the cost for individual species-specific licenses would drop should such licenses be created, it’s possible the overall cost could rise for buying licenses for the three species now offered on the one “big game” license.
Del. James B. Edmonds II has HB 2184, which would authorize VDGIF’s board to issue trip hunting licenses to nonresidents and trip fishing licenses to residents and nonresidents for time periods and at costs determined by the board. Current law has limited flexibility, allowing nonresidents to purchase three-day trip hunting licenses for $40, five-day trip fishing licenses for $10 and resident five-day trip fishing licenses for $5.
Del. Rick L. Morris’ HB 1929 would authorize the chief law-enforcement officer of a city or town to report to VDGIF’s director that deer are creating a traffic hazard in the jurisdiction.
If that hazard is verified, the VDGIF director could authorize killing of the deer.
One of the weirdest pieces of proposed legislation is Sen. Frank M. Ruff Jr.’s SB 954, which would make spying on and photographing people’s hunting activities with a drone aircraft a Class 3 misdemeanor when the drone is used by a private person without the permission of the landowner. That bill has made it out of committee.
Are people really doing this? Or is this a pre-emptive, sorry impact of the world and technology with which we now live?
Fishing illegally in the Potomac River would cost more under Sen. Emmett W. Hangar Jr.’s, SB 1108. This bill would amend the Potomac River Compact by changing the maximum penalty for violating the river’s fishing laws from the current $1,000 to $3,000.
In another apparent effort to open up more water to recreational use, Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Peterson’s SB 737 would allow kayakers and canoeists to float during daylight hours on what are legally considered “non-navigable” waterways. With the current popularity of kayaking and canoeing and these crafts’ ability to get into skinny water, taking a fresh look at the term “navigable” is worthwhile.
The ongoing imbroglio over a civil trespass case over anglers wade-fishing a stretch of the Jackson River appears to be related to Sen. Creigh R. Deeds’ SB880. The bill would direct DGIF and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to inventory non-tidal waters that flow above state-owned bottomlands and that may be used by the public for recreation.
In the Jackson River case, the anglers were sued by landowners claiming a “King’s Grant” to the river bottom, even though that part of the river is navigable and was listed by DGIF as open to public fishing.
Proposed legislation related to “assault firearms” is also in the mill. Del. Joe Morrissey’s HB 2207 calls for making the sale or transfer of certain firearms and firearms magazines a Class 6 felony.
This bill defines an “assault firearm” as “any semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a
silencer or equipped with a folding stock.”
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e–mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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