Tyler Meurlin: Virginia traditions
Imagine for a minute that you are an avid golfer who is trying to spend time with, and pass along your love of golf to your children. You work Monday through Friday, spend Saturday watching your son’s soccer game in the morning, then your daughter’s field hockey game in the afternoon, and in the evening you attend the birthday party of a family friend. By all accounts, this is a busy but wonderful day for any family. Sunday’s schedule is open so the family wants to head to the golf course for a quick nine. Unfortunately there are no courses open in Virginia. There is a blue law that prohibits playing golf on Sunday. Sounds crazy, right?
Generations have been subjected to just such a law that prohibits hunting on Sunday in Virginia. As this waterfowl season nears its close, I cannot help but think that there will be weekends when hunting with my family, on family land in The Plains, will not be possible because of weekends like those described above. I can engage in countless other pursuits with my family on Sundays. I can even go fishing and fill my creel with limits of bass or trout for my table. I can target shoot every Sunday with any gun I desire. But take a mallard or a buck on Sunday morning? That is off limits. Hunting, in season, is the only lawful activity with such a restriction in our great Commonwealth.
Soon, Virginia’s House of Delegates will consider a bill that aims to repeal the ban on Sunday hunting. Hunters should know that we are closer than ever to hunting lawfully on Sundays. The Senate passed SB 464 with a resounding and bipartisan 29-11 vote! This bill, the same one that the House will consider, strikes a compromise between those for and against repealing the Sunday hunting ban. This bill strikes a balance between the non-hunting public, mounted fox hunters, the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance (who didn’t want hunting with dogs on Sundays so as not to disturb their neighbors), and many other recreational groups.
The bill under consideration, SB 464, is the most widely received bill to be put before the legislature, and provides hunters with the best chance for a seventh day afield. SB 464 allows hunting on private lands only for immediate family members, or those with permission. By limiting hunting on Sundays to private lands, any perceived conflicts between hunters and non-hunters on public lands, parks, national forests, or other recreational areas, is eliminated. The bill excludes hunting deer with dogs to avoid interference with mounted fox hunters. No Sunday hunt shall be closer than 250 yards from a place of worship for obvious reasons. Lastly, SB 464 includes waterfowl hunting as this overwhelmingly is done in the marshes and waters far removed from the non-hunting public. These concessions are more than a fair compromise that allows the majority of Virginia’s hunters to enjoy our passion and tradition seven days a week. What’s more, it allows us one more day to pass along our love of the outdoors to our children, and to keep the tradition of hunting alive in the Commonwealth.
Hunting has many challenges in the modern world and the demands on our schedules are stronger than ever. Hunting in Virginia has witnessed an unfortunate decline as evidenced by license sales each year decreasing about 1% to 2% annually. If SB 464 passes, repealing the ban on Sunday hunting, the State Legislature will have provided all hunters one more day afield with their families, encouraged more people to get outdoors, and legislating for the common good of the Commonwealth. Most importantly they will have done the right thing.
Letter from Tyler Meurlin/Richmond