Farm Bureau Opposes Sunday Hunting

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Allowing Sunday hunting would create a lose-lose situation for Virginia citizens, and the state's largest farm advocacy group continues to oppose it.

“Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, through its grassroots policy process, opposes hunting on Sunday,” said Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations. “People are trying to couch this as a private property issue, but if it is, then you should be able to hunt and fish on private property 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, not just on Sundays.”

Virginia is one of 11 states that prohibit hunting on Sundays.

Email newsletter signup

The state Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee approved SB 464, which would allow Sunday hunting on private lands with landowners' permission and on public waters.

Public land would still be closed and no deer dogs could be used on Sundays.

The full Senate approved the repeal last week in a 29-11 vote, with 22nd District Senator Tom Garrett voting Yes, to repeal the ban, and the area's former state senator, Frank Ruff, voting to keep the ban in place.

Similar House of Delegates bills are working their way through that chamber.

Sen. Garrett told The Herald on Tuesday that he is a hunter and personally opposes Sunday hunting.

But the senator said he doesn't believe “I should tell people that, based on my values, that they shouldn't be able to do things on their own property, or on private property where they have permission, that are otherwise legal…That you can't do on a Sunday what you can do on a Saturday…

“I don't think that's our role,” the senator said of the General Assembly.

Others disagree.

“I think this legislation discriminates against rural residents,” said Bruce Richardson, a Northampton County farmer and Farm Bureau member. “Rural residents and those visiting the country should be able to enjoy a safe walk in the woods or around farm property on Sundays.”

For decades, Farm Bureau members in Virginia have discussed and voted in favor of opposing Sunday hunting, Stoneman said. In policy discussions among elected representatives of the organization, members cited faith-based beliefs as well as the ability of horse owners and riders and landowners to use the outdoors one day a week without worrying about hunters.

“I have to watch out for hunters wherever I go on my farm,” said Corky Shackelford, an Albemarle County farmer and Farm Bureau member. “I wear a blaze orange hat during deer season, because even though I post 'No hunting' and 'No trespassing' signs, hunters go on my land anyway.”

Shackelford said people who live in the country and people who want to visit the country “deserve a day of safety and peace.”

Rural landowners have a responsibility to be good neighbors, and “giving up one day out of seven so people can enjoy peace and quiet is not too much to ask,” said Richardson, who is a hunter himself.

Stoneman said that if hunters are allowed to pursue their sport on Sundays, conflict between hunters and the general public will increase. “That ultimately will hurt the sport in the long run. We want people to hunt, but not on Sunday.”

If legislation is passed that allows Sunday hunting on private lands, it is likely to expand to other property as well, the Farm Bureau believes.

“If Sunday hunting is overturned in any form, then there will be another bill next year and another one the next expanding hunting rights,” Stoneman said.

“It will just give people who oppose hunting a reason to further restrict it,” Richardson added.

With more than 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia's largest farmers' advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia's farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply.