No Sunday Hunting

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Proponents of overturning the ban on Sunday hunting were heartened last week when the Senate Agriculture Committee voted 11-4 to do so. Governor McDonnell also came out in favor of repealing the ban, joining the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Virginia's Secretary of Natural Resources, Doug Domenech, as supporters of Sunday hunting.

One understands the arguments in favor of the repeal, and many of them make tremendous sense. We sympathize with those who want to hunt seven days a week during hunting season. Hunting is as American as the proverbial apple pie and crucially necessary, as well, to the health of Virginia's deer herd. The long-term health of deer herds is greatly helped by managed hunting that minimizes the negative impacts of starvation and disease that cycle and recycle based on habitat conditions. Deer, as a species, do benefit from hunting. So do motorists who have fewer deer to dodge.

And we absolutely support hunting.

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Six days a week.

There are many people who enjoy spending time outdoors, and on their own property, without having to worry about whether or not they are walking into the path of pending gunfire. They deserve one day out of seven to enjoy the great outdoors.

We know horse enthusiasts, for example, who feel so unsafe on horseback when there are hunters in the woods and fields that they do not saddle up. They, too, should continue to have one day a week when those fears do not exist.

One single solitary day week without hunting, and particularly Sundays, doesn't seem too much to ask during hunting season, when the other six days of the week are free and clear for all the hunting one wants, within legal limits.

The Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Ralph Northam, an Accomack County Democrat, would permit Sunday hunting on private land, and was combined with a companion bill offered by Sen. Chap Petersen, a Fairfax City Democrat. The fact that Democrats are sponsoring these bills gives the lie to those who insist Republicans are the only hunting-friendly politicians, by the way.

Not all of the arguments in favor of Sunday hunting make sense, however.

Following last week's committee meeting, Sen. Petersen said, “We've designated hunting and fishing as a constitutional freedom in Virginia; how can you restrict hunting one day of the week?”

The senator, and everyone else, needs to remember that the Sunday hunting ban pre-dates the constitutional amendment, which was approved with all voters knowing the ban on Sunday hunting existed. The constitutional inclusion of hunting and fishing was, moreover, prompted and supported as a means to insure those rights were not subjected to future encroachments. Not-not at all-with the stated goal of overturning the ban on Sunday hunting.

And Senator Northam said, “It is time for the Commonwealth of Virginia to make a decision that the government should not be telling us, as property owners, what we can do on our property, and when we can do it.”

That makes no sense at all.

Unless it is also a call for the legalization of marijuana, as well as the repeal of any number of other laws that very specifically tell property owners what they can and cannot do on their property and when they can and cannot do it.

More to the point, Virginia very specifically tells hunters how many deer they can kill in a day and in a season. Those bag limits quite definitely restrict hunting. Even though hunting is a constitutional right.

Furthermore, private property owners are not permitted by state law to distribute food, salt or minerals to feed or attract deer from September 1 to January 7. Yes, even though hunting is a constitutional right, Virginia tells us we cannot do that.

Secretary Domenech, on the other hand, makes his pro-Sunday hunting argument by stressing the economic benefits-3,900 new jobs in Virginia and an estimated $300 million. Come, Mr. Secretary, those estimates pale in comparison with the number of jobs and revenue, including state tax revenue, that would be created by legalizing marijuana as a cash crop, but those economic benefits aren't going to allow Virginians to grow marijuana on their own private property with impunity.

There is a nearly endless list of things state law tells us we cannot do on our property and just about all of those restrictions are good for us as individuals and as a society of people living together side by side.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, meanwhile, are important to all of us.

The private property argument sounds really good. Who doesn't want to be king or queen of one's own demesne?

But there is not a single hunter who can train a rifle bullet not to fly through an adjoining property owner's airspace, should that hunter miss the deer and the bullet keeps flying on, completely ignorant of private property rights and who might be out enjoying them at that very minute.

Nor is there a single hunter capable of training their dogs to read “No Hunting” or “No Trespassing” signs and stop at a neighbor's property line.

The bullets and dogs are going to trespass.

There should continue to be one day a week during hunting season when property owners and their children and pets do not have to worry about the consequences of the rampant illiteracy among dogs and bullets.

So, long live hunting, and also Sunday as a day of rest.