Public Hearing Set Rifle Hunting Regs

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2013

BUCKINGHAM – Residents will have an opportunity during a public hearing held in conjunction with the March 11 meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors meeting to voice their support or opposition regarding a proposed change to the county's Rifle Hunting Ordinance.

That change would make it lawful “to hunt deer and bear from the ground or an elevated stand with a .23 caliber or larger center fire.”

Currently the Rifle Hunting Ordinance only authorizes hunting deer or bear with a .23 or larger caliber rifle from a stand at least ten (10) feet from the ground.

Email newsletter signup

At the board's February 11 meeting, County Administrator Rebecca Carter advised that to meet the April 15 requirement stipulated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regarding modifications to the county's ordinance, the committee needed to move as quickly as possible.

She explained that the committee met earlier in the day and the majority of the committee is recommending the ordinance be changed to include rifle-hunting deer and bear from the ground.

Carter said the voting committee members attending the meeting included Donald Shumaker, Slim Christian, David Martin and Alan Cox. She added, “Mr. Christian voted in opposition stating that he just doesn't approve of hunting from the ground and he wanted that stated.”

Carter, who along with Assistant County Administrator Karl Carter attended the committee meeting, explained that due to VDGIF's April 15 deadline for receiving modifications, the committee is “respectfully requesting the board schedule the public hearing.”

The county administrator shared that the county attorney was unable to attend the committee meeting and has not had an opportunity to review the language of the proposed amendment.

She told supervisors, “I am sure he could review it prior to a public hearing in March if that be your desire.”

Carter added that the March 11 meeting is also the time that agencies and departments would be presenting their budget presentations. She suggested scheduling the hearing after allotting time for those presentations.

In turn, Supervisor Joe Chambers moved to schedule the hearing for 7:45 p.m. during the March 11 meeting.

After the motion drew a second, Supervisor Cassandra Stish asked if the committee had considered hunting from a fixed position from the ground in addition to the current elevated stand requirement. She added that she knew there were some concerns about using rifles from the ground while hunting with dogs.

Committee member Donald Shumaker explained that members of the committee solicited input from numerous citizens around the county regarding the issues.

“A lot of the hunt clubs already pretty much regulate how they want to hunt,” offered Shumaker, explaining that they would consider whether or not it would be safe in their particular situation to allow rifle hunting from the ground. He added, “Which in some situations they may not if there are too many people close together in an open area.”

Stish questioned, “So would you be opposed to adding 'from a fixed position'?”

Responding, Shumaker stated, “This ordinance needs to be just as it is (proposed). It's straightforward, simple, yes or no.”

He explained that as far as safety concerns, such as shooting toward the road or a building, there were already state codes in effect that make those actions illegal. “So, we don't need to further complicate this one,” stated Shumaker. “What we are seeking is that we can hunt on the ground with center fire rifles-just like you can with shotguns.”

Continuing, Shumaker shared that they have been through all of the research data “that proves without a doubt that there are far less accidents and fatalities with the rifles than the shotguns.”

He added, “So the dog hunters, they have to set their own rules, I guess. But as far as the safety-end of it, if they are shooting in the wrong direction, reckless endangerment with a firearm, they are guilty of a crime; or, shoot across the road or up and down the road.”

Shumaker offered, “Somebody can get hurt just as easy with a shotgun doing that as they can with a rifle.”

Stish noted, “So you did consider it.”

Shumaker responded, “Yes, we tried to cover every angle of it.” Adding that he and other members of the committee talked with hunt clubs, he shared, “The majority of the ones I talked to were in favor of having this and then they'd do their own policing within their own ranks.”

He reminded, “If we pass this, it's a county ordinance, if for some reason down the road a year from now, two years even, five years, if all of a sudden there is a rash of accidents, human fatalities, due to rifle hunting from the ground, then we can always come back and look at it again and change it.”

Supervisor Bill Talbert, reminding that surrounding counties allow rifle hunting from the ground and the statistics are not indicative of increased incidents, shared that hunting from an elevated stand poses a safety risk for older hunters.

“I think what we have to do is just keep an open-mind and really look at what is proven to be true statistic-wise and what is fact,” stated Shumaker. “And, then I guess the supervisors, you all, hopefully, will look toward what your constituents want, the majority, which I guess you supposedly represent the majority or what is right.”

He shared, “My findings are that the majority of hunters in Buckingham County want this.”

Shumaker, an avid outdoorsman and renowned wildlife expert and writer, concluded, “If I personally thought this was going to be really unsafe and cause people to get hurt or killed, even though I like rifles, I would be against it.”

As the discussion ebbed, Stish expressed her appreciation to the committee members for the time and effort they have spent addressing the issue of rifle hunting from the ground.

Subsequently, the motion to schedule the hearing on the proposed amendment to allow rifle hunting from the ground drew the board's unanimous support.