Buckingham Approves Rifle Hunting On Ground

Published 3:43 pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

BUCKINGHAM – Following the fourth public hearing in four months on proposals involving rifle-hunting, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, with a four-to-three vote, amended the county's rifle hunting ordinance to include the use of rifles .23 caliber or larger to hunt deer and bear from the ground within a ten-foot perimeter of a stationary and marked point.

The current rifle hunting ordinance only authorizes use of rifles .23 caliber or larger when hunting deer and bear from a stand elevated at least 10-feet from the ground.

Later in the meeting, County Attorney E. M. Wright, Jr. stressed that because the county did not meet the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' deadline for submitting revisions, the rife-hunting ordinance, as amended, would not be in effect for the upcoming hunting season but would go into effect the following season.

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Wright also addressed comments made by some in the audience who said the rifle hunting issue should be voted on by the people. The attorney explained that the state legislature rules on what items can be placed on the ballot and currently that issue is not on the list.

Additionally, County Administrator Rebecca Carter advised that the amendment must be sent to DGIF for its review. She stated, “I am sending the proposed language of the amendment to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for their comments as they are the enforcement agency for the ordinance.”

Presentation on Proposal

Initially, the June 10 hearing was set to gather public input on whether to rescind the county's current rifle hunting ordinance and adopt an ordinance stating that there are no county regulations on hunting game with firearms in Buckingham County other than those set forth by VDGIF and any applicable state/federal laws.

Prior to the hearing, the county administrator provided a slide presentation comparing the current rifle-hunting ordinance with VDGIF regulations.

Those state regulations authorize: (1) Rifles used for deer or bear must be .23 caliber or larger. (2) Rifles, including air rifles, may be used for taking wild animals and wild birds except migratory game birds and waterfowl, and where prohibited by local ordinance. (3) Rifles, including air rifles, pistols, and revolvers may be used for hunting crows, except where prohibited by local ordinances.

(4) Rifles, including air rifles, pistols, and revolvers may be used for hunting turkeys, except where prohibited by local ordinance. (5) Pistols, revolvers, and muzzle loading pistols may be used for small games, except where prohibited by local ordinance.

(6) Pistols and revolvers are lawful for deer and bear hunting only in those counties where deer and bear with rifles is lawful. Cartridges used must be .23 caliber or larger and have a manufacturer's rating of 350 foot-pounds muzzle energy or more. (7) Muzzle loading shotguns, muzzle loading rifles, or archery tackle may be used to hunt during the firearms seasons where not prohibited.

Before concluding, Carter reminded that the board was not considering a “ditch to ditch” ordinance proposal, which she said had been “laid to rest.”

Public Comments

Jamie Oliver was first to speak. He stated, “The Game and Inland Fisheries has enough to do with the laws we have to abide by. The county needs to keep the Game and Inland Fisheries out of Buckingham's business. We need to control our own laws.”

Oliver added, “In my personal opinion, we shouldn't change the laws we already have. If people don't want to hunt from a tree stand with a rifle then get on the ground and shoot a shotgun.”

He told supervisors, “You all are supposed to represent the people of Buckingham. So let the people tonight show you what they want done.” Subsequently, he asked those to stand who were opposed to the proposed revision rescinding the current ordinance and adopting an ordinance stating that there are no specific county regulations on hunting other than those of the VDIF along with applicable state and federal laws.

“That would be all of us,” stated a man from the audience, as the majority of those in attendance stood.

Oliver responded, “Thank you dog hunters of Buckingham.”

After seeking clarification on the proposal to rescind the current ordinance, Sherry Ragland, speaking on behalf of a hunt club, stated, “They want to leave it like it is for fear that later on down the road this will eliminate dog hunting-which a lot of people are trying to do anyway.”

She added that she was fearful that if hunting with rifles from the ground was authorized, bullets would go into homes because of hunters unfamiliar with Buckingham's diverse terrain.

Bobby Jones, a former supervisor, offered that he didn't care which way the board voted but the issue has been going on too long. He also questioned spending taxpayer money on something so frivolous. “Please vote on something tonight,” he said.

Pete Kapuscinski, sharing that he has hunted in many different states, some that allowed hunting with rifles from the ground and some that did not, offered that he believed that stand hunting with a rifle is much safer.

He told supervisors that if they rescinded the rifle hunting ordinance they needed to ensure rigorous enforcement of laws pertaining to not hunting from a moving vehicle and wearing of blaze orange. “Because there will be accidents in this county,” he concluded.

Wayne Sears shared that authorizing hunting with rifles from the ground would not deprive those that hunt with dogs from doing so. He offered, “This would not take away anything from those who want to hunt with shotguns. Don't take something away from us because you want to keep something that you've got.”

Doug Oliver stated, “We get along just fine right now hunting ten feet elevated off the ground.” Noting that he is a firearms instructor, he explained that there is less velocity behind buckshot and it would not travel as far.

He talked about the number of hunters who are willing to pay top dollar to rent hunting land but usually do not look for land in Buckingham because they cannot use rifles.

“Bring in rifles and these guys will double,” stated Oliver. He said that allowing rifle hunting from the ground would not only cause hunt club dues to increase but could also decrease the amount of land available to clubs.

Conversely, Bill McDaniel said he supported rifle hunting from the ground because older hunters as well as those with medical problems did not need to be climbing a tree to get in a stand.

Clarence Catlett added that the majority of hunters use rifles with scopes, which enables them to see much better than those hunting with shotguns.

Eddie Wood shared, “You are hearing a whole lot of emotion about renting land and such as that. I am a landowner and a farmer. I need and deserve as a citizen of this country the right to protect my cattle. The way it stands today, I am limited on what I can and cannot use to kill coyotes in my backyard if they happen to be attacking my cattle.”

He continued, “I am the one that owns the land. I am the one that pays the taxes on the land. I don't rent it. I deserve the right to use the rifle that I may or may not have at hand at that time to protect my livestock.”

Perry Warner, countering that rifle hunting would open the door to more hunters coming in to lease land, explained, “If I'm looking to lease land and I have money, I'm going to look for the counties that are in the top ten for the number of deer taken and for the biggest bucks.”

He offered, “I don't care if you use dogs or you don't but why should I as a hunter not have the privilege to do what the majority of the state can do?”

Warner concluded, “Whatever the decision is, it definitely needs to be done tonight.”

Larry Baker shared that asking an 80-year-old man to climb a tree on his own land to shoot an animal or to designate the kind of weapon he must use is totally foolish.

Baker stated, “Only four percent of the people in the state of Virginia buy a hunting license. That's 96 percent that do not buy a hunting license.” He added, “That 96 percent could vote hunting out totally in the state at anytime.” He stated, “We've got to learn to respect the landowner and the 80-year-old man.”

Meade Garrett was the last to speak. He stated, “My concern is that we are going to turn over our firearms regulations to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. There may be some good in it and it may not.” He shared that the problem he has is that what's good in Chesterfield may not be good in Buckingham.

Addressing supervisors, he added, “If we let the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries tell us what is good for us in Buckingham, we don't need ya'll.”

Proposed Amendment

After the hearing, Supervisor Danny Allen asked to speak. Offering that he was the one that brought the issue back, he said he did so because he was absent when it came up in April.

At that time, a tie vote shot down a proposal to rescind the current rifle-hunting ordinance and replace it with the stipulation that there are no special county ordinances on hunting game with firearms other than those set forth by DGIF and any applicable state/federal laws.

He shared, “My main objective was to get people out of the trees because I have two good friends who fell out of trees. One broke his back and was paralyzed and one broke his back and was lucky enough to start walking again.”

Allen stated, “Listening to what everybody is saying, it's more to it.” He added that it appeared that the county might be giving up too much control to the DGIF.

Explaining that he had an idea that basically would do what he intended to do-allow hunting with a rifle from the ground, Allen said that he wanted to rescind his proposal to get rid of the rifle hunting ordinance and come back with an amendment to the ordinance that would get people out of the trees.

Sharing that he was not good at reading in public, Allen handed Supervisor Cassandra Stish his written notes and asked if she would read them.

Stish began, “To hunt deer and bear from a stand elevated at least 10-feet from the ground or within a ten-foot perimeter from a stationary and marked point-such point having been established by an easily visible fixed-marker such as but not limited to a ribbon around a tree or a pin placed in the ground with a ribbon or flag attached-with a .23 or larger caliber.”

She continued, “However such rifles can only be loaded while the hunter is in the elevated tree stand or within the 10-feet of the stationary identified and marked point, if ground hunting, or while attempting to recover wounded game within a 300-yard perimeter of the elevated stand or identified and marked point from which the game was shot.”

Stish offered, “This is an extension, I think, of where I was intending to go earlier in the process.”

Agreeing, Allen stated that the proposed revision would provide the option of hunting from an elevated stand or within a ten-foot perimeter of a marked point on the ground.

“It gives you the options of going up the tree ten foot if you want to or getting down from the tree and be within a ten-foot perimeter of a stand,” said Allen, adding that he was putting his proposal on the floor as a formal motion.

Both the county administrator and Stish cautioned, “We would need clarification.” Stish added, “I am almost positive we would have to have another public hearing.”

Carter, also questioning whether a hearing would be needed, asked what the difference was between Allen's proposal and the one made by Stish in March regarding a fixed location.

Stish offered, “They said it would be enforceable with changes. I am assuming these are the changes that make it enforceable, where you have the marker identifying the stand.”

After Supervisor Bill Talbert seconded the motion, Supervisor Donnie Bryan started the discussion.

“Mr. Chairman, so what I see is a yes vote is to ignore all the people in this crowd,” said Bryan, noting that most of those in the auditorium did not want rifle hunting from the ground. He asked how many times they were going to vote on an ordinance that people did not want.

Talbert responded that most of the audience was there to support hunting with dogs. He added that they were concerned that people were trying to do away with the tradition of hunting with dogs. He reminded that when they had the first hearing about a proposal to authorize hunting from the ground, there were just as many in the auditorium that night supporting rifle hunting.

Continuing, Talbert stated, “We are simply saying, and I admire Mr. Allen for saying it, get the rifle out of the tree and quit paralyzing people.”

Supervisor John Staton, who taught hunter education for 28 years, focused on the statistics that he said have been kicked-around. Noting that he receives the Virginia accident reports every year, he shared that he feels the statistics are skewed because there are about ten to one shotguns to rifles.

He added that tree stand exemptions are available from DGIF for medical and/or age-related reasons. Additionally, Staton said in reading the reports, 80 percent or more of the tree stand related accidents are attributed to operator error.

Noting the current rife-hunting ordinance requiring the elevated stand, Staton shared, “In my opinion, I would like to see it stay the way it is.”

Stish shared that she was surprised when Allen brought forth his proposal. “It is essentially a more flushed-out version of what I initially brought forward as a compromise,” she stated. “I like it mainly because it keeps Buckingham's control.”

She added, “This is not going to compete with or impede the activity of dog groups.” Stish said the amendment also settles the concerns of the non-hunting landowners she represents.

“They have called me. They don't show up here but they are the silent majority who have let me know that they are deeply concerned,” said Stish.

Following the discussion, the motion passed with Supervisors Allen, Stish, Talbert and Joe Chambers voting in favor of the amendment to add hunting with rifles from a fixed/marked location on the ground. Staton, Bryan, and Snoddy cast opposing votes.