SALEM, Ohio – All Ohio hunters may soon have an extra day to hunt wild birds and animals free of current restrictions that make it difficult to take advantage of legal Sunday hunting.
Ohio House Bill 493, sponsored by Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, proposes to eliminate private land restrictions that prohibit hunting wild birds or quadrupeds on Sunday for a large number of state outdoors enthusiasts.
It also changes the regulations regarding deer killed by motor vehicles.
The bill passed the Ohio House by a 92-2 vote in mid March and is currently in the Senate agriculture committee.
Losing hunters. Public land is currently open to Sunday hunting, and some private lands are also open with severe ownership and acreage limitations.
However, less than 3 percent of Ohio land is designated as public, and most of that acreage is in parks and open spaces not designated for hunting, according to Latta.
Prior to the bill, hunting on public hunting land was not a viable alternative for Ohio hunters, he said.
“I believe it is extremely important that we expand hunting opportunities in Ohio,” said Latta.
“In an age in which citizens work six- or seven-day weeks, by limiting most hunting to only Monday through Saturday, we are effectively losing our next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen.”
“Hunters and fishermen in Ohio really pay for conservation,” Latta said, noting more than $39 million in hunting and fishing license fees fund conservation programs that the general public can appreciate.
In addition, federal law mandates excise taxes on the purchase of ammunition and fishing rods fund the same type of programming.
Sunday hunts. The bill proposes to eliminate or change portions of the current laws outlined in Ohio Revised Code section 1531 that prohibit hunting of wild birds and quadrupeds on Sunday.
Quadrupeds, as defined, include cottontail rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs or woodchucks, white-tailed deer, wild boar, black bears, minks, weasels, raccoons, skunks, opossums, muskrats, fox, beavers, badgers, otters, coyotes and bobcats.
The bill also aims to eliminate current exceptions to the Sunday hunting restriction. Previously, hunters were allowed Sunday hunting on public lands designated by the Division of Wildlife as a state public hunting area; on registered private lands; on any private lands consisting of not less than 20 contiguous acres by the owner of the lands and specified members of the owner’s family; or on a commercial bird shooting or wild animal hunting preserve, or engaging in the sport of falconry; and hunting coyotes, fox, groundhogs or migratory waterfowl.
Not enough acres. Under the proposed bill, no landowner would be required to register his land for Sunday hunting.
The elimination of the rule also takes care of the ban on hunting by nonowners on at least 100 contiguous acres. Under current law, adjoining landowners could register together to meet the minimum acreage requirement, but if one landowner suddenly opted out, the entire parcel became illegal to hunt on.
The bill removes the 20-acre requirement and the restriction that nonowners only be allowed to hunt on property over 100 acres and registered in the state’s Hunter Access Program.
Regardless of any changes made, the requirement that hunters carry landowner permission is still in effect, Latta said. Trespassing laws and stiff punishments will still be upheld and enforced, he said.
“We want to be sure people understand that the landowner has the right to say no, and make sure that voice is heard and respected,” said Deering Dyer, director of local affairs for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Although the organization has no official stance on the bill, members have adopted a policy calling for the elimination of Sunday hunting acreage requirements, he said.
Claiming roadkill. The proposal also changes how deer killed by motor vehicles can be claimed and processed.
“This is a particularly interesting part of this bill, since 28,000 roadkill deer are reported each year, not to mention those that go unreported,” Latta said.
Previously, only resident drivers – those who had resided in Ohio for at least six months – could take possession of a deer after striking it with their car. With provisions of the new bill, any driver can take possession of the carcass provided that driver files a timely accident report with law enforcement authorities.
The bill also proposes eliminating the requirement that such a deer be possessed and consumed by the driver and the driver’s immediate family or be given to a private or public institution or charity.
It also requires the officer who investigates the accident give the driver a certificate of legal ownership for the deer. If the carcass goes unclaimed, the certificate may be given to any one of the above named groups or to another person.
History. In 1998, Sunday hunting in Ohio was approved by the General Assembly, but restrictions have made legal Sunday hunting difficult on private land.
“Although the 1998 bill opened up hunting on Sunday, it also created an extensive amount of private land restrictions that prevented sportsmen from taking advantage of this opportunity,” said Dan Long, Ohio field director for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.
“House Bill 493 removes the red tape and gives Ohio hunters the chance to find a place to hunt. The No. 1 reason sportsmen give up hunting is lack of access to hunting land, and this bill solves that problem.”
Entities in other states, including West Virginia, are currently challenging Sunday hunting laws and legislation. For more information on hunting legislation, visit www.ussportsmen.org.
(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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