Sunday hunting under fire in West Virginia

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SALEM, Ohio – Last year, the West Virginia legislature approved a measure to permit Sunday hunting. This month, the law stands the chance of reversal.

The state Farm Bureau has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, and a bill has been introduced in the House that would reverse last year’s measure to permit Sunday hunting.

West Virginia House Bill 4142 would require a county voter referendum before sportsmen could hunt on Sunday. The bill, introduced by House Speaker Robert Kiss in late January, reverses the vote taken by West Virginia legislators that permits Sunday hunting unless a county voted to oppose it.

The bill is pending in the House agriculture and natural resources committee.

Currently, 42 states, including West Virginia and Ohio, permit Sunday hunting.

Confusion. The West Virginia Farm Bureau filed the suit March 19 with the Supreme Court against the state’s Division of Natural Resources, based on the interpretation and constitutionality of the law.

The suit claims legislators who did not read the bill closely before its passage were under the impression that the bill would require counties to individually approve Sunday hunting by referendum when, in fact, the law’s wording permits hunting unless a county prohibits it through a countywide vote.

“There’s a clear difference in the title and body of the law, and the title must agree with what the bill does,” said Robert Williams, executive secretary of the state Farm Bureau.

The bill’s title led legislators to believe hunting was prohibited until approved, directly opposing how the division interpreted and implemented the law.

The state Farm Bureau has a longstanding policy to oppose Sunday hunting, Williams said, noting the reasons for member support or opposition are varied.

“Members are against Sunday hunting based on religious grounds, and some view the day as theirs to go outside with their families. For them, it’s an issue of safety,” Williams said.

“Some of our 15,000 members are for hunting, but some are just against the whole idea,” he said.

During the last hunting season, Sunday hunting was allowed statewide.

On the ballot. Thirty-two counties in the state will decide the fate of Sunday hunting in those counties on the May statewide primary ballot.

Counties where hunting opportunities will be determined through referendum include Barbor, Berkeley, Calhoun, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Mason, Mercer, Mineral, Monongalia, Monroe, Morgan, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Summers, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wirt and Wood.

(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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