HomeOutdoorsVirginia Approves Bill to Allow Hunting on Sundays Across Public Lands

Virginia Approves Bill to Allow Hunting on Sundays Across Public Lands

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Beginning July 1st, Virginia residents will be able to spend their Sundays hunting on public land for the first time in decades.

On Tuesday, legislation to open the Sabbath to hunters passed through the Virginia House of Delegates by a staggering 69-28 margin. And the Virginia Senate easily approved it with a 29-11 vote.

Now the bill is waiting for its final signature from Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has already voiced his approval.

The legislation comes from Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax), who has been working to open Sundays to hunters for years. In his opinion, the ban was abject because the public land was both purchased and maintained with money earned from hunting license sales.

Virginia’s religious-based “blue law” has prohibited hunters from using public land on Sundays for decades. However, the state did pass legislation that allowed hunting on private land in 2014.

If everything goes as planned, Virginia will open 1.65 million acres of national forest land, 71,000 acres of state land, and 216,000 acres of Virginia-owned wildlife management land to hunters. People will also have access to state parks and several military installations.

However, the bill will restrict hunting within 200 yards of churches. And it also disallows using dogs to hunt bears or deer Sundays.

Other public spots may open on the Sabbath as well. But the decision to do so sits with the landowners or managers.

The Bill to Open Virgina Land for Sunday Hunting Was the Fourth Attempt in Three Years

The bill was Governor Peterson’s fourth attempt to allow the sport on public property. He first proposed the idea in 2019, but it never made it past the committee.

However, the legislation narrowly made it through the House of Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Subcommittee this time around. Then it breezed through the final steps before making it to the governor’s desk.

Most who opposed the bill represented urban areas. Or, they simply maintained that the state should preserve the day for religious reasons. However, a note written by a coalition of national and in-state sportsmen’s groups seemed to be enough to sway enough voters.

“…Many hunters in Virginia would not have a place to hunt but for the public lands system,” the letter read. “Allowing Sunday hunting would double the number of hunting days for youth during the school year and provide additional flexibility for hardworking adults with limited opportunities to hunt during the workweek.”

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources also backed the idea because opening the day would essentially double their hunting season

“The repeal of the Sunday hunting prohibition places our public and private land hunters on equal footing,” DWR’s director Ryan Brown told Field and Stream. “Since the passage of Sunday hunting on private lands eight years ago, we have seen increased opportunity for our hunting community without detrimental impacts to our wildlife populations or user conflicts. We expect that the availability of public lands will likewise be a success on all counts.”