Hunters in five West Virginia counties will soon have the option to hunt on Sundays.
Voters in Braxton, Webster, Wirt, Nicholas and Calhoun counties approved Sunday hunting, which is illegal in all but 14 of the state’s counties. The issue was on the ballots in Lewis and Gilmer counties as well, but did not pass. Although counties have had the option of placing the issue on the ballots for about 12 years, Jerry Jenkins, lieutenant colonel with the state Division of Natural Resources, said it doesn’t come up very often.
“This is the first time in a long time there has been any election,” he said.
Many of the 14 counties that allow Sunday hunting made that decision around 2002, he said. That’s when the Legislature voted to allow counties the option for Sunday hunting.
“It has always been illegal to hunt on Sundays in West Virginia until 2002,” Jenkins said.
According to information from the DNR, there doesn’t appear to be any negative effects on wildlife populations in counties that allow Sunday hunting, and few hunting-related injuries have been reported. The DNR doesn’t take an official stance on the issue but is responsible for enforcing the laws in counties that allow it.
There are several guidelines for Sunday hunting. For example, it is only allowed on private property.
“You have to have written permission from the landowner to hunt on their property,” Jenkins said.
It is not allowed on the Sunday preceding the Monday opening of a big game season, such as deer or turkey.
“Our deer season historically comes in on Thanksgiving week,” Jenkins said. “That Sunday prior to Thanksgiving you can’t Sunday hunt.”
Although most counties don’t offer the option to hunt on Sundays, Jenkins said it’s a popular choice among hunters.
“I think its pretty popular,” he said. “It’s on private property only, so I think it’s pretty popular. We get a lot of calls in here asking what counties you can hunt on Sundays and I guess people are willing to go to those counties.”
Sunday hunting is allowed in Boone, Brooke, Clay, Hancock, Jefferson, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Marshall, Mingo, Ohio, Wayne, Wetzel and Wyoming counties, in addition to the five that recently passed it. The results from those elections must be certified before the counties can begin.
Although the list of counties has grown, Jenkins said hunters shouldn’t expect Sunday hunting to open statewide anytime soon. The Legislature has considered that in the past, but hasn’t passed any legislation that would allow statewide Sunday hunting.
“”I think it’s pretty controversial,” Jenkins said. “A lot of our legislators don’t want to get involved in it and want to leave it up to the counties to decide.”
Calhoun County voters rejected Sunday hunting in 2002 by a vote of 928 against and 653 for. This time around, voters approved the measure 877 for and 729 against. In order for the issue to make it on the ballot, five percent of voters in each county had to sign a petition.
For information about Sunday hunting, visit http://www.wvdnr.gov/hunting/sundayhunt.shtm