Sunday hunting has been legal on private land in the state since 2001. The legislature approved a measure which authorized hunting in all 55-counties after a bitter battle in Charleston. However, to earn support for the measure lawmakers allowed a clause in the law which enabled the measure to be put on the ballot and decided by the voters of each individual county. The very next election, in 2002, voters in 41-counties spoke clearly and closed Sunday hunting.
Since then, nothing has changed and the matter hasn’t seriously been discussed. Cory Boothe of Nicholas County however is ready to bring it back up.
“I think sportsmen didn’t show up at the ballot box in 2002,” Boothe said. “Not having something, people will show up wanting it.”
Boothe is also convinced communication and organization have changed in the decade since the fight. He believes social media is a measure by which a lot of sportsmen from various parts of the state can communicate and unite.
“I hear everyone saying, ‘Why hasn’t this happened yet?'” Boothe said. “It’s time to do something about it.”
Boothe believes the best chance to expand Sunday hunting will come in the state’s small, rural counties. He’s circulating petitions in Calhoun, Wirt, Gilmer, Nicholas, and Webster Counties. If he can get five percent of the voters to sign the petition, he can get the measure on the ballot. He fully realizes the first hurdle is small compared to the second. He’ll face an uphill climb against the powerful West Virginia Farm Bureau if the measure is put to a vote.
“Without a doubt,” said Boothe. “In my mind the Farm Bureau hates deer, but at the same time they don’t give us a management tool to harvest the deer by either not allowing hunting whatsoever or not allowing that additional day on Sunday.”
The biggest advocacy group in favor of Sunday hunting during the 2001 legislative fight was coal miners. Boothe says that hasn’t changed.
“I am HIGHLY supported by local coal companies,” he said. “That’s probably where the majority of the petition votes will come from. They want to hunt legally on thier own land on their only day off of the week.”
Boothe says it also comes back to a philisophical question. He maintains it’s unfair for a landowner to be blocked from hunting on their own land on Sunday.
“People should have that decision to make,” he said. “However, if Sunday hunting is passed on private land in West Virginia, landowners don’t have to say ‘yes.’ They don’t have to allow anybody to hunt on Sunday, but people who wish to do so will have the option.”
Boothe says the Sunday hunting option is available in all but seven states in the country.
The West Virginia counties where Sunday hunting is presently allowed, on private land only, are Boone, Brooke, Clay, Hancock, Jefferson, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Marshall, Mingo, Ohio, Wayne, Wetzel, and Wyoming Counties.
You can contact Boothe about his petition drive HERE.