The Facebook message sent to me almost a year ago wasn’t all that unusual. It was from Cory Boothe, a listener/follower, who said he planned to start up a petition drive to get Sunday hunting on the ballot in his county. I admitted, I was skeptical and told him as much. He wasn’t the first one who had suggested a plan of self action on the matter to me.
I was a fervent supporter of the idea of removing the longtime ban on Sunday hunting in West Virginia back in 2002 when it was the hot topic of the legislative session. I expressed my desire to see it happen on the radio and in this column. Ultimately the legislature voted to allow Sunday hunting in West Virginia statewide, but they had to add a couple of concessions to get it passed. First, the allowance would be on private land only and secondly the legislation also allowed for a county’s voters to decide in a referendum style vote.
The very next election, voters in 41 counties had the measure on the ballot and in ever single one of those counties, the voters shot down the idea and shut the doors on Sunday hunting. Those counties where the Sunday hunting was popular it didn’t even come up.
When I saw the overwhelming results of the vote in those 41 counties, I figured there was no use talking about it again. When the voters have spoken, what more is there to say? I remember telling Cory, “That fight has already been fought and settled in West Virginia.”
Cory wasn’t deterred by my skepticism and pressed on. Over the months he continued to correspond with me and gave me various updates on where he was. He started out just looking to get it on the ballot in Nicholas County, but he was getting support from others and soon had petitions in every sporting goods store and various gas stations and other locations throughout a seven county section of central West Virginia. Ultimately, he prevailed and got five percent of the registered voters in seven counties to sign on. He’d cleared the first hurdle and Sunday hunting was on the ballot for this week’s primary.
I noticed in talking to him several things have changed since 2002. When the matter was put to voters last time, there was a well organized opposition led by the West Virginia Farm Bureau. They are a powerful group, but at least for this referendum they seem to have been content to sit on the sidelines.
Another change from 2002 was social media. Cory told me he’s been able to be very active on Facebook and communicate quickly with a large following of sportsmen who want to see the law changed. Social media has become a powerful tool.
Private property rights are also causing some to take a second look. The Obama administration takes a lot of heat, deserved and otherwise, over a erosion of personal rights. Whether the perception is real or suspected, it is an issue. Many landowners are growing weary of being told what they can and cannot do on their own property.
Finally, attitudes change. Although a lot of us were working six days a week in 2002, it seems a lot more of us are today. Times are tough and those who are fortunate to be working at all are doing all they can to keep their job or working to earn extra money just to keep the family budget intact. Both goals in many cases require working on Saturday and for now, giving up several days of hunting
Boothe seems pumped by the support and it would appear there is a real desire to make the change, at least in those seven counties where it’s on the ballot. He’s bolstered by support from national organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the NRA, and other pro-Sunday hunting groups. Also added to the momentum is the recent action by the Virginia General Assembly which passed a measure with widespread support to lift a longtime prohibition on Sunday hunting in that state.
There are some religious organizations who object and individuals who dislike the idea based on their faith. Their opposition seems to be minimal and the matter appears to have a strong chance of passage.
The Sunday hunting prohibition is the last of the old “blue laws” still on the books. Although I never thought it would happen, it may be coming to an end in those seven counties where voters will have it before them on Tuesday.