SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — Voters in seven counties of West Virginia will be asked whether Sunday hunting should be authorized again in their county in Tuesday’s primary election. It’s the first time the question has been put before voters since the West Virginia Legislature authorized Sunday hunting on private land statewide in a 2002 bill and also authorized a county by county election on whether it should be allowed.
“The ballot will read, ‘Shall Sunday hunting be authorized in _____ County?’” said Cory Boothe who instigated the grass roots effort to bring the subject back to the voters. “The law states it’s private land only. Voters need to be aware even though the ballot doesn’t state it’s private land only, that’s what the law allows.”
The initial legislation limited Sunday hunting to private property. Soon after Governor Bob Wise signed the bill in 2002 opponents were quickly busy gathering signature to have the measure placed on the ballot. In 41 counties Sunday hunting was closed the next election.
Booth decided last year enough time had passed to reconsider, at least in some places.
“It took five percent of voters to sign a petition to get it on the ballot, that was a fairly easy process,” he said. “We’ll see where we go from there.”
He was able to get petitions to put the question on the ballot in Braxton, Calhoun, Gilmer, Lewis, Nicholas, Webster, and Wirt Counties.
Booth said the support for the campaign has been tremendous and he’s encountered no organized opposition. He believes it’s because sportsmen are more informed and a lot of attitudes have changed in 12 years.
“I see more people working a six day work week rather than a five day work week,” said Booth. “It’s always a lot easier for me to get the word out with social media, whereas in 2002 that wasn’t the case.”
Booth said it’s as much about private property rights as it is about hunting freedom.
“It’s private land only, hunt clubs, and private land where you have permission to hunt,” explained Booth. “But if somebody is not in favor of it, they can still say, ‘No not on my land.’”
The Virginia General Assembly recently lifted the longtime ban on Sunday hunting in the neighboring Old Dominion. Booth said with that restriction gone, West Virginia is the last holdout without Sunday hunting in the region. He believed the action by Virginia lawmakers opened some eyes and boosted the cause in West Virginia.
Booth is unsure if other counties will want to make a change in future elections. He indicated it would have been easy to get more counties with the ballot question this time, but wanted to stick with the initial seven and see what happens.
“It all depends on what the people of those counties feel,” said Booth. “If they don’t want it in their county I obviously don’t want to force it, but if they do want it I want to be able to help them in whatever way possible.”