SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Amid changing attitudes in West Virginia one Kanawha County resident believes the time has come to test how much things have changed in his neck of the woods. Joe Stern decided several months ago the time had come to see whether Kanawha County voters were willing to allow hunting on Sunday.
“We feel like there are so many people now, especially in this economy, Sunday is their only day off,” he said. “Although I’m not advocating not going to church because we are in church every Sunday. But there are so many people who can only get off on Sunday to spend time in the woods with their family we feel like the time is right to at least make the attempt.”
Efforts to change the law in seven other counties have been successful in the last two elections. Voters in Mason and Roane Counties agreed to open Sunday hunting last November. Voters in Braxton, Calhoun, Wirt, Nicholas, and Webster Counties approved the measure in the 2014 primary election. Stern hopes to continue that trend next May, but he has a mountain to climb before then.
Unlike those aforementioned counties, Kanawha County isn’t as rural and attitudes are slower to change in the city. It’s also the state’s most populous counties and just getting on the ballot will require a petition with 7,000 certified voter signatures.
“I knew it was going to take a while, that’s why I started a year in advance,” he said. “I knew every name we got on the petition weren’t going to be legal signatures. I’m hoping to get somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 signatures just to make sure we can get it on the ballot.”
So far, he’s collected about 1,800 signatures and has the petition at 50 locations around the county. Stern said he’s found three key factors which seem to be fueling his progress in the push to change the law.
“One, it’s the economy. People don’t have a lot of free time. Two, people’s ideas have changed, even if you are in church Sunday there are still six hours or so you can get out into the woods. But third I think people are getting fed up with the government holding back their rights,” he said.
The legislature crafted the enabling legislation to legalized Sunday hunting statewide, but voters have the option of voting it in or out after going through the petition process. It’s also limited to private land only.
“There are those who don’t want it, but when I explain it’s only on private land and has nothing to do with Kanawha State Forest or any public piece of property, they come around a little bit,” Stern said.
Although it’s a daunting proposition, Stern believed somebody needed to give it a shot, so he got involved. He said it’s an effort for everybody–but also a personal crusade for himself.
“My son finally got a job and a lot of times Sunday is the only day he has off. In the past it was nice to be able to go out into the woods,” he said. “I have a small farm near Tornado and I’d like to be able to do on Sunday what I can do any other day of the week.”
Learn more about the effort at the Kanawha County Sunday Hunting Page on Facebook.