December 2, 2023

Does Virginia Not Support Or Not Oppose Sunday Hunting?

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You may be asking yourself what is wrong with this man’s English? Nothing really. I was trying to find the right title that would accurately ask the question nobody seems to know the answer to. I guess it’s a matter of semantics.

Virginia, like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, is debating the issue of Sunday hunting. There are two polls that have been around the block. One poll came from the Virginia Deer Hunters Association and the other from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The VDHA sent out a questionnaire to its members and got responses back from about 20%, according to an article by Bill Cochran over at the Roanoke Times. The VDGIF sent out 5,000 and got a 40% return so far.

When the Virginia Deer Hunters Association recently asked more than 5,000 of its members: “Would you support Sunday hunting for the entire season?” The reply was 43 percent yes; 57 percent no.

“The last survey we did was February of 2005, said Denny Quaiff, editor of the organization’s Whitetail Times. “It was 62 percent opposed then. That’s pretty significant when you think about it — a 5-percent change in 20 months.”

You might think that if Sunday hunting were cushioned somewhat, say if it were permitted afternoons only, or on certain dates, or maybe for youth only, that the acceptance rate would go up. Right?

Fact is, the survey showed that it did just the opposite. Examples:

“Would you support Sunday hunting following the Saturday opening day of archery, muzzleloader and general firearms only?” Yes, 40 percent; No, 60 percent.

>How about after noon on Sunday? Yes, 33 percent; No. 67 percent.

>On private land only? Yes, 35 percent; No, 65 percent.

>For young people only? Yes, 23 percent; No, 77 percent.

“What I am seeing, the people who want Sunday hunting either want all of it or nothing,” Quaff said.

The results of the VDGIF will not be known and made public until sometime in January.

But some who support Sunday hunting say that if the question was worded differently, the answers would also be different.

Some participants who indicated that they were opposed to Sunday hunting said they didn’t intent to stay home and boycott it should it be approved. Like it or not, 54 percent said they would take advantage of Sunday hunting. Fifty-six percent said they belonged to a hunting club that probably would open its facilities to Sunday hunting.

“That right there is a 54-46 [in favor] vote in my eyes,” said Butch Ammon, a leading Sunday hunting advocate who lives in Richmond.

This is the reason for my oddly worded title. Would the responses really have been that much different if the question had been worded with, “Would you OPPOSE Sunday hunting”? I guess Ammon has a point. In choosing to word the question in the poll, “Would you support Sunday hunting”, if a responder took the question literally, it might mean that he wouldn’t support it but he wouldn’t oppose it either.

But in all honesty, are Virginia hunters that literal in their thinking? I don’t know but if you look more closely at the other results that Cochran reveals in his article, there is something that really jumps out at me.

The Virginia Deer Hunters Association survey reflected the graying nature of hunters. Eighty-two percent of the participants said they had been hunting for 25 years or more. Only one percent had hunted for five years or less. A scant eight percent were in the 18-to 35-age bracket, while more than 70 percent were age 46 and above. Just 3 percent were females.

Those who chose to respond to the VDHA survey, 70 percent were over age 46. I don’t think this percentage of those who chose to respond reflects the percentages of overall hunters in that same age group statewide. Older hunters are set in their ways and have a more difficult time adjusting to change. I also personally believe that older people have a firmer grasp of the understanding of respect for others and in this case landowners and non-hunters.

There are so many demographics to a survey of this kind that could be explored. It would certainly make for an interesting survey if it was done scientifically and in such a way as to reveal such vital information.

If my hunches are correct, then it will only be a matter of time before the more outspoken graying hunter will quietly slip out of the picture leaving a majority who would support Sunday hunting, providing of course that hunting in general doesn’t disintegrate.

Tom Remington