W.Va. voters to decide on Sunday hunting

May 12, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - To hunt or not to hunt on Sunday?

That is the question voters in Berkeley and Morgan counties will answer during Tuesday's primary election.

County commissioners in both counties decided the issue of Sunday hunting should be resolved by voters.

Sunday hunting is allowed on private property with the owner's consent, following state legislation passed last year.

The original intent of lawmakers who supported the bill was to ban Sunday hunting, except in counties that voted to allow it. Under the bill that passed, Sunday hunting is allowed unless voters decide to ban it.

Residents are divided over the issue.

Opponents think hunting on Sunday is dangerous, and that the day should be reserved for rest and relaxation.

"There are people with very strong religious feelings about a quiet Sunday," said Berkeley County Commissioner John Wright, who is also a retired United Methodist minister.


"Many people see it as a family day to go to the woods or meadow to enjoy nature," he said.

Wright said people are concerned about more gunfire and greater danger, but he said there is no official indication that there is a greater chance of accidents on Sunday than any other day.

"It's nothing I'm going to lobby for," he said.

Supporters of Sunday hunting say there is no cause for concern.

Dick Pharr, co-owner of Sparks Sport Center in Martinsburg, said he has dealt with hunters for about 30 years. He said some people work full time, sometimes six days a week. Allowing Sunday hunting would give them more opportunity to hunt.

"A lot of people opposed to Sunday hunting believe the woods will be crawling with hunters, but in other states that have Sunday hunting that is not the case," Pharr said.

He said since the hunting is allowed only on private property, land owners are in control, and that they need to be responsible and limit the number of hunters they allow to hunt on their land.

"It's overblown in people's minds that there will be a deluge of hunters shooting and that sort of thing," Pharr said.

Morgan County Commissioner Thomas R. Swaim said he doesn't favor Sunday hunting.

"I won't be upset" if it is voted down, he said.

Swaim said the County Commission felt strongly that citizens should make the decision to allow hunting on Sunday or not.

Hunting seasons in West Virginia are primarily in the fall. Pharr said there are four weeks between April and May for spring turkey hunting, which isn't a major season. That season ends next week.

State Division of Natural Resources hunting guidelines prohibit hunting on public lands or waters on Sunday.

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