As of Tuesday, there were 2,752 Senate and House bills and resolutions introduced in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session. As we’ve covered extensively, many relate to firearms. Several more concern hunting, fishing, licensing and outdoors policy.
Here’s a look:
Del. Hyland F. “Buddy” Fowler, Jr. (R-District 55) has HB 449, providing that any person convicted of violating a hunting, fishing, or trapping law may also be prohibited from hunting, fishing, or trapping for 1-5 years. Fowler is also championing a House Joint Resolution commending the Virginia 4-H shotgun development team, last year’s national champions.
Sen. Creigh Deeds, (D-District 25) wants to change the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ name to Department of Wildlife Resources. Why? Maybe to deemphasize the “game” management role of the agency. An email to Deeds’ office wasn’t answered.
Sen. David W. Marsden (D-District 37) has SB 886, somewhat similar to a bill retired Speaker of the House Bill Howell advanced a couple years ago that failed by a single vote.
Marsden’s bill would prohibit dog owners from allowing their dogs to run at large on another person’s property after that person gave notice to keep the dogs out. A first occurrence generates a civil penalty of $100 per dog with second offenses costing $250. An exception comes if the dogs are released on properties larger than 500 acres that the dog owners own or have permission to hunt.
Marsden’s bill also makes releasing hunting dogs on public roads or either side of those roads within 100 feet of the center line a Class 4 misdemeanor. It also essentially nullifies the blanket right-to-retrieve law by requiring hunters of game other than fox or raccoon to get landowner permission before entering another’s property to retrieve dogs—another Class 4 misdemeanor.
All I’ve got to say about this bill is many dog clubs operate respectfully; too many others don’t. This bill should surprise no one.
A boatload of bills was launched related to the menhaden reduction fishery in the Chesapeake and the Atlantic Coast, most in response to Omega Protein’s willful recent overfishing.
One bill would prohibit purse netting in the lower Chesapeake; others place future allocations squarely in the hands of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission with edicts to follow Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission limits. Most recreational anglers are rejoicing.
Legislation related to waterfowl blinds surface almost every year. This year, HB 173 by Del.Paul E. Krizek (D-District 44) and SB 435 by Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-District 36) direct DGIF not to license stationary waterfowl blinds in any area where a local governing body prohibits hunting birds with guns.
Krizek called to explain that he seeks to amend this to specify that it pertains to a situation involving a section of narrow water in Little Hunting Creek. He said it isn’t possible to shoot in any direction without potentially hitting homes. I viewed the location via online mapping. It is narrow.
Of course, the riparian owners could license “blinds” they “intend” to hunt from on their waterfront, sticking up a couple 2x4s with a scrap of burlap on it and “post” the waterway as is done along miles of Rappahannock, Pamunkey, Mattaponi and more riverfront to keep hunters 500-yards away in either direction from their “duck blinds.”
Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-District 17) seems to somewhat counter these bills with SB 509, which prohibits any city or county east of the I-95 corridor from prohibiting otherwise lawful hunting of migratory game birds in the jurisdictional waters of the Commonwealth. It adds that no stake or stationary waterfowl blind erected in such public waters can be less than 150 yards from any occupied residence, church or commercial building, unless the owner gives written permission to for the blind to be closer.
Sen. A. Benton “Ben” Chafin (R-District 38) has SB 774, a bill prohibiting guaranteed hunts for deer, bear or wild turkey. It also prohibits landowners from leasing land for hunting for deer, bear or turkey for fewer than three days.
Del. James E. Edmunds, II (R-District 60) offers HB 388, authorizing DGIF to create a special license for hunting elk in the elk management zone. You still need a general hunting license. It also authorizes setting up quotas and procedures.
Del. Michael J. Webert (R-District 18) has HB 963, requiring the DGIF director to authorize killing bears when they are damaging crops, including during a harvest. The bill prohibits the director from authorizing nonlethal control measures unless they are specifically requested by the owner or lessee of the land in concern.
Senator Richard H. Stuart (R-District 28) proposes SB 335, which requires the Board of DGIF to waive fees for hunting or fishing licenses for active duty military personnel and veterans. Stuart also has SB 336, authorizing employees of organized nonprofit tax-exempt youth camps that holds a special fishing permit for certain youth camps to fish without a license in public waters adjacent to property owned by the camp. Current law only authorizes camp members under 18 at such camp to fish without a license.
William C. Wampler III (R-District 4) has HB 1188, which directs the DGIF board to add bear hunting to the existing license to hunt deer and turkey. There is an option to purchase a separate bear tag. The price would be $12 for residents age 16 or older, $7.50 for residents under 16, and $60 for a nonresident older than 16.
Other bills relate to restrictions on outdoor shooting ranges, how conservation police officers may be appointed and promoted, sale of personal taxidermy items and more. We’ll keep you posted.