Group pushing for new vote on Sunday hunting
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If some determined West Virginians have their way, voters will once again decide whether to allow Sunday hunting in their home counties.
"Wait a minute," I hear some of you say. "I thought Sunday hunting was allowed."
"Wait a minute," I hear others say. "I thought we voted Sunday hunting down already."
Actually, both statements are true.
In 2001, the state Legislature passed a bill that overturned West Virginia's blue law against Sunday hunting. But, much to hunters' chagrin, the bill contained a provision that allowed individual county commissions to put the issue to a vote.
Forty-one commissions put it on the ballot, and in the spring of 2002, voters in all 41 of those counties voted to get rid of Sunday hunting.
So today, Sunday hunting is legal in 14 Mountain State counties and illegal in 41.
Cory Boothe and his friends want to change that.
Boothe, a teacher and rafting guide who lives near Mt. Nebo in Nicholas County, has launched petition drives in several counties to get the Sunday hunting issue placed on the ballot for the state's 2014 primary election.
Under the 2001 law, the issue can be placed on the ballot if 5 percent of a county's registered voters sign petitions requesting it.
"We're doing pretty well," Boothe said. "We already have enough signatures to get it on the ballot in three counties, and we're working to get the numbers we need in a whole bunch of others."
Boothe is counting on Internet-based social media to help get the word out.
"I've gone on websites that cater to hunters and fishermen, looking for volunteers to get petitions out to gas stations, gun shows, large employers and other places where there are lots of people," he said.
Boothe created a Facebook page, "Allow Sunday Hunting in West Virginia," which so far has accumulated 473 members.
"Support [for a renewed Sunday hunting initiative] has been overwhelming, to tell the truth," he said. "A lot has changed since 2002."
To support his case, Boothe offered some facts:
"Forty-three of the 50 states allow Sunday hunting statewide," he said. "So someone must think it's a good idea.
"Opponents argue that West Virginia shouldn't have Sunday hunting because West Virginians are churchgoing people. Well, the state with the highest church attendance in the country is Mississippi, and Mississippi has Sunday hunting. The states with the lowest church attendance are Maine and Massachusetts, and neither of them has Sunday hunting.
"Another of opponents' main arguments against Sunday hunting is that people are afraid they'll be shot while hiking through the woods. Well, Sunday hunting has been allowed in 14 West Virginia counties for more than 10 years now, and there hasn't been a single incident like that."
Boothe believes today's hunters and landowners will bring a different mindset to the ballot box during the 2014 election cycle.
"In 2002, we [sportsmen] had Sunday hunting, and we figured there was no way we could lose it," he said. "We didn't show up at the ballot box, and we got soundly defeated.
"This time around, we're trying to get back something we lost, so I feel sure we'll show up in much greater numbers. This is a drive for the good, working people of West Virginia to not be restrained by an antiquated blue law on their own land.
"In 2002, we got punched in the nose, and we laid on our backs for 10 years. Now it's time to do something about that."