Michael A. Sawyers
A lot of people talk about wanting more Sunday hunting in West Virginia, but hardly anybody ever does anything about it.
Enter Cory Boothe is a school teacher in Fayette County and an avid hunter.
Boothe is a man on a mission.
“Ten years ago hunters got punched in the nose and landed on their backs and they’ve been there ever since,” Boothe told me Tuesday.
A decade ago or so, legislation dealing with Sunday hunting passed successfully through the Legislature.
For a year, hunting took place on Sundays for any game animal that was in season, with the exception that hunting was not legal on a Sunday that was the day before a big game opener.
Written into the bill was the option to petition the law to referendum on a county-by-county basis.
Forty-one counties did so and voted down Sunday hunting.
It remains legal to hunt on the Sundays mentioned above in 14 counties.
Jefferson is one of those counties.
The others are Brooke, Boone, Clay, Hancock, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Marshall, Mingo, Ohio, Wayne, Wetzel and Wyoming.
Boothe wants Sunday hunting in as many counties as possible. By law, referendum votes must be at least five years apart.
“I already have enough signatures in three counties to bring the issue to a vote in the spring primary election in 2014,” Boothe said. He said he wasn’t ready yet to name the counties.
Boothe said a referendum vote can be initiated by getting signatures of 5 percent of the registered voters in a county.
“That means we would need 865 signatures in Mineral County, 713 in Hampshire, 404 in Grant and 438 in Hardy,” Boothe said. He is looking for assistance throughout the state from like-minded hunters.
Boothe’s email is email@example.com. There is a social networking presence at facebook.com/SundayHuntWV that even contains a petition form that can be downloaded.
In the counties that allow Sunday hunting, it applies only to private land and permission is required.
Boothe seems to recognize that his main opposition will come from the West Virginia Farm Bureau and churches.
“Mississippi is the number one Sunday church attendance state and there are no laws there prohibiting hunting on Sunday,” he said. “I encourage people to attend church, but why can’t you hunt before services or after them?”
Boothe said his research has revealed that forbidding hunting on Sundays does not necessarily boost church attendance. Boothe said Maine and Massachusetts are among the states with the lowest level of church attendance and neither allows hunting on Sundays.
“Prohibiting Sunday hunting punishes hard-working people,” Boothe said. “Our coal miners work six days a week and their God-given right to hunt is taken away from them.”
Boothe points out that all of the United States west of Wood County, W.Va., in other words, every place from Parkersburg to the Pacific Ocean, allows hunting on Sundays.
Boothe said private landowners who don’t want their properties hunted on Sundays have the right to keep that from happening.
A native of Calhoun County, Boothe said he doesn’t understand the Farm Bureau’s opposition.
“They want deer killed and hunting on Sunday would be additional opportunity for that to happen,” he said. “They believe in the rights of private property owners and it should be a right to hunt on your own land on Sunday if you choose.”
In Jefferson County in 2011, there were 39 deer checked in on Sundays by bow hunters as well as 16 bucks and 10 antlerless deer by firearms hunters.
Because hunters have 24 hours to check deer, it is possible that some of these animals were killed the day before, on Saturdays.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.