The Maryland General Assembly is in session, which means “Sunday Hunting Bills are once again in season.
By 2010 equestrians and other park users had become almost numb to the annual onslaught of bills that, inch by inch, have expanded Sunday Hunting in Maryland. But in the 11th hour, the equestrian community shook off its collective Rumpelstiltskinian sleep, rose up in protest and defeated the Sunday Hunting Bills.
However, it should be no surprise that, with the new legislative session, there are new Sunday Hunting Bills. But this year, the equestrian community is on it!
The Senate had scheduled a hearing for their version of the bill (SB 45) on January 26, to be heard in Education, Health and Environmental Affairs. There has been no action on that bill.
The bill is crossfiled in the House of Delegates (HB129), and was heard by the Environmental Matters Committee on February 9. The Committee has not yet taken any action either.
In the meantime, horse organizations and bridle trail clubs have been hard at work, notifying members and testifying against the bills.
Maryland Horse Council treasurer Royce Herman, himself a hunter and a certified gun instructor, testified against the bill, as did MHC Board Member Ron McNab, representing MHC member Trail Riders of Today (TROT).
From Ron McNab’s testimony:
Each year the legislature, and various interest groups debate over Sunday hunting bills. It is a win/lose conflict full of sound points from each side that returns each year. It would be wonderful if this year we could come to a compromise that would be workable for nearly everyone and not change each and every year.
Most of us can agree on the absolute need for game management and the strong and historical interest in hunting.
Most can also agree that most citizens believe that it is unwise to walk, ride or otherwise recreate in/or adjacent to an area where hunting is actively taking place.
Most can agree that public parks and forests are more heavily used on weekends.
Senate Bill 45, as it now stands, would allow hunting on private land that borders and surrounds public parks and forests. This renders public lands unsafe and hostile territory for most recreational users, seven days a week from October through mid-January. (Nearly one third of the year) This totally counters the intent and benefits of no Sunday hunting laws on public lands. Bullets – like the sound they make – do not stay on private land.
I would like this committee to consider the following suggestions to amend Senate Bill 45:
Consider extending the hunting season, but do not permit hunting on Sunday. This will give hunters more weekdays and if necessary Saturdays to meet DNR’s kill quota. It will also provide the general public safe access to recreational land one day a week during the three to four month period. This suggestion can and should be applied equally throughout the state, removing all exceptions.
The bill correctly exempts the high density populated counties of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll, Howard and Prince George’s County. Montgomery and Anne Arundel should also be added to this list. Both have high density populations that borders the lengthy and very heavily used Patuxent and Patapsco State Parks.
The Maryland Horse Council represents all horse people and all horse organizations in Maryland, and provides a unified voice for the equestrian community in Annapolis. Click here for more information.
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