UPDATE MARCH 23, 2011

Sunday Hunting advocates continue to success expand Sunday Hunting bit by bit in Maryland, and now it looks like Sunday Hunting will likely be expanded in Carroll and Harford Counties.

The House will soon hear Senate Bill 468 (the Carroll County Sunday Hunting legislation), where it is likely to get a favorable hearing as its companion bill, HB  625, did receive a favorable report from the House Environmental Matters Committee on March 20.

And don’t forget, the Harford County Sunday Hunting Bill (HB 994) passed the House of Delegates on March 17 (122-9) and will be heard by the Senate.

For Sunday Hunting opponents, there is a bright spot. The statewide Sunday Hunting legislation, Senate Bill 45, was killed in committee on Monday, March 21. However, its companion bill,House Bill 129 isn’t dead yet. For more background on these bills, please scroll down.

It should be noted that, institutionally, the rest of the ag industry supports the expansion of Sunday Hunting on private land; the ever expanding deer population causes hundreds of thousands of dollars of crop damage every year. This puts the horse industry in a difficult position, as the horse industry is part of ag and wants to be supportive of the other components, but our trail users of all disciplines (and who ride on private and public lands) want to maintain one gun-free day on weekends during hunting season.

UPDATE MARCH 17, 2011

A Carroll County Sunday Hunting Bill (Senate Bill 468) passed the Senate today (46-1) and has crossed to the House.

The Harford County Sunday Hunting Bill (HB 994) passed the House of Delegates today (122-9) and will be heard by the Senate.

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March 15, 2011 Update: Sunday Hunting Legislation

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 virtually numb to the annual onslaught of bills that, inch by inch, have expanded Sunday Hunting in Maryland. But in the 11th hour last year, the equestrian community shook off its collective Rip Van Vinckle-esque slumber, rose up in protest and defeated most (but not all) of 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 much more active. Even though most of the bills involve gun hunting only on private land, many trail users find it disconcerting. The equestrian community, as a whole, is not opposed to hunting on either private or public lands in general; the community is only opposed to allowing gunning on both weekend days.

The Maryland Horse Council, Trail Riders of Today and other equestrian groups have been actively testifying against legislation that would expand Sunday Hunting.

Taking the lead for the Maryland Horse Council is treasurer Royce Herman from the Tuckahoe Equestrian Center and Tuckahoe Outlaw Days. Royce competes in mounted shooting and is himself a licensed firearm instructor, which makes him a rather compelling opponent to the expansion of Sunday Hunting!

Ron McNab is the president of Trail Riders of Today (TROT) and the chairman of the Maryland Horse Council Trails & Greenways Committee. TROT has thousands of trail riding members, with active chapters in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s and Wicomico counties.

SB 45, which is crossfiled with HB 129, would allow Sunday hunting on private land in most counties. The hearing for the Senate bill was January 26, while the House version was heard on February 9. There has been no action since, a very good indication that the bill is stalled-but never a guarantee. It is not unheard of for a bill that everyone thought was dead to suddenly leap to life at the 11th hour. SB 45/HB 129 would actually give sole authority to DNR to establish Sunday  hunting dates, taking that authority away from the Legislature. Some groups believe that, by giving this authority to DNR, the incremental expansion of Sunday Hunting would cease. Other believe that, by preserving the Legislatures dominion over expanding Sunday Hunting, the public still retains some control.

HB 625 and HB 994 would allow Sunday hunting on private property in Carroll and Harford Counties. These bills are more typical of the type of Sunday Hunting bills that we see each year, ones that have a greater tendency to pass. Whereas SB 45 and HB 129 are broad and sweeping across many counties, HB 625 and 994 have a narrow geographic focus, making it more palatable for legislators to pass them, resulting in an incremental expansion of Sunday Hunting. Not surprisingly, HB 994 (Harford County) received a favorable report from Environmental Matters, and now will move to the full house for a vote.

HB 625 was just heard this past Friday, March 11.

Now that HB 994 (Sunday Hunting on private land in Harford County) will go before the entire House of Delegates, because your delegate will vote on this no matter where you are in the state, now is the time to reach out to him or her.