UPDATE! On Saturday, March 27, 2010 (yes, a Saturday), the House Environmental Matters Committee gave HB 1518 an “unfavorable report,” effectively killing the bill (as opposed to letting it die a slow death in limbo by not doing anything). No doubt, the uproar of the park users played a role in this. 

For background, please scroll down. 

Click here to read The Equiery’s original editorial regarding Sunday Hunting laws and summary of bills affecting park users before the Maryland General Assembly.

To read responses to the editorial or to HB1518, scroll down.

Bill To Expand Sunday Hunting Oct – Mid-Jan, for most of Maryland

On Monday March 8, 2010, Delegates Holmes (Prince George’s County) and O’Donnell (Calvert County) introduced a comprehensive Sunday hunting bill that would allow deer hunting on private land from the first Sunday in October through the second Sunday in January of the following year. This would include bow and firearms. The bill specifically exempts Baltimore, Carroll, Howard and Prince George’s Counties.

Officials at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources believe this bill would actually give the Department more control over Sunday hunting, as well as a greater ability to limit Sunday hunting – and a close reading of the bill does indicate as much. HB 1518 states that DNR “may” allow – not “shall” allow, theoretically giving DNR the flexibility to regulate deer hunting according to scientific data on deer population rather than the current law that requires or demands that DNR to allow some Sunday hunting.

Supporters of the bill also note that this bill only applies to private land. Leaving aside that the incremental expansion of Sunday hunting portends that public land would be next, much private land abuts public land, thus Sunday hunting would, indeed, severely restrict the use of some public lands; it is highly unlikely that hikers, bikers, bird watchers and trail riders will be able to utilize those public lands adjacent to hunting.

Not only does Sunday deer hunting impede the ability of non-hunters to use the land from October through mid-January, it also shuts out other hunters, such as rabbit hunters, foxchasers and some bird hunters.

And although the bill applies only to private lands, based on the history of Sunday hunting legislation in Maryland, The Equiery anticipates, if this bill passes, future bills to include public land, to include the now excluded counties, and possibly even to change “may allow” to “shall allow.”

Because the bill was filed late in the legislative session (perhaps a strategic move), it is currently in the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. It is expected to move out of this committee and move to where it would have been filed, had it been filed in a timely fashion: House Environmental Matters.

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