On Monday March 8, Delegates Holmes (Prince George’s County) and O’Donnell (Calvert County) introduced a comprehensive Sunday hunting bill (HB 1518) that would allow (not require) the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to expand deer hunting (bow and firearms) on private land from the first Sunday in October through the second Sunday in January of the following year. The bill specifically exempted Baltimore, Carroll, Howard, and Prince George’s Counties.
And although the bill applies only to private lands, based on the history of Sunday hunting legislation in Maryland, The Equiery anticipated that, were this bill to pass, future bills to include public land, to include the now excluded counties, and possibly even o change “may allow” to “shall allow.” The Equiery promptly posted an announcement on our online News Feed (equiery.com/blog) and Maryland’s trail riding community swung into action, mobilizing trail users (including mountain bikers and more) into action.
On Saturday, March 27, the House Environmental Matters Committee gave HB 1518 an “infavorable 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, and kudos to TROT for leading that charge (to read more, see “Beyond the Beaten Path” in this issue).
Nevertheless, several other Sunday hunting bills were passed this session, methodically continuing the expansion of Sunday hunting across the state. When the first Sunday hunting bill was introduced a decade ago, to add just a couple Sundays to firearm season, early opponents to these bills (which included some founding members of TROT) warned that, were any Sunday hunting bill to pass, it would be the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.” They were right, and a rewiew of contemporary Sunday Hunting laws in Maryland show that the camel’s neck and most of one hump is now in the tent, and it is only a matter of time until the entire camel is with us.
As The Equiery has noted, the Sunday Hunting advocates strategy to expand Sunday Hunting slowly and gradually, focusing first on private lands and counties with lower populations of park users, has been extremely successful. Trail groups, which tend to be volunteer driven, do not have the resources to battle every bill affecting every part of the State. Sunday Hunting bills that apply only to private land are even trickier for park users to oppose, and so the Sunday Hunting advocates get a little bit more of that dratted camel into the tent each session.
The legislative session illustrates the success of their strategy. Trail users rallied to oppose the large, comprehensive Sunday Hunting legislation (HB 1518), but four other “minor” Sunday Hunting bills passed.
Sunday Hunting legislation will continue to be a challenge for Maryland’s trail riding community.