The West Virginia governor signed Senate Bill 451 Thursday to permit Sunday hunting on public lands following its overwhelming passage during the recent legislative session.
Last year, the governor also signed a bill permitting Sunday hunting on private land with written permission of the landowner.
The new bill will open more than 1.5 million acres of public land to Sunday hunting, will provide several additional hunting days each year, and will make West Virginia more attractive to out-of-state hunters, according to a release from the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.
The bill will take effect in early June and affect the 2018 hunting and trapping seasons thereafter.
“People drive right through West Virginia to Ohio or wherever it may be to be able to hunt on Sunday,” Gov. Jim Justice said in the release.
“We lose those dollars because they want to be able to hunt an entire weekend. This will provide additional hunting recreation for our visitors and residents and result in a major economic impact for our small rural businesses. Today is truly historical.”
A study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation projects Sunday hunting adds $155 million to the state’s economy each year.
Justice spoke about the bill during a ceremonial signing on Thursday in the Governor’s Reception Room before a crowd of officials from the Division of Natural Resources, state legislators and Sunday hunting supporters.
Also at the event, Justice accepted a $50,000 donation from the West Virginia Governor’s One Shot committee for the Hunters Helping the Hungry Program. The money was raised by volunteers during last fall’s West Virginia Governor’s One-Shot Whitetail Deer Hunt.
During the annual event’s 11 years, sponsor corporations, land owners and hunters have raised more than $555,000. The money helps pay for processing hunter-donated venison, which is distributed to the state’s needy residents through a network of more than 600 food pantries, senior centers, shelters and the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway.
The division has sponsored the Hunters Helping the Hungry program for 26 years, during which hunters have donated 24,630 deer, or 941,000 pounds of venison. Donations have provided 1,266,000 meals for West Virginia families in need. More information about the program can be found here.