By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
DINWIDDIE – Changes to a portion of the county’s hunting ordinances regulating the caliber of rifle that can be used in Dinwiddie moves one step closer to being enacted as residents gave county leaders positive feedback and further guidance on the measure during a public input session Tuesday.
The input session was hosted two weeks after Dinwiddie county attorney Tyler Southall presented members of the county board of supervisors with a piece of draft legislation that would allow for the use of rifles for hunting from a stand that was elevated at least 10 feet from the ground.
Currently, the county code prevents hunters from using a rifle that has a caliber larger than 22 mm, with violators facing a Class 3 misdemeanor charge, but, exceptions exist within the county code in regards to the caliber restriction, including the hunting of groundhogs between March 1 and August 31, the hunting of coyotes throughout the year, and the hunting of game species with muzzle-loading rifles during the preset open season for hunting game species set by the Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries.
In Southall’s proposed amendment to the county code, “Rifles of a larger caliber may be used to hunt from a stand elevated at least 10 feet from the ground.”
The amendment also makes a simple change to the penalty for discharging a firearm within 100 yards of a public school, dropping it from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 4 misdemeanor, consistent with what the Code of Virginia prescribes.
During the nearly 30-minute discussion involving a small group of residents and members of the county’s close-knit hunting community, supervisors, and Game Warden Brandon Chester, all sides presented information that was digested by leaders in their efforts to craft an ordinance that best supports the county’s hunters.
According to Chester, most jurisdictions surrounding Dinwiddie currently allow rifle hunting for big game, such as deer and bear, but, in response to a question and suggestion from Supervisor Daniel Lee, the game warden explained that “a precedent would be set” if turkey was allowed to be hunted with rifles.
When asked about safety, Chester admitted that statistics that could compare shotgun and rifle hunting incidents fairly was “hard to nail down” due to the predominant use of shotguns over rifles.
“The statistics are skewed because there is a larger segment of people that hunt with shotguns than rifles and, because of this, there will be more incidents involving shotguns shown because more people use shotguns,” he remarked.
For hunter Chip Bain, he saw the benefits this amendment could have on his past time.
“It would make things easier to shoot big game with rifles,” he remarked. “In addition, this would be better for farmers and landowners here in the county because it would help balance things out when it comes to the deer population here.”
Speaking before the board, Everett Prosise said passing the amendment would continue to reinforce the status Dinwiddie has in the county as a community that supports its hunters.
“We have a great hunting community here in the county and I think the county shows they support the conservation of natural resources, like with your action on hound hunting a few years ago, and I think we have an opportunity to show that good, ethical hunters can come here and enjoy their past time,” he said.
While the conversation was dominated by the rifle hunting measure, farmer Vernon Davis zeroed in on one aspect of the current regulation, which allows for rifles to be used in the hunting of groundhogs, or woodchucks, between March 1 through August 31, asking county leaders and conversation police if that can be changed to a year-round allowance due to the invasive and financially destructive impact groundhogs are having on his farming efforts.
When asked, Chester said he would have to conduct more research to see if those dates can be adjusted, adding that they are considered a “nuisance species,” which means there is a “continuous open season” on groundhogs and a kill permit is not required to hunt the animal.
The dates themselves are laid out in the Code of Virginia, Section 29.1-528, which details which hunting regulations counties and cities can take action on through resolutions and requires that the governing body, such as the county board of supervisors, must notify the director of Virginia’s Game and Inland Fisheries by registered mail prior to May 1 of the year that the resolution is slated to take effect before the measure can be enforceable.
For Chester, he stressed to supervisors that there needed to be a “delineation of calibers” that can be used to hunt from the ground and from a stand for proper enforcement by conservation police, explaining that he could see scenarios where someone claims to be hunting coyotes, which can be hunted with ammunition larger than 22 mm, on the ground with higher-caliber ammunition when they, in fact, aren’t.
Through the board’s discussions, supervisors agreed to keep the architecture of Southall’s proposed amendments, adding that rifles can be used for the hunting of bear, deer, and turkey from a stand “elevated at least ten feet from the ground,” asking the county attorney to draft the ordinance ahead of an April 18 public hearing.
That public hearing will be at 7 p.m. at the Pamplin Administrative Building during their regular meeting.
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