MIKE BRAUN Modifying Sunday hunting in Ohio

Sunday hunting was introduced into Ohio three years ago, but according to one state organization, there are too many restrictions for the state's hunters to utilize it properly.
The Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, based in Columbus, is pushing for new legislation that would liberalize the Sunday hunting laws in the Buckeye State.
If you want to hunt on public lands, all public hunting areas except some state parks are open for Sunday hunting, under the state statute.
The restrictions: However, hunting on private land on Sunday is a different matter entirely. Under current state law, there are restrictions as to who may hunt on Sundays as well as restrictions based on acreage and property sizes (see box accompanying this column).
In a press release sent last week, the WLFA says, "Sportsmen who choose not to hunt public land, for whatever reason, but still want to hunt on Sunday, are severely limited according to this Ohio law."
The property and acreage limitations, according to the WLFA, "make it hard for working people to enjoy the outdoors."
To help effect this change, the WLFA is seeking assistance from outdoors clubs, organizations and individual hunters. In fact, the WLFA is calling this the most important Ohio hunting issue since the 1998 mourning dove campaign.
Dan Long, Ohio state field director for the WLFA, said a bill to modify Sunday hunting has not yet been presented to the state Legislature but that preliminary work was being done.
"We have a couple of representatives eager to sponsor the bill," he said.
Long added that the legislation is likely to be introduced in Columbus at the start of the new year.
There are two major state groups that might have a large stake in any new Sunday hunting legislation: the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Farm Bureau.
Long said he knows the ODNR "is eager to see this legislation go through."
ODNR response: But Vickie Mountz, media relations supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife in Columbus, said, "Basically, we do not have an actual stand on the Sunday hunting liberalization. We have a great relationship with the Farm Bureau and they plan to discuss this issue at their policy meeting, which will take place the week of Nov. 26."
Mrs. Mountz added that there would be no Sunday hunting without the support of the Farm Bureau. "Obviously, we want hunters to have as much opportunity as possible but we certainly don't want to penalize the landowner," she said, adding that the DOW would like to see how the Farm Bureau discussion goes on the topic at their meeting next week before issuing their own take on the subject.
A spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau could not be reached to comment. However, on the OFB Web site, there is considerable attention paid to this topic. For example, one linked page is devoted totally to wildlife management involving farmers and hunting.
Farm bureau info: The page includes the following current Farm Bureau policy approved in December of 2000: "We encourage those landowners that oppose Sunday hunting to exercise their right to prohibit hunting on their property; when future wildlife regulations are developed we suggest the Ohio Division of Wildlife consider the following; (crop damage, wildlife population, private property rights and input from landowners, and highway safety)."
The page concludes with the following comment: "Managing of Ohio's wildlife is a cooperative effort. It takes both landowners and the state agencies working together to ensure that wildlife will remain a valuable resource in Ohio."
More information from the OFB on this topic can be obtained at the Web site at www.ofb.org/ofbweb/ofbwebengine.nsf/$LookupPageID/REVN-54GR6J/?OpenDocument
It should be noted, however, that when the original legislation was introduced and passed on Sunday hunting three years ago, the OFB was against it as an organization, Long said.
He added, though, that there were individual members of the bureau who were in favor of the law.
The OFB was against Sunday hunting originally because of fears that it could interfere with its members: the state's farmers and others connected with agricultural concerns.
"We don't know where they stand right now [on Sunday hunting changes]," Long said.
Won't hurt members: He said the WLFA can prove to the OFB that Sunday hunting won't hurt their members and the organization is optimistic that the Farm Bureau won't be a roadblock for changes to Sunday hunting.
Long said that many Ohio sportsmen he has spoken to or heard from in e-mails are in favor of the change that the WLFA is proposing.
The WLFA is contacting area conservation clubs and federations for support in this matter. There are a few clubs already in line with support. Long said one such club, the Orwell Gun Club in northeastern Ohio, is sponsoring a turkey shoot at 1 p.m. today with proceeds going to the Sunday hunting campaign.
For more information, visit the WLFA Web site at www.wlfa.org.

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