In Virginia, some trespassing is perfectly legal

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Talk about living in the stone age, the state of Virginia gets my nod when it comes to certain antiquated hunting laws – and please keep in mind that I’m a die-hard hunter who normally supports hunting traditions.

However, in the case of Virginia you must keep in mind that this is a state where some big landowners still talk about having certain rights under a “King’s Grant.” Yes, there are people who apparently forget that the king’s troops were kicked out of a spanking-new United States back in the late 1700s.

Which brings me around to wonder if people are aware that when they purchase a good piece of property in the Virginia countryside and post it to keep trespassers out, state law says when deer, fox, coon or bear hounds are after their prey and charge across the private land, the owners of the hounds can enter your property to retrieve their hounds whether you like it or not.

Virginia has a “Right to Retrieve Law.” The law permits a hunter to enter posted property without permission from the landowner. The hunter who is looking for his hound must not be armed and must walk onto the private land; he’s not allowed to drive a vehicle when trespassing – ’er, legally violating your property rights. And I always believed that private property and the owner’s right to keep anybody out was sacred. Silly me.

Sixty-two percent of the 5000-member Virginia Deer Hunters Association (VDHA) recently answered “No” when asked if the “Right to Retrieve Law” should be abolished, although some agreed that they first should ask for permission to trample over the owner’s lands. How thoughtful.

In a recent issue of the VDHA’s magazine, “Whitetail Times,” there appeared a refreshing letter concerning all this. It came from an unidentified member who wrote, “The arrogant and combative attitudes of dog hunters shown in public hearings and public web input [define] the heart of the problem. To save the hound hunting tradition in Virginia, [many] hunt clubs just do not get it. I am not a hound hunter, but fully support hound hunting. However, the cavalier attitudes of many clubs about turning hounds loose adjacent to properties where landowners do not welcome the sport and the lousy attitudes of some houndsmen is killing the sport.”

The writer suggested that if the people who hunt with hounds in our ever-changing world do not accept certain facts, the sport eventually will die. Another letter writer said that houndsmen need to visit landowners during the off-season and do all they can to establish good relationships.

I have an idea. Stop all of this nonsense. Property rights are far more important than a pack of dogs and their owners running across private lands that they’re not always welcome on.

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