An animal rights activist wanted me to write about the proposed lifting of the ban on Sunday hunting in Massachusetts. I was somewhat reluctant given its origin as a "blue law" passed by ye ol’ Puritans to prevent hunting on the Sabbath. At first blush, the law does seem an anachronism.
In June, the House voted to soften the Colonial-era ban against hunting on Sundays. However, according to Rep. Paul Mark, the "bill was passed on a voice vote when most members were not present in the chamber." The proposed amendment would allow bow and arrow hunting on Sundays during deer season, the last three months of the year. The Senate is still to vote on the measure.
Whether for hikers, dog walkers, bird watchers, mushroomers or mountain-bikers, there is a real fear of being shot by a hunter. The sight of a deer running through the woods pierced by an arrow, or happening upon its dead carcass, will not provide for an enjoyable outdoors experience. Aside from trapping, bow hunting is considered one of the most barbaric ways to kill an animal. About half the deer shot by arrow do not die quickly, but rather hours, days or weeks later.
While those in the hunting industry say that hunting accidents are rare, there are enough for attorneys to actively solicit hunting victims on the Web.
For a number of hunting accident stories, Google "Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting" and "Hunting Accident Reports." According to the International Hunter Education Association, a pro-hunting organization, approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters every year, and just under a hundred of those accidents are fatalities.
Granted, the risk of injury is minimized in bow hunting, but hunters do shoot without looking first. By way of example, in 2010, 50-year-old Benny White, of Kelso, Wash., was fatally injured while bow hunting. In 2009, 21-year-old Aaron J. Long was killed in Illinois while hunting near the Sam Dale Lake State Park. These bow-related fatalities are not isolated incidents.
Sunday hunting would not be an economic boom, either. According to Massachusetts Voters for Animals, non-consumptive nature lovers spend money in Massachusetts in far greater volumes than do hunters, and the loss of revenue from non-hunters avoiding Sunday hunting could easily exceed the revenue of Sunday hunters. The organization points out that a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study reported that "wildlife-associated nature users expend 14 times more each year in the commonwealth than do hunters; $1.2 billion is spent annually on wildlife watching and enjoyment while hunting expenditures total just 7 percent of what non-consumptive users contribute. If hunting were permitted on Sundays, those non-consumptive expenditures would decrease and it is improbable that bow hunter revenues would come close to making up the difference."
Hunters are a small percentage of the state’s population, about 1 percent. By contrast, the Berkshires have a colossal fall foliage following and state parks and other woodlands are regularly filled with picnickers, campers, and hikers. In 2007, Pacific Marketing Research found that 86 percent of voters supported the hunting ban. Considering popular opinion, economic factors, and considerations to the safety and interests of the other 99 percent of the population, asking for one day per week during hunting season to go into the woods in a hunt-free environment is not asking too much.
Rinaldo Del Gallo III is an occasional Eagle contributor.