Hunting can be big business in rural parts of any state. For some small communities with a lot of hunting outfitters, it could well be the one thing that keeps a community afloat.

That’s what makes a particular bill coming out of Virginia so problematic.

SENATE BILL NO. 774Offered January 8, 2020Prefiled January 8, 2020A BILL to amend and reenact § 29.1-521 of the Code of Virginia, relating to big game hunting; guaranteed kills prohibited; penalty.

———-Patron– Chafin———-Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources———-Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That § 29.1-521 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 29.1-521. Unlawful to hunt, trap, possess, sell, or transport wild birds and wild animals except as permitted; exception; penalty.

A. The following shall be unlawful:

12. To offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, or guarantee a kill of, or charge a fee for killing, a deer, bear, or wild turkey. Such prohibition shall not apply to the killing of small game or migratory birds. Nothing in this subdivision shall prevent a landowner from leasing land for hunting, except that a lease of land for hunting deer, bear, or wild turkey shall not be for a duration of less than three days. A violation of this subdivision shall be punishable as provided in § 29.1-553.

Now, bear in mind that “guaranteeing” a kill doesn’t mean you have to do anything illegal to do so. Depending on various factors, a guide can put someone on a game animal with a high degree of certainty without breaking any game laws.

So what’s the deal with this?

Well, for one thing, outfitters guaranteeing kills is a marketing thing. It draws in hunters who figure if they’re going to spend the money, they want to make a kill. Honestly, I can’t say I blame them. I don’t get guarantees when I hunt, but I tend to do it as cheaply as possible so that’s fine. If I dropped thousands of dollars for a hunting experience, a guarantee is something I want.

Outlawing the “guarantee” factor serves to only do one thing: Remove any incentive for out-of-state hunters to come to Virginia.

While it’s possible that someone who doesn’t understand anything about hunting may think that you can only guarantee a kill through some skeevy means, that doesn’t mean it’ll just eliminate the skeevy actions. Instead, unscrupulous outfitters will continue to do unscrupulous things and figure out language that gets around the ban.

Meanwhile, the law-abiding outfitters will lose out on business while the state loses out on out-of-state dollars going toward licenses and other equipment. Instead, those hunters will find other places to hunt that are either less-expensive, closer to home, or will issue those guarantees.

At the end of the day, I can see why someone might push a bill like this, but it’s horribly misguided. If anything, it’s going to hurt hunting in Virginia far more than it will help anyone.

Unfortunately, with all the other news coming out of Virginia these days, this is likely to get missed. Don’t let it.