Isle of Wight passes rifle ordinance

Published 5:24 pm Friday, April 22, 2022

Isle of Wight County supervisors voted 3-1 to allow the hunting of deer and bear with rifles.

The April 21 vote came three months after the county first considered the matter in January.

According to County Attorney Bobby Jones, state law prohibits the use of a rifle of any caliber for the hunting of deer or bear in six localities, including Isle of Wight, unless those localities “opt in” by passing a local ordinance permitting it.

Several hunters made requests for such an ordinance change during the public comment period at board meetings last year.

The new ordinance allows the use of .23 caliber or larger rifles for hunting deer and bear during the prescribed open seasons and rescinds a restriction that had mandated ammunition contain at least 75 grains of black powder or Pyrodex.

The new ordinance includes provisions requiring the hunter to use an elevated stand located at least 10 feet above the ground when loading or shooting the rifle, except when using it to kill a wounded animal. Permanently disabled hunters are exempt from the tree stand requirement.

The ordinance further requires all hunters to obtain written permission from the owner of the land on which they’re hunting.

Board Chairman Rudolph Jefferson cast the dissenting vote. Supervisor Joel Acree was absent.

Jefferson made no statement on why he voted as he did, but had raised safety concerns at a previous meeting in February.

At the February meeting, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources spokesman Peter Acker provided the board with information on the differences between shotguns, muzzleloaders and rifles.

Shotguns, he explained, fire a bullet at a velocity of roughly 2,000 feet per second and have an effective range of around 150 yards. Muzzleloaders fire at a velocity of roughly 2,000 to 2,800 feet per second over an effective range of 250 yards. Rifles fire a bullet 2,500 to 3,000 feet per second over an effective range of 300 yards.

While rifles are generally easier to use for newer, less experienced hunters, the main safety concern, given their range, is stray projectiles, Acker said. That said, he’d shared data showing only three hunting accidents in Isle of Wight over the past 20 years, all of which involved shotguns, not rifles, and only one of which resulted in a fatality.