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A Virginia bill that allows counties to ban the discharge of bows has passed the House and Senate and is on Gov. Mark Warner's desk. Thanks to a last minute effort, the bill exempts bow shooting ranges and bowhunting.

House Bill 2741, introduced by Delegate John S. Reid, R-Richmond, allows counties to prohibit shooting a bow in heavily populated areas. Existing law allows counties to ban the discharge of firearms in populated areas.

A last minute amendment to the bill exempted indoor shooting ranges and allows hunting on land parcels two acres and larger. Those parcels must be in areas zoned for agricultural uses.

"This legislation was driven by safety and ethical concerns surrounding bowhunting," said Rick Story, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA) senior vice president. "Those concerns could have been virtually eliminated by educating legislators and the general public about the stellar safety record of bowhunters and about the high ethical standards of the vast majority of archers. Unfortunately, this bill was introduced and passed very quickly and with little input from the hunting community."

In response to similar issues, and with the merger of the nation's two largest anti-hunting organizations, the USSA and several national bowhunter and communications organizations have created the Bowhunter Rights Coalition (BRC). Its focus is to link leading bowhunters and bowhunting groups.

"The BRC is a rapid response network to deal with bowhunting issues at the local, state and national levels," said Story. "As we gain more members and frankly, more momentum, the threat posed by bills such as the one in Virginia can be averted altogether."

National and state groups involved with the BRC include Bowhunter Magazine, The Bowsite, International Bowhunting Organization, National Bowhunting Education Foundation, Pope & Young Club,, The United Bowhunters of Kentucky and Maryland Bowhunters.

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is preparing a BRC website on which it will post the latest news about the assault against bowhunting. It will provide educational materials about bowhunter safety and more. A chat room will also be available to discuss issues and for occasional live chats with leaders of the bowhunting community.

A report from the Humane Society of the United States, released on January 31, lays out the group's plans to ban hunting in 2005. Aside from previous plans to target bowhunting, HSUS is preparing a ballot campaign to ban Michigan's dove season for which sportsmen arduously fought.
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