Virginia Circuit Court Judge Rules Against Orion Sporting Group in Constitutional Right to Hunt Case
Nelson County had approved shooting live game at Orion's 450-acre rural tract of land, but effectively banned the discharge of firearms for sporting clays, helice and other clay pigeon shooting activities to be located on the same property. Orion litigated, contending that the county's ruling violated the right to hunt explicitly protected by the Virginia Constitution and that the proposed shooting activities were an accessory use by right of the hunting preserve.
“We believe our case has merit. And while we respect Judge Gamble's decision, we are disappointed in the outcome of this trial”
The right to hunt in Virginia, like many other states, is protected and legislated by the state. In 2000, the citizens of Virginia ratified by popular vote "...the right to hunt, fish and harvest game..." amendment to the state constitution. The Virginia constitutional amendment Article XI Section 4 became effective in 2001.
Orion believes that simulated hunting is a contemporary form of the hunting arts, providing sportsmen and women the choice to hunt live game or simulated game. Orion contends that constitutional protection extends to preparatory hunting activities, such as hunter education, training and practicing with sporting clays, helice and other clay target sports. Such preparatory activities assist one in hunting and harvesting game safely, efficiently and more humanely.
"We believe our case has merit. And while we respect Judge Gamble's decision, we are disappointed in the outcome of this trial," said D. Alan Nunley, Orion's corporate counsel. "In light of today's decision, Orion will weigh all of its options over the next several days to move forward in a positive direction."
In 2001, Orion originally opened its shotgun sports center and corporate training facility in Nelson County. Working with the county in order to expand its operation, Orion decided to relocate to a larger rural tract of land in central Virginia adding a licensed hunting preserve to its operations.
"Prior to the lawsuit, county government officials were entirely supportive of the activities at Orion. In fact, Orion was encouraged to remain in Nelson County by the Board of Supervisors and the Economic Development Office," said Morris Peterson, Orion's managing director. "It was only after Orion spent millions of dollars to relocate its sporting operations to a larger, even more rural tract of land within Nelson County that local government attempted to prevent Orion from continuing its existing, successful shotgun sports center operations."
Orion's right to hunt legal case against Nelson County went to trial on April 20, 2005. Orion was represented by constitutional legal authority, Stephen Halbrook, former Virginia Attorney General, Anthony F. Troy, of the law firm Troutman Sanders LLP, and Steven Raynor and John Simpson of the Charlottesville, Va. law firm Martin & Raynor. To view the brief on the right to hunt filed in the lawsuit Orion Sporting Group LLC v. Nelson County visit www.stephenhalbrook.com.
Orion is an International Sporting Estate situated on 450 acres, offering a diverse landscape containing open fields, rolling wooded terrain, deep forest, creeks, a scenic lake, and over one half mile of picturesque James River frontage. The Orion Estate plans to use this rural property to develop a sporting facility, where sportsmen and women, and outdoor enthusiasts can experience traditional sporting lifestyles in the splendor of Virginia's countryside. The Orion Estate is composed of a licensed hunting preserve, shooting grounds including a multi-disciplined shotgun sports center, events ground and corporate training facility all situated in a distinctive rural atmosphere in the piedmont of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the historic James River. For more information visit the Orion Estate website at www.OrionEstate.com or contact Mr. James Slaughter, General Manager at (434) 263-6622.