Thomas Jefferson Papers

43. A Bill for Preservation of Deer, 18 June 1779

43. A Bill for Preservation of Deer

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that it shall not be lawful for any person to kill, hunt, or course any wild deer whatever, not being more than twelve months old, or in any year called bissextile or leap year; or to kill, hunt or course in any other year, a wild buck, after the first day of December, and before the first day of August, or a wild doe, between the first day of January, and the first day of October following, unless such deer, at the time, be found within the inclosed land of such person, or be wanted for food, on the westside of the Alleghany ridge of mountains. Whosoever shall offend against this act, shall forfeit and pay, for every deer by him unlawfully killed, twenty shillings, one half thereof to the use of the commonwealth, and the other half to the informer; and moreover, shall be bound to their good behaviour; and, if, within twelve months after the date of the recognizance he shall bear a gun out of his inclosed ground, unless whilst performing military duty, it shall be deemed a breach of the recognizance, and be good cause to bind him a new, and every such bearing of a gun shall be a breach of the new recognizance and cause to bind him again.

Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 32. MS (ViU); clerk’s copy.

Bill was presented by Madison on 31 Oct. 1785, read twice, and committed to whole House, but no further action was taken on it (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1785, 1828 edn., p. 12–15). See the Act of 1738 on this subject and its amending Act of 1772 (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends v, 60–3; viii, 591–4). These early conservation measures were made necessary, as stated in the preamble to the amending Act of 1772, by reason of “many idle people making a practice, in severe frozen weather, and deep snows, to destroy deer, in great numbers, with dogs, so that the whole breed is likely to be destroyed in the inhabited parts of the colony.” This Act forbade the killing of any deer from 1772 to 1 Aug. 1776 and provided severe penalties for violations, including fines and whippings.

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