Explore the Outdoors: Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania Inching Closer to Reality

| February 24, 2019

After decades of wrangling to expand Sunday hunting opportunities in Pennsylvania, its probability is closer to reality than ever before.

Senate Bill 147, which would give the Pa. Game Commission the authority to regulate Sunday hunting, moved out of the state Senate Game and Fisheries Committee by an 8-3 vote earlier this month.

Republican state Senator Daniel Laughlin is the prime sponsor of the bill. He represents parts of Erie County and serves as chairman on the Game and Fisheries committee.

The bill will now be introduced to the Pa. Senate floor where it will be voted on. If approved there, the bill will move to the Pa. House for another vote. If the bill be approved by the House, it would only need Gov. Tom Wolf’s approval to become law.

Hunters and various hunting-related organizations have clamored for the chance to hunt wildlife other than fox, coyotes and crows.

But it has never even come to a vote, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months.

Only seven other states prohibit Sunday hunting.

Hunters seem to be better organized in the effort to expand Sunday hunting opportunities.

According to a pennlive.com story, Hunters United for Sunday Hunting launched a campaign in Harrisburg in 2018.

Its Facebook page has nearly 34,000 “likes”.

HUSH also has support from several outdoor organizations, including Boone and Crockett Club, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pa. Board of Game Commissioners, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, National Rifle Association, Pheasants Forever, United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, and others.

Opponents include the Pa. Farm Bureau and the Keystone Trails Association, both of whom have been against Sunday hunting.

I have talked to many people about this over the years and I have found myself with mixed feelings about it, but I believe the time has come to allow more Sunday hunting opportunities.

Not all farmers are against the measure. Some would welcome the chance for hunters to have another day to hunt, particularly when it comes to thinning the deer herd in areas where they are trying to grow crops.

Certainly, farmers and other landowners have the right to prohibit or regulate Sunday hunting on their property and most do now for hunting on any other day of the week.

While trail users have concerns, some legitimate, there is plenty of room for everyone out there to enjoy the outdoors, no matter what their interest.

There are more than 4 million acres of land open to public use. State Forest lands total 2.2 million acres, Pa. Game Commission lands 1.5 million acres and the Allegheny National Forest is one-half million acres.

A great deal of that open land occurs in the Northwest and Northcentral parts of the Pennsylvania.

I don’t think hunters should step aside for other outdoors-lovers who may be hiking or biking. Everyone just has to be a little bit more aware of who is out there and be careful.

There aren’t as many hunters in the woods and fields these days. For the most recent available figures, total hunting license sales fell below 900,000 in 2017.

Deer hunters make up the bulk of those figures and for the last five seasons, archery deer hunters have exceeded more than 300,000.

I believe it’s a safe assertion that archers won’t have too many conflicts with other outdoors users.

The bill also amends the Pennsylvania Game Code to address trespassing while hunting, making the violation a primary offense and increasing penalties.

While the House Game and Fisheries Committee vote is a first, there are many obstacles before Sunday hunting could be allowed.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Scott Shindledecker may be reached at wildsidests@yahoo.com.

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