Sunday hunt may put target on lawmakers

It’s easy to understand why opponents of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania are wary regarding the apparent “compromise” legislation that passed the state Senate on June 26, sending it to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The obvious basis for concern is that Sunday hunting, if it gets its proverbial foot in the door in even a small way, will be extended to more Sundays in the future, eventually being accorded approval for all Sundays during the various hunting seasons.

That would keep many wooded areas and fields virtually off-limits for hiking and other recreational opportunities during the full extent of those seasons. Meanwhile, it’s not unreasonable to say that wildlife deserve a break from being hunted, even during official hunting seasons.

Nevertheless, hunters’ arguments are valid — that allowing hunting on Sundays would make it easier for younger people and others to hunt, including those with challenging work schedules.

But challenging work and school schedules and other responsibilities also limit many people’s opportunities to enjoy the outdoors; for many, Sundays are the most convenient — sometimes the only — opportunity.

It’s a tough issue that, either way it shakes out, will cause many people to be unhappy.

The Sunday legislation passed by the Senate, 36-14, would permit hunting on one Sunday during deer rifle season, one during deer archery season and one possibly during small-game-hunting season. The legislation directs the Pennsylvania Game Commission to determine which three Sundays would be legal for hunting.

Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, who voted against the measure based in large part on opinions expressed by constituents, said, “I am a strong supporter of hunters, hunting and Second Amendment rights. However, I have historically not supported Sunday hunting. After much consultation with hunters, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts who are clearly still not in favor of this measure in any form, I voted against the bill.”

She noted that the original version of the bill — Senate Bill 147 — called for allowing hunting on 14 Sundays a year.

Some opponents believe that if SB 147 were enacted, in five years — possibly sooner — the three-Sunday authorization would give way to expansion to perhaps five or seven Sundays or more.

That prediction isn’t unrealistic.

One argument in support of Sunday hunting is that it would help increase hunting license sales. Other supporters make the accurate point that some Pennsylvania hunters opt to hunt in neighboring states, at least in part because of the current Sunday ban.

However, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization, says farmers should be able to enjoy Sundays with their families without being bothered by gunshots, or by hunters knocking on their doors seeking permission to hunt on their land.

The bureau notes that farmers work seven days a week but usually try to limit their workload on Sundays.

House lawmakers face a difficult decision, assuming that the proposed measure comes to the floor for a vote.

Whatever the decision, there could be ramifications at the ballot box — ramifications like what some senators already might be facing.


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