Sunday hunting debate generating heat

Posted on: April 14, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Hunting is a six-days-a-week proposition in some states. There’s a move afoot to change that, though.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

A lack of unity.

That’s something opponents of efforts to legalize hunting on Sundays across Pennsylvania have always hung their hat on. Hunters themselves can’t even agree they want it, they’ve argued.

Might that be changing?

The Pennsylvania Game Commission recently did a survey of 2,002 adult hunters – residents and non-residents – who had a license last year. One of the questions it asked was whether those hunters supported the legalization of Sunday hunting.

Fifty-three percent said they supported or strongly supported it; 40 percent said they opposed or strongly opposed it.

More telling, perhaps, is how that breaks down by age.

Coren Jagnow, chief of the commission’s research and education division, said younger hunters are much more supportive of Sunday hunting than older ones.

Among hunters 55 and older, 38 percent “strongly oppose” Sunday hunting. Among those younger than 55, though, 53 percent “strongly support” it.

As older hunters leave the ranks, support only figures to grow, said some commission board members.

Sunday hunting supporters were already vocal at the board’s latest meeting.

Wes Waldron, spokesman for the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, took the state’s Farm Bureau to task. The Farm Bureau is the state’s staunchest Sunday hunting opponent.

That makes no sense, Waldron said. At every meeting of the commission, the Farm Bureau sends a paid staff member to relay farmer concerns. Those routinely focus on complaints about wildlife-related crop damage, he noted.

“We see the recalcitrance of the Farm Bureau on this issue as antiquated in light of their continuing complaints, justified as they are, and more than a bit inflexible,” Waldron said.

The Bowhunters can understand any individual’s reluctance to Sunday hunting, he said. And it would not favor forcing any landowner to open his land to hunting on that day.

But there’s no reason to keep all hunters from hunting anywhere on Sundays, Waldron added.

A couple of other hunters at the commission meeting also spoke in favor of Sunday hunting, as did the executive director of the state’s Hunters Sharing the Harvest program.

Others remain opposed.

The Game Commission hosted a recent meeting, trying to broker some compromise on the Sunday hunting issue. But one group that was a part of those talks, the Keystone Trails Association doesn’t want to budge.

The hiking group’s trail care chairman, Ed Lawrence, recently wrote an opinion piece for the association newsletter saying people who don’t hunt should have one day to be in the woods without fear of “user conflicts or accidentally getting shot.”

“This is really an issue of fairness and the equitable sharing of the resources of time and terrain,” Lawrence wrote.

The Association, meanwhile, is planning a rally at the state Capitol on June 6 to make lawmakers aware of its stance. It’s inviting members to attend and meet with legislators, going so far as to promise to “guide you around the capitol, provide handouts and talking points, and schedule all appointments.”

Lawmakers are looking into the issue.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Jim Brewster of Allegheny County has introduced legislation that would legalize hunting on Sundays. His Senate Bill 453 would not mandate hunting on any Sundays, let alone all of them. It would allow the commission to determine which Sundays, if any, to include in hunting seasons, however.

“This will provide an economic benefit to both the state and municipalities and hunters would be able to exercise their rights one more day per week,” Brewster said.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.

Other states are looking at the issue, too.

The West Virginia state Senate recently passed Senate Bill 345, which would allow Sunday hunting on private land statewide, by a vote of 26-6. The state’s House of representatives agriculture and natural resource committee followed that up by recommending its approval, too.

That sends it to the full House for a vote.

In West Virginia state, Sunday hunting is prohibited on public land, but counties can vote to allow it on private property. Thirty-three of 55 counties have, with 11 having come on line in the November election.

Connecticut lawmakers, meanwhile, are debating Sunday hunting legislation there, too.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.