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Keep Sunday hunting restrictions

Pennsylvania hunters already spend more "days afield" than those of any other state ... 103 days to hunt deer, including 18 Saturdays.

Farmers across the commonwealth and a mounting number of other Pennsylvanians have been sending a clear message to the state General Assembly: "Don't expand Sunday hunting."

Most farmers feel strongly about it. We want a day of peace and quiet on Sunday, when we may work less and enjoy more time with our family and friends around the farm. Posting "No Sunday Hunting" on our lands won't prevent the intrusions. Hunters frequently cross property lines and, while responsible hunters respect private land, owners know that trespass and poor enforcement is a serious problem that would become worse.

This is not only about farmers and hunters. More than 12 million other Pennsylvanians, including those living in cities and the suburbs, should be involved in the discussion and decision. Many take to the state's outdoors to hike, bike, ride horses or just enjoy a family picnic. Now, they aren't concerned by gunfire on Sundays and don't feel a need to wear blaze orange outfits like hunters. If the current law changes, so will Sundays in Pennsylvania.

Legislation before the General Assembly in Harrisburg would not only repeal current restrictions on Sunday hunting, but also turn future decision-making about it over to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The Game Commission's job is to manage wildlife populations, not to deal with potential conflicts between segments of state residents.

Some Sunday hunting advocates argue that it is not fair for them to be prevented from hunting on their own land, implying that everyone has the right to do whatever he wishes, whenever he wants, on his own property. There are already many restrictions or limitations on private property established for the greater good. Many believe some of those restrictions are unwarranted or excessive. Most farmers just don't happen to feel that limits on Sunday hunting are among them.

Proponents of a change in the law claim Pennsylvania's economy will get a boost from Sunday hunting, citing a study commissioned by a General Assembly committee. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and many others, however, believe the statistics are greatly exaggerated and fail to account for other considerations. For example, how much revenue and how many jobs will be lost if fewer Pennsylvanians -- and out-of-state visitors -- participate in recreational activities other than hunting on Sundays• The study assumes that resident hunters won't contribute to the state's economy on Sunday if they are not hunting.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania hunters already spend more "days afield" than those of any other state. There are 103 days to hunt deer, including 18 Saturdays. Meanwhile, the Game Commission already has the authority to expand deer-hunting opportunities by adding two more days to the rifled deer season and/or by allowing hunting on the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving, or other measures.

The bottom line: Current law restricting Sunday hunting provides a reasonable balance for farmers, hunters and the millions of other people who enjoy the outdoors of Pennsylvania.

Carl T. Shaffer, a full-time farmer in Columbia County, is president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

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