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Legalizing Sunday hunting continues to be uphill battle

| Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011

It's a question of fairness.

That's what supporters of a move to legalize Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania -- banned since 1873 -- said at a gathering of the state House of Representatives' game and fisheries committee near Allentown on Thursday night.

Representatives of five organizations testified at the hearing. Of those, three supported Sunday hunting, including Janet Nyce, a member of former Gov. Ed Rendell's advisory council for hunting, fishing and conservation. Nyce said people can golf, go to the mall, fish or even buy liquor on Sundays. That they can't hunt is wrong, she said.

"It's discrimination at its finest and I am truly tired of it," she said. "This is about an antiquated law that's robbing us of privileges other people have."

Jennifer Saeger, president of the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, agreed.

"Really, this boils down to one thing: choice. It's about what people want to do. For some on Sundays, that's soccer. For some, it's hunting," Saeger said.

Not everyone agreed.

Robert Krause of the Northampton County branch of the Pennsylvania State Grange said members oppose Sunday hunting for a number of reasons.

"Our main objection is the disturbance, even the danger, it would pose to hikers, backpackers, birdwatchers and others who use the woods on a Sunday," Krause said.

When asked by Crawford County Republican and committee chairman John Evans, though, he could offer no evidence of a hiker being hurt by a hunter's bullet.

Ray Mack of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's Northampton-Monroe county chapter likewise said that organization opposes expanded Sunday hunting under all circumstances. He maintained that stance, even when Evans asked how farmers - who could post their land against Sunday hunting -- could justify keeping other landowners from hunting on their properties on Sundays.

"What we have essentially is one group telling another that, no, you can't hunt on your land. Is that fair?" Evans asked.

A visibly frustrated Rep. Ed Staback, a Lackawanna County Democrat, added that he and Evans have asked opponents several times to meet and discuss possible compromises, to no avail.

"What is wrong with trying to work this out• Why does it have to be with the Farm Bureau and Grange that everything is so black and white?" Staback asked.

In the meantime, lobbying continues. Fayette County Democratic Rep. Deberah Kula said the comments so far have been "a mixed bag."

Evans said hunters need to be more vocal in supporting Sunday hunting if they want it because its chances of getting past the committee are too close to call.

"That's going to be problematic if the members don't hear from sportsmen," Evans aid.

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