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Debate over Sunday hunting gaining steam

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Imagine a bunch of fencers, engaging, advancing, parrying, lunging, thrusting and — far less often — retreating.

That pretty much describes the interaction between Pennsylvania Game Commissioners and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's Jeff Grove this past week.

Grove, local affairs representative for the bureau, testified before commissioners at their quarterly meeting in Harrisburg, most notably on farmers' desire to see deer managed on science, not politics.

But before he sat down, commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County had a question. What, he asked, is the bureau's latest stance legalizing Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania?

Grove told him that the Farm Bureau remains opposed to the notion.

"Eighty percent of landowners do not want Sunday hunting," Grove said.

That led to some interesting banter.

A coalition of national-level sportsmen's groups has set its sights on eliminating the last bans on Sunday hunting in the nation. Pennsylvania is one of fewer than a dozen states with such a prohibition.

Delaney said he is considering putting forward a resolution, perhaps by June, in support of that effort.

Commissioners Dave Schreffler of Bedford County and Tom Boop of Northumberland County suggested they might vote against it because they worry Sunday hunting will lead to land being posted.

"I'm telling you, and I'm telling this board, if the NRA and other organizations cram this down the throat of Pennsylvania landowners, there are going to be consequences," Boop said.

Commissioners Greg Isabella of Philadelphia and Bob Schlemmer of Export said Sundays could work, though, if only certain species on certain lands are fair game, or farmers post their land one day a week.

But where things got interesting was when commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle noted that he had asked the Farm Bureau questions such as how many farms and how many acres it represents, how many of those farms and acres are open to public hunting and how many farms there are in the state and what percentage the bureau represents.

He told Grove he's gotten no answers from the Farm Bureau. Grove told him he won't be getting any.

The Farm Bureau's attorneys have decided not to share, because that information is hard to come by and because they don't know how the information might be used, Grove said.

That's "troublesome," said Martone, who just wants to make a decision based on good information.

"Sunday hunting is here. It's only going to get debated in a bigger forum," Martone said. "The more actual information we have, the better decisions we can make on an individual level and on a board level."

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