Editorial: Harrisburg targets hunting changes
It used to be that the Saturday after Thanksgiving was about hunting for bargains or hunting for Christmas ornaments or maybe just hunting for the remote to watch college football.
“Used to be” was last year. That changes this weekend.
This year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is also the first day of deer season. After more than 50 years, Pennsylvania hunters’ routines will be shaken up. No Monday start with those first precious days taken off work or school to sit in the woods on a cold morning waiting for the perfect 12-point buck.
Saturday’s activities will be followed by a lull as Sunday hunting remains off limits. For now.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law allowing hunting on three Sundays in 2020 — one each during rifle and archery seasons and another to be named by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
It’s seen by some as a great move that makes hunting more accessible to people with Monday-to- Friday jobs.
State Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee minority chairman, sees it as a way to bring in new hunters and keep them engaged. And it could be.
Let’s hope that it is, because hunting is more than just a big part of Pennsylvania culture, especially in more rural areas. Managing the herd in the absence of enough natural predators is important. And it’s a nice chunk of the state’s recreation and tourism economy.
A study from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership showed that hunters pumped about $817 million into their sport in the state in 2016, and the hunters that spend the most are the ones that hunt big game.
The most popular big game in Pennsylvania is the state animal — the white-tailed deer. According to Penn State, there are about 1.5 million in the commonwealth, or 30 per square mile, although anyone driving at night might swear there are more.
But state government seems to enjoy assuming something will work and moving on to the next step before waiting to see how it plays out first. Gambling has grown steadily since gaining a toehold. Marijuana is poised to do the same.
Why couldn’t the Sunday hunting question have waited to be settled until after the change to a Saturday start was assessed? Was there really a pressing need to decide the issue this year?
Let’s hope moving that first day works well — the starting over the holiday weekend catches the deer by surprise and leads to record hauls that excite and entice young hunters to get involved and keep spending their time and money in Pennsylvania. And let’s hope that next year, the prospect of those three Sunday hunts does the same.
But while we’re at it, maybe we could also hope that the state government and lawmakers can learn to finish shooting at one target before moving on to the next.