Sunday hunting fight will address deer issue
The fight to legalize Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania is taking on a new form.
It's not one everyone supports.
The grassroots group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting initially formed more than a year ago. Its goal was to convince lawmakers to remove the “blue law” prohibiting hunting Sundays.
That would not mandate hunting on Sundays. It would only give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to decide which, if any, to add to the hunting calendar.
Supporters say Sunday hunting would increase opportunities for working people, families and youths otherwise tied up with work, school and sports to get outdoors.
The idea has gotten no traction, however.
State Rep. Bob Godshall of Montgomery County introduced House Bill 71 on Jan. 23 of 2017. It would eliminate the Sunday hunting ban. Fourteen co-sponsors signed on.
But it has gone nowhere.
The bill has never come up for debate in committee, let alone gone before the full House of Representatives. That's the same fate suffered by similar legislation in previous years.
So, said Harold Daub of Dauphin County, it's time for a change.
Daub — testifying before Game Commissioners — admitted not all hunters want Sundays. And the main issue for those opposed is deer.
They fear adding Sundays to deer seasons and decreasing the herd, Daub said.
He doesn't share that worry, he said. But he said he accepts it for the roadblock it is.
“I would prefer that the Game Commission be given seven-day regulatory authority over all species. But it's simply time to face reality and leave deer behind,” Daub said.
That's where the new strategy comes in.
There is some Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania already, Daub noted. Three species — coyotes, foxes and crows — can be pursued on that day.
The Hunters United group is suggesting — rather than repealing the Sunday hunting ban — lawmakers expand the list of species that can be hunted on that day. Specifically, it wants to add groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, raccoons and waterfowl.
Not everyone likes the idea.
Enough of those who attended a kickoff meeting for the new strategy complained that Daub took to Facebook this week to address their issues.
The problem, he said, is the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
That group is the largest representing farm families in the state. And it long has opposed Sunday hunting.
Jeff Grove, the bureau's director of local affairs, said the issue was debated — as it is every year — at its annual meeting in November. Sunday hunting was shot down in a discussion that lasted less than three minutes, he said.
There are likely many reasons, he said. But one stands out.
“The one thing I hear most often on Sunday hunting is that farmers just don't want to be harassed on Sundays,” Grove said.
Daub said hunters — who have had no success countering the bureau with lawmakers — have to try something new, hence the new strategy.
“Is it perfect? No. But we need to win a battle to turn this war in our favor and away from the Farm Bureau,” he wrote.
In the meantime, one Game Commissioner wondered if the bureau's stance accurately reflects all farmers.
Brian Hoover of Chester County attended the Farm Bureau's annual meeting.
“So when I sat at a table with a group of farmers, the first thing they brought up to me was, when are we going to get Sunday hunting? And the table behind me was saying the same thing,” Hoover said.
He suggested there's an “underlying movement” within the bureau to accept it.
If that's true, it might be age-based, Grove said.
“I do believe, if you look at the demographics of hunters, the younger generation is much more supportive (of Sunday hunting) than the older. And I would imagine that's possible in the agricultural industry, too,” Grove said.
There are certainly young people who favor Sunday hunting. Gov. Tom Wolf's youth advisory council on hunting, fishing and conservation was polled on ideas for getting kids into the woods more often.
“More days to hunt was suggested more than any other idea,” said Jordon Edmonds, spokesman for the group.
He told commissioners group members see Sundays as the answer to getting youths into the woods in the face of other competition for time.