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Pennsylvania Sunday Hunting: One Step Forward Two Steps Back

Pennsylvania has long standing blue laws that prohibit Sunday Hunting in the state in favor of filling pews. With new ground gained in other areas PA will surely follow suit, right?

As you may know, in 2018 a bill was introduced to the Pennsylvania legislature, SB147 as it’s known by its “short title”:

An Act amending Title 34 (Game) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in Pennsylvania Game Commission, further providing for accountability; and, in hunting and furtaking, further providing for hunting on Sunday prohibited, providing for hunting on Sunday and further providing for trespass on private property while hunting.

That’s a mouth full. I hope they don’t announce that every time they go into committee. Originally the bill allowed for up to fourteen Sundays per calendar year to be set aside for Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania, one of a very few states still prohibiting taking game on Sundays under Blue Laws. As Pennsylvania Blue Laws have been slowly stripped away, such as the ability to sell beer and liquor on Sundays in 2017-18 one has remained — Sunday Hunting. Blue Laws are laws defined to restrict activities on Sundays in favor of religious activities, something that perhaps should not exist by means of the separation of church and state, but also in an increasingly modern society.

However, recently the bill came out of committee with the amount of Sundays approved for hunting being narrowed from fourteen to three. While this is a step in the right direction, I can’t help but feel that this is a poke in the eye towards Pennsylvania’s proud hunters.

Outdoor advocacy groups such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have lobbied for expanded Sunday hunting, and call this a strategic victory, which I would wholeheartedly agree. However, other groups like the Farm Bureau have came out in opposition of the bill, instead favoring extended hunting seasons rather than Sunday hunting. Unfortunately that comes across as tone deaf in the hunting community, where most workers in the United States work a Monday through Friday 9-5 job, with weekends off they enjoy only a single day to recreate by hunting lest they make schedule changes mid week.

I can’t leave well enough alone. I’ve spent a majority of my summers and hunting seasons in the northern camp counties for a little over 25 years, so I had to reach out. If you’re a Pennsylvania hunter, feel free to find your representative at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/ and plagiarize my letter I sent. Below is what I sent to Senator Hutchinson, my Senator representing Warren County:

Senator Hutchinson,

I wanted to reach out in order to express my displeasure that SB147, a measure that would allow Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania, was amended in committee to move from 14 allowable Sundays to three. The economy in the northern camp counties of Pennsylvania rely heavily on tourism, hunting, and angling traffic utilizing the Allegheny National Forest, Cook State Forest, and other state and federal land holdings. While allowing Sunday Hunting and the repeal of other Blue Laws such as the purchase of alcohol on Sundays have made great strides towards improving the economies of that region, I’m disappointed to see SB147 rendered nearly ineffective by limiting it to only three Sundays per year.

The number one reason why hunters quit hunting is lack of time, followed closely behind with lack of access to land to do so. In the world of the 9-5 Monday through Friday office worker, time IS access. Disallowing 50% of an average person’s weekend means that we see a decreasing amount of hunters while the nation is increasingly urbanizing. Hunting license sales keep our state game agencies solvent, and contribute to the procurement and maintenance of state land open to ALL outdoor recreators. I strongly urge you to fight to open up Sunday hunting more broadly in Pennsylvania as it benefits everyone, including our local economy in Tidioute, which closed our last grocery store this past season citing a lack of traffic. That traffic is largely seasonal, peaking for the deer and trout opening days and surging through the respective seasons.

Thank you for your attention and consideration,

Alex Getty

I remain hopeful that Pennsylvania will see the economic benefits to opening Sunday hunting. While the Saturday whitetail opener this year has caused much consternation about traveling out of state hunters as well as the traditions long held in the northern camp counties surrounding a Monday opener — I feel that seven day hunting will ease that tension and allow people to get into the woods more often and strengthen the community overall. What better way to solve the time and access issues causing at least in part a decline of the nations hunters than by providing 14% more hunting time, and time helps extend range and provide access.

Full Disclosure: The author is a member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and an active mentor in the Denver, CO area.

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Tags: , Last modified: March 1, 2020