July 23, 2024

Few states have a stronger hunting tradition than Pennsylvania.

As the firearms deer season approaches, for example, whole neighborhoods smell like Hoppes #9. Wives search vainly for husbands, who have quietly disappeared to get in a few hours of pre-hunt scouting. On Opening Day, schools close because so many students, not to mention teachers, are absent anyway. By nightfall, deer camps are full of bucks hanging from meat poles and every other pickup you see on the road has deer hooves or antlers sticking up over the tailgate.

At least thats the way it used to be.

But the number of hunters in Pennsylvania is dropping, as it is nationwide. In Pennsylvania, there has been a 28 percent decline in license sales between 1981 and 2006. There is a long list of reasonsurbanization, expense, lack of time, overly restrictive regulations, anti-hunting attitudes, etc.

Of these reasons, lack of time, might actually be one of the easier problems to solveby allowing citizens to hunt on Sunday.

Currently, all Pennsylvanians can hunt on Sunday is coyotes, foxes and crows, and it is one of just seven states with such a severe restriction. Arguments against Sunday hunting usually focus on supposed safety concerns, clashes with landowners, church disruption or the idea that hikers and horseback riders need one day a week they can be in the woods without worrying about hunters.

All of these arguments can be debated, but for the moment lets not even bother. They were the same arguments used in 43 other states where Sunday hunting was debatedbut reason prevailed and now it is allowed. None of the predicted calamities in those stateswhether regarding human safety, religious upheaval, landowner relations, privacy invasion or run-ins between hunters and hikershas occurred significantly. Not one of the states where lawmakers allowed Sunday hunting has seen any reason to change its policy due to any of those claims.

Whos Against It and Why?
Among the most vocal opponents of Sunday hunting in the state is the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. Some of their stated positions include:
Farmers do not get weekends off. Sunday is the one day they tend to relax their schedule to spend time with the families.

Many farmers only get Sundays to use their own land for recreation.

Posted land does not mean hunters will obey the signs. Trespassing hunters can endanger others who are not expecting to see them.

Farmers need one day they can move about without getting between a hunter and the target.

For the record, farmers who let people hunt their property do a great service for hunters, and they deserve our thanks for it. Even farmers that dont let hunters in often enhance habitat to support various kinds of game. Whether you know it or not, NRA has a Hunters Code of Ethics, and its very first point is, I will consider myself an invited guest of the landowner, seeking his permission, and conduct myself so that I will be welcome in the future.

That said, its worth remembering that hunters perform a service for farmers, too, by controlling the number of deer and bears that would otherwise damage crops. A 1997 Penn State University study estimated crop damage by deer at $75 million. And farmers are not the only people who work long hours anymore. Thats why the average guy needs Sunday it may be his only day to hunt. Regardless, farmers who dont agree could always put up a NO SUNDAY HUNTING sign. Maybe there would be some trespassing and maybe there wouldnt be any at all.

What Are the Benefits?
Many of the benefits to Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania are economic. Studies show that if Sunday hunting were allowed during all seasons, it would:

Stimulate $629 million in additional spending
Create 5,300 new jobs
Generate $18 million in additional state sales and income taxes.

Plus, 38 percent of Pennsylvanias hunters (both lapsed and active) said they would hunt more or hunt again if Sunday hunting were allowed.

But we dont really need a study to tell us that Sunday hunting would give people more time to hunt. Nonresidents would obviously be more willing to hunt Pennsylvania given the extra days. Kids who cant hunt on Saturday because of school functions, football or jobs would at least have one weekend day to get out. And parents and kids would get an additional opportunity to hunt together.

And all of this connects to the most important point made at the outsetthat license sales have dropped 28 percent in a state with a powerful hunting tradition. Giving people more time to hunt is one of the easiest ways to start turning that trend around and breathing new life into that tradition.

Voice Your Opinion

Pennsylvania Rep. Edward Staback, chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committtee, has introduced House Bill 779, which would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to regulate Sunday hunting, instead of the General Assembly. Visit: http://www.pahouse.com/staback and click on “Sunday Hunting Still Under the Cross Fire” to voice your opinion.