PA Senate approves Sunday hunting bill

Ben Destefan news@echo-pilot.com

Legislation to lift the ban on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania passed the state Senate last week and was referred to the House Game and Fisheries Committee.

Sponsored by Sen. Dan Laughlin, Senate Bill 147 would empower the Pennsylvania Game Commission to allow hunting on up to three Sundays a year. By a vote of 36-14, the bill passed the Senate on Wednesday.

Sen. Judy Ward, a Republican whose district includes Greencastle and Antrim Township, voted "no." Ward released the following statement about voting against the bill:

"The original version of Senate Bill 147 called for allowing hunting on 14 Sundays a year, which drew a great deal of alarm among opponents. The version that passed the Senate gives the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to permit hunting on just three Sundays during the year. I am encouraged that the legislation was changed to at least partially address these concerns.

"I am a strong supporter of hunters, hunting and Second Amendment rights. However, I have historically not supported Sunday hunting. After much consultation with hunters, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts who are clearly still not in favor of this measure in any form, I voted against the bill.

“Many constituents who reached out to me expressed serious and genuine concerns about the possibility of allowing Sunday hunting. As always, the opinions of my constituents are important to me and I will do my best to represent their interests in Harrisburg.”

Although legislation has passed the Senate, the prospect of hunting on Sundays is still a ways off.

"Until final legislation is adopted, I doubt there would be serious discussion on changes," said Travis Lau, communications director for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. "If legislation is adopted to give the Game Commission regulatory authority to include Sundays as part of seasons, I think there would be interest on part of the agency to provide at least some additional Sunday hunting opportunities as soon as possible. How soon that could happen is hard to answer."

 Senate Bill 147 

"Today was a historic vote, as it takes a major step toward increasing recreational opportunities for the thousands of Pennsylvania sportsmen and women who enjoy hunting," said Laughlin, a Republican who represents the 49th District. "This will remove one of only two ‘Blue Laws’ remaining in the state of Pennsylvania. You can’t hunt and you can’t buy a car on Sunday."

According to the amended bill, hunting could be allowed on three Sundays each calendar year, including:

— One Sunday instituted by the PGC during deer rifle season.

— One Sunday instituted by the PGC during statewide deer archery season.

— One Sunday as determined by the PGC.

"Weekends are the only free time for many hunters," Laughlin said. "Those two days are essentially the only time that most working men and women can get out into the woods. The same could be said for many young people, the ones who represent the future of the sport. Lifting the ban will give them increased opportunities to pursue the activity that they love."

In addition to lifting the ban on Sunday hunting, Senate Bill 147 would amend the Pennsylvania Game Code to address the offense of trespass while hunting. It would make the violation a primary offense and increase the penalties.