Gov. Wolf signs Sunday hunting bill

Ben Destefan news@echo-pilot.com

A bill to expand Sunday hunting opportunities in Pennsylvania has become law.

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 147, which allows the Pennsylvania Game Commission to implement hunting on three Sundays a year — one during rifle deer season, one during archery deer season and one of the Game Commission's choosing.

"This legislation carefully balances the needs of landowners with an expanded opportunity for hunters who work or attend school during weekdays," Wolf said.

The bill also makes trespassing while hunting a primary offense and increases the penalties. The new law further provides that hunters must have the written permission of the landowner to hunt on private property on any Sunday.

The Game Commission issued a release on Wednesday following the signing of the bill, stating the law will take effect Feb. 25, 2020, and the first new Sunday hunting opportunities will be announced after that date.

Currently, Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania is banned other than exceptions for foxes, coyotes and crows.

Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said the signing of Senate Bill 147 is a win for Pennsylvania's hunters.

"People today tend to lead busy lives, and hunters are no exception," Burhans said. "No matter how badly a hunter might want to get out and enjoy the outdoors during hunting season, other responsibilities might take priority and make it difficult.

"Providing opportunity to experience hunting on previously closed Sundays has game-changing potential for hunters with tight schedules and, in many cases, will make a difference by enabling those hunters to hunt alongside their children, setting them on a path they'll follow the rest of their lives," Burhans said.

Senate Bill 147 was introduced by Sen. Dan Laughlin, Republican chairman of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee. After initially getting through the Senate, the bill passed the state House of Representatives by a 144-54 vote on Oct. 29 with amended language regarding trespassing. The Senate then gave a favorable concurrent vote of 38-11 on Nov. 18.

The addition of three Sundays a year is the second major change for hunters in Pennsylvania of late, with the opening of rifle deer season on Saturday, Nov. 30. Traditionally, rifle season has opened on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Beginning this year, the Game Commission voted to move the start of rifle season to the Saturday after the holiday, which is also intended to offer more opportunities for hunters.