Bills on Sunday hunting, disabled first responders moves to full Pennsylvania Senate
Three Senate bills that would increase opportunities for Sunday hunters and disabled anglers took one step closer to becoming law Wednesday morning.
A bill that would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to decide how many Sundays should be open to hunting, a bill to allow falconry on more Sundays and a bill that would provide free fishing licenses to disabled first responders, all were voted out of the Senate's Game and Fisheries Committee.
Senate Bill 607, introduced by Sens. Dan Laughlin, the Game and Fisheries Committee chair, Devlin J. Robinson and James R. Brewster, Game and Fisheries minority chair, would allow the Game Commission, not the legislature, to determine which Sundays should be approved for hunting.
It passed on a 7-4 vote. Sens. Laughlin, Brewster, Wayne Fontana, Chris Gebhard, Doug Mastriano, Devlin Robinson, Judith Schwank voted yes, and Sens. Cris Dush, Scott Hutchinson, Lindsay M. Williams and Jake Corman voted no.
No questions or comments were made about the proposal.
If approved, the bill would allow hunting, training of dogs and trapping to occur on Sundays as regulated by the Game Commission. Current law requires the legislature to approve Sundays for hunting.
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Last year the state approved three Sundays for hunting for last fall and this autumn. New this year, on Nov. 14 and 21, hunters are also permitted to hunt other species such as squirrel, grouse and rabbit (except migratory game birds and wild turkeys) that are in season around those dates.
This change would allow the Game Commission to decide how many Sundays would be part of the regular seasons.
“We know license sales increased this past year," Travis Lau, communications director for the Game Commission, said in May for an earlier story on this bill. "The last numbers I saw were as of the end of April, when 2020-21 general license sales were at 884,105, an increase of more than 3%, or more than 26,000 hunters, compared to 2019-20.”
“We are conducting two separate surveys this spring/summer to learn more about the impact of the Sunday seasons on license purchases," Lau said. "Obviously, people hunted on these Sundays, and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about Sunday hunting and often hear comments that people would like more of it.
"From the comments we’ve heard, it seems clear that most hunters will show support for Sen. Laughlin’s bill, and the Game Commission supports it as well.”
Falconry on Sundays
The second bill, Senate Bill 318, introduced by Mario Scavello, Bob Mensch, Joe Pittman, Pat Stefano and Camera Bartolotta would allow the sport of falconry on Sundays during hunting seasons. Hunting with the use of birds of prey is commonly known as falconry.
Hunting with falcons is open this year Sept. 1 through March 31, including two Sundays, Nov. 14 and 21.
The trained birds of prey are able to take squirrels, bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbits, snowshoe or varying hares, and ring-necked pheasants.
No one offered questions or comments, but member Hutchinson voted no.
Disabled first responder license
A bill that would provide free fishing licenses to disabled first responders, a bill to allow falconry on more Sundays and a third bill that would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to decide how many Sundays should be open to hunting all were voted out of the Senate's Game and Fisheries committee.
Senate Bill 272, introduced by Sen. Mastriano, would provide free fishing licenses for 100% disabled first responders residing in Pennsylvania who were injured in the line of duty. First responders are defined as someone who serves a police department, fire department or rescue agency.
"First responders constantly face great danger running in the jaws of danger themselves every day when they respond to the calls for help. We are indebted to those whose risk their lives and wellbeing to those who protect us, and in honor of their sacrifice, this is a small way to express our thanks within the state of Pennsylvania," Mastriano said in introducing his bill.
No other comments were made, and the committee unanimously approved it.
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The law already provides free fishing licenses to resident disabled veterans and former prisoners of war.
All three bills will now be considered by the full Senate.
Brian Whipkey is the Pennsylvania Outdoor columnist for Gannett. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up for our weekly Outdoors Newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name.