Pa. Sunday hunting bill strikes a good balance
It wasn’t exactly the shot heard around the commonwealth, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature on a bill allowing limited Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania represents a shift in centuries-old tradition. People on either side of this argument should be able to embrace the changes.
The compromise struck by Wolf and legislators marks the demise of one of Pennsylvania’s last antiquated blue laws — the notion, begun in the 19th century, that banning certain activities would preserve Sunday as a day dedicated to religious observance. And family time, along with some peace and quiet for farmers. And in later years, a weekend day for nonhunting enthusiasts to take to the outdoors without worrying about bullets or buckshot.
The debate over Sunday hunting has been raging for years in the Keystone State. Hunters and outfitters have lamented the decline in participation, partly because of societal and familial changes that make weekend days valuable to people on tight schedules. Farmers, for the most part, objected to an intrusion of firearm season into their Sunday routines.
Finally, the differences were worked out. The state Senate voted 38-11 for the bill on Nov. 27. Wolf signed it the same day.
The primary change is approval for hunting on three Sundays — one during deer rifle season, one during statewide archery deer season and a third Sunday to be selected by the game commission.
To address the opposition, the bill includes a requirement that hunters and trappers get a landowner’s written permission to venture onto private lands on a Sunday, and makes it easier for wardens to enforce the anti-trespassing law, exposing violators to fines ranging from $250 to $500.
The changes won’t go into effect for three months, meaning the kickoff for deer hunters will come in the 2020 season. (Sunday hunting has been allowed for many years for coyotes, fox and crows.)
Another significant change, approved by the game commission in April, has debuted this year — beginning rifle deer season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, instead of the following Monday. A Monday start had been the rule since 1963, beginning a tradition of taking a day off from work or school to get into the field at dawn.
This expansion should be acceptable to both sides, assuming hunters respect the opportunities and get a written OK from private landowners for Sunday hunting.
Preserving Pennsylvania’s heritage for hunters and nonhunters requires cooperation. This bill looks like a way to share the land.
— Easton Express Times
The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.