Pennsylvania legislator moves closer to allowing Sunday hunts

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HARRISBURG- In a vote last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 144-54 in favor of paving the way for possible Sunday hunting in 2020. Senate Bill 147, sponsored by Senator Dan Laughlin, called for three Sunday hunts per year: one Sunday to be selected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, one during archery season, and a third during rifle season.

Although approved by a majority of representatives, the final version deviates from the original in that it has three amendments added:

  1. The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s executive director will seek assistance from local police departments in “enforcing trespass”
  2. Hunters cannot be cited for trespassing if they are retrieving “a wayward hunting dog” on private property; and
  3. The law will go into effect 90 days after Governor Tom Wolf signs it.

It is also possible that hunters may be permitted to hunt private land during the designated Sunday hunt dates.

Currently, Sunday hunting is banned in three states: Maine, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Groups have organized efforts to eliminate this rule, dating back to the 19th century and legalize Sunday hunting nationwide. One group, the Pennsylvania chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) has been particularly diligent in their efforts.

BHA Pennsylvania Chapter Chairman Nate Fronk said “Keystone state BHA members who over the past two years have leant their voices to the effort by contacting their representatives and demanding Sunday hunting have profoundly impacted this vote, Along with our many conservation partner organizations, with whom we coordinated efforts, sportsmen and women created a cacophony that legislators found impossible to ignore.”

Governor Wolf has not expressed any reservations regarding signing the bill into law, however, it will still need to be approved by the Pennsylvania Senate with the three additional amendments before arriving at his desk. Because the original bill has already been approved by a Senate majority, this is not expected to be an issue.

“There is no time to incorporate Sundays into seasons before 2020” The Pennsylvania Game Commission said, and will incorporate the plan into discussions during their January meeting.