The issue of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania seems to have gained some meaningful traction recently.
For as long as I can remember, the debate about Sunday hunting seems to have surfaced every few years. Most polls on the subject typically indicated the sportsmen of our state were almost evenly split on the issue. So after a certain amount of fanfare and lip service, the matter always seemed to return to obscurity, at least until some other group or entity decided to pick up the torch and wave it again.
Pennsylvania is currently one of only a handful of states where Sunday hunting is not legal, and that prohibition goes back to the so-called blue laws that for the most part have been phased out in the past few decades. Legalizing Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania would require an act of the state legislature to repeal the ban. It's probably worth mentioning that Sunday fishing was also prohibited in Pennsylvania until 1937 when legislation was passed allowing it.
One of the main areas of opposition to Sunday hunting has always come from the farming lobby and some private landowners who threaten to close their land to hunting if Sunday hunting is allowed. While I thoroughly respect the right of an individual landowner, why not simply post against Sunday hunting if he wishes to maintain the status quo on his own property?
Personally, Sunday hunting is one of the few outdoor issues on which I have always been mostly neutral or ambivalent. I always preferred to hunt on weekdays and for most of my life had jobs that allowed me to take days off to do so. But I also realized that many working folks or kids in school didn't have that luxury, and allowing Sunday hunting would effectively double their hunting opportunities. Either way was fine with me.
In recent years, however, I tend to lean more toward allowing Sunday hunting, mostly because there are so few good reasons not to. It bothers me that we have millions of acres of public land, such as state game lands, state parks and state forests, that are arbitrarily closed to hunting one day a week. It bothers me even more that the state has the audacity to arbitrarily bar me or my friends from hunting on my own property one day a week. Apparently, some of our policymakers are starting to see things that way as well.
At their regular quarterly meeting on June 28, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the repeal of the statutory prohibition on Sunday hunting. The following day a bill that would permit hunting on Sunday was introduced in the state house and was referred to the Game and Fisheries Committee. If that legislation ultimately passes the General Assembly and is signed by the governor, we could finally have Sunday hunting here in Pennsylvania. Having been down this road many time times in the pass, I hesitate to make any predictions about that outcome, but it does seem like the political climate is more favorable to approval now.
The Game Commission's long-winded and rather pompous resolution outlined a long list of talking points in favor of Sunday hunting. (That's not a slap at this particular resolution; most such resolutions are by their very nature long-winded and rather pompous.) Increased hunting opportunity and the potential benefits to hunter recruitment and retention were obvious factors. They also expect "a substantial increase in out-of-state license sales and the accompanying revenue."
Those sound good in theory, but I wonder how much actual impact we will see along those lines. I'm afraid all the folks who are too busy or preoccupied to go hunting the other six days of the week will be just as busy or preoccupied on Sunday as well.
I'll also be curious to see just how "substantial" the increase in non-resident license sales would be if Sunday hunting becomes a reality.
I was stunned to discover the potential economic impact that allowing Sunday hunting could bring to Pennsylvania. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the addition of Sunday hunting could generate an estimated $764 million and create more than 8,000 jobs.
In its resolution the Game Commission stated that the agency expected Sunday hunting "to generate $629 million in additional spending and create 5,300 new jobs, resulting in $18 million in additional sales and income tax."
Those figures strike me as somewhat staggering for what would amount to a relative handful of extra hunting days each year. They also provide some insight into just how important hunting is to the economy of our state. So if money talks, and it usually does in matter like this, we just might see Sunday hunting become a reality this time around.