Se­nate-passed Sun­day hunt­ing bill hits op­po­si­tion in Pa. House

The Morning Call - - STATE/REGION - BY MARK SCOLFORO

HAR­RIS­BURG – A pro­posal to al­low lim­ited hunt­ing in Penn­syl­va­nia on Sun­days ran into op­po­si­tion dur­ing an in­for­ma­tion hear­ing Tues­day and a key com­mit­tee chair­man said its fi­nal pas­sage in the state House was in doubt.

Af­ter a con­tentious in­for­ma­tional hear­ing in the Capi­tol, Game and Fish­eries Com­mit­tee Chair­man Keith Gille­spie said sup­port­ers will need to en­gage in some “dam­age con­trol” if they hope to see the bill en­acted.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of hunt­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions and the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion spoke in fa­vor of the mea­sure, which would per­mit hunt­ing on one Sun­day dur­ing deer ri­fle sea­son, one dur­ing deer archery sea­son, and on a third Sun­day to be des­ig­nated by the Game Com­mis­sion.

Penn­syl­va­nia has banned Sun­day hunt­ing since the 19th cen­tury, al­though there are ex­cep­tions for crows, foxes and coy­otes, and for non­com­mer­cial pri­vate game re­serves.

The bill, touted as a way to make it eas­ier for younger peo­ple and those who work dur­ing the week to hunt, passed the state Se­nate com­fort­ably in June. It would also toughen tres­pass­ing laws.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Key­stone Tri­als As­so­ci­a­tion and the Penn­syl­va­nia Farm Bureau told law­mak­ers they are op­posed.

Hik­ers don’t want to lose three Sun­days a year when they know there will not be hun­ters in the woods, and Farm Bureau mem­bers say even stronger pro­vi­sions against tres­pass­ing are needed be­fore they will be neu­tral on the bill.

Dar­rin Youker, a Farm Bureau lob­by­ist, told the com­mit­tee the pro­posal should in­clude a re­quire­ment that any­one hunt­ing on Sun­days have with them writ­ten per­mis­sion from the landowner — al­though that re­quire­ment would not be in place for the other six days of the week. He said there is sup­port from among his group’s farm­ers to main­tain Penn­syl­va­nia’s tra­di­tion of a one-day-a-week break from hunt­ing pres­sure.

The 20 or­ga­ni­za­tions within the Penn­syl­va­nia Fed­er­a­tion of Sports­men and Con­ser­va­tion­ists have all en­dorsed the Sun­day hunt­ing leg­is­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Harold Daub.

Daub took aim at the Farm Bureau, say­ing farm­ers should not be dic­tat­ing landowner rights, and told law­mak­ers a main ar­gu­ment against the change is a feel­ing that peo­ple should be in church on Sun­days.

“While many of us agree that peo­ple should be in church, few of us want law­mak­ers in­fring­ing on our re­li­gious free­dom,” Daub said.

Hik­ers, he said, rou­tinely go into the woods dur­ing hunt­ing sea­son on the other six days of the week, in­clud­ing on state game lands.

Gille­spie, R-York, said his sur­vey of res­i­dents in his district in­di­cate a ma­jor­ity are op­posed. He said af­ter the hear­ing that it’s un­clear whether the com­mit­tee will vote on the bill as sched­uled later this month.

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