Lawmakers in support of legalizing hunting on Sundays have argued that it will make it easier for families to spend time outdoors.
Pennsylvania Game Commissioners will tell you they often hear from hunters who want to them to change rules and programs that are out of their control.
“Sunday hunting is a prime example,” said commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County.
The commission supports the idea of allowing hunting on Sundays, he said, and would incorporate that day of the week into at least some seasons if given the chance. But it has no authority to make that call.
Only state lawmakers can legalize hunting on Sundays, Putnam noted.
Soon, they’re going to talk about it.
At 9 a.m. on May 18, the Senate game and fisheries committee is holding a hearing to debate the issue. It will take place at the Capital in Harrisburg.
There’s been no word yet on who will be testifying, pro or con, or exactly what the discussion will entail.
But there’s a suggested framework out there.
Rep. Frank Farina, a Lackawanna County Democrat, and Rep. Bob Godshall, a Montgomery County Republican, last spring sponsored a bill that would simply remove the prohibition on hunting on Sundays and allow the Game Commission to decide if and when to incorporate that day into seasons.
Farina has also talked about introducing a bill that would allow Sunday hunting on specific days for mentored youth.
In the meantime, Game Commissioners are supporting a number of other initiatives that lie within the power of legislators, Putnam added. That includes legalizing semiautomatic and air rifles for hunting, leashed tracking dogs for finding wounded game, a hunting license fee increase and a better retirement package for wildlife conservation officers.
The commission also supports legislation allowing it to set its own license fees, Putnam said.
One thing the commission is not supporting is any move to give its officers the power to enforce trespass laws, Putnam said. Lawmakers have introduced at least three bills to that effect.
There are already 25,000 uniformed police officers across the state with trespass powers, Putnam said. The commission’s “thin green line” – a staff of about 150 law enforcement officers at most – is too small to make a difference.
“But it could make a huge impact on our ability to protect wildlife, which is our primary mission,” Putnam said.