The fight to legalize Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania is taking on a new form.
It’s not one everyone supports.
The grassroots group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting initially formed more than a year ago. Its goal was to convince lawmakers to remove the “blue law” prohibiting hunting on Sundays.
That would not mandate hunting on any Sundays. It would only give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to decide which ones, if any, to add to the hunting calendar.
Supporters say Sunday hunting would increase opportunities for working people, families and youths otherwise tied up with work, school and sports to get outdoors.
The idea has gotten no traction, however.
State Rep. Bob Godshall of Montgomery County actually introduced House Bill 71 on Jan. 23 of 2017. It would eliminate the Sunday hunting ban. Fourteen co-sponsors signed on.
But it’s gone nowhere.
The bill has never come up for debate in committee, let alone gone before the full House of Representatives. That’s the same fate suffered by similar legislation in previous years.
So, said Harold Daub of Dauphin County, it’s time for a change.
Daub – testifying before Game Commissioners – admitted not all hunters want Sundays. And the main issue for those opposed is deer.
They fear adding Sundays to deer seasons and decreasing the herd, Daub said.
He doesn’t share that worry, he said. But he accepts it for the roadblock it is, he added.
“I would prefer that the Game Commission be given seven-day regulatory authority over all species. But it’s simply time to face reality and leave deer behind,” Daub said.
That’s where the new strategy comes in.
There is some Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania already, Daub noted. Three species — coyotes, foxes and crows — can be pursued on that day.
The Hunters United group is now suggesting that – rather than repealing the Sunday hunting ban – lawmakers instead just expand the list of species that can be hunted on that day. Specifically, it wants to add groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, raccoons and waterfowl.
Not everyone likes the idea.
Enough of those who attended a kickoff meeting for the new strategy complained that Daub took to Facebook this week to address their issues.
The problem, he said, is the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
That group is the largest representing farm families in the state. And it has long opposed Sunday hunting.
That remains its stance
Jeff Grove, the bureau’s director of local affairs, said the issue was debated – as it is every year — at its annual meeting in November. Sunday hunting was shot down in a discussion that lasted less than three minutes, he said.
There are likely several reasons, he said. But one stands out.
“The one thing I hear most often on Sunday hunting is that farmers just don’t want to be harassed on Sundays,” Grove said.
Daub said hunters – who have had no success countering the bureau with lawmakers – have to try something new, hence the new strategy.
“Is it perfect? No. But we need to win a battle to turn this war in our favor and away from the Farm Bureau,” he wrote.
In the meantime, one Game Commissioner wondered if the bureau’s stance accurately reflect all farmers.
Brian Hoover of Chester County attended the Farm Bureau’s annual meeting.
“So when I sat at a table with a group of farmers, the first thing they brought up to me was, when are we going to get Sunday hunting? And the table behind me was saying the same thing,” Hoover said.
He suggested there’s an “underlying movement” within the bureau accept it.
If that’s true, it might be age based, Grove said.
“I do believe, if you look at the demographics of hunters, the younger generation is much more supportive (of Sunday hunting) than the older. And I would imagine that’s possible in the agricultural industry, too,” Grove said.
There are certainly young people who favor Sunday hunting.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s youth advisory council on hunting, fishing and conservation were polled on their ideas for getting kids into the woods more often.
“More days to hunt was suggested more than any other idea,” said Jordon Edmonds of Hershey, spokesman for the group.
He told commissioners group members see Sundays as the answer to getting youths into the woods in the face of other competition for time.
Daub said hunters need to pursue whatever options it can to expand Sunday hunting.
“Hunters must come together,” he wrote.
2018-19 Proposed hunting and trapping seasons
The 2018-19 hunting season will likely look a lot like those of this past fall.
Photo: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
As fireworks celebrations go, this was a bent sparkler and a handful of soggy bang snaps.
Not that anyone’s complaining.
The list of proposed seasons and bag limits took up nine of the 62 pages in the Pennsylvania Game Commission meeting agenda. That’s the norm.
What was also the norm for a lot of years was for commissioners to have to go through the proposal one page at a time. That was because of all the changes and tweaks they made, sometimes over each others’ objections.
Not this time.
Commissioners gave preliminary approval to seasons and bag limits for 2018-19 at their meeting this past week. And the whole process took only minutes.
Commissioners accepted the recommendations of their biologists without much in the way of debate.
Final approval must follow at the board’s next meeting, likely in April. But unless something changes, that looks to be a formality.
Sportsmen will notice four changes. Biologists are recommending:
- Two additional wildlife management units – 4B and 4C – open to fisher trapping.
- Three units get more bear hunting. Units 4A and 5A would get a four-day extended season, while 3A would go from four to six days of extended hunting.
- Four units open to either sex pheasant hunting. They’re 2A, 2C, 4C and 5B.
- Statewide, dove hunting will begin a half hour before sunrise in all seasons.
No changes are proposed for deer, elk or turkey seasons.
Here are some other highlights of the proposed seasons and bag limits.
- Squirrels: Oct. 13-Nov. 24; Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28. The youth season would be Sept. 29-Oct. 13.
- Ruffed grouse: Oct. 13–Nov. 24 and Dec. 10-24.
- Rabbits: Oct. 13-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28. The youth season would be Sept. 29-Oct. 13.
- Pheasant: Oct. 20-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28. The youth season would be Oct. 6-13.
- Snowshoe hares: Dec. 26–Jan. 1.
- Turkeys: WMU 1B – Oct. 27-Nov. 3; WMU 2B (Shotgun and bow and arrow) – Oct. 27-Nov. 16 and Nov. 22-24; WMUs 1A, 2A, 4A and 4B, – Oct. 27-Nov. 3 and Nov. 22-24; WMUs 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C, 4D and 4E– Oct. 27-Nov. 10 and Nov. 22-24; WMU 2C – Oct. 27-Nov. 16 and Nov. 22-24; WMU 5A – Nov. 1-3; WMU 5B – Oct. 30-Nov. 1; WMUs 5C and 5D closed to fall hunting.
- Spring gobbler: April 27-May 31, 2019. The youth season would be April 20, 2019.
- Black bear, statewide archery: Oct. 29-Nov. 3.
- Black bear, statewide: Nov. 17, 19-21.
- Elk: Nov. 5-10.
- Deer, archery statewide: Sept. 29-Nov. 10 and Dec. 26-Jan. 12.
- Deer, antlerless, archery, WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Sept. 15- Nov. 24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 26.
- Deer, antlered only, WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B: Nov. 26-30.
- Deer, antlered and antlerless, WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B: Dec. 1-8.
- Deer, antlered and antlerless, WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Nov. 26-Dec. 8.
- Deer, antlerless, special firearms: Oct. 18-20
- Deer, antlerless, muzzleloader, statewide: Oct. 13-20.
- Deer, antlered or antlerless, flintlock, statewide: Dec. 26-Jan. 12.
- Deer, antlerless, extended firearms, (Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties: Dec. 26-Jan. 26.
- Raccoons and foxes, hunting: Oct. 20-Feb. 16.
- Bobcat, hunting, WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E: Jan. 12-Feb. 6.
- Porcupines: Sept. 1-March 30.
- Minks and muskrats, trapping: Nov. 17-Jan. 6.
- Coyotes, foxes, opossums, raccoons, skunks, weasels, trapping: Oct. 21–Feb. 17.
- Coyotes and foxes, cable restraints: Dec. 26-Feb. 17.
- Beavers, statewide: Dec. 26-March 31.
- Bobcats, trapping, WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E: Dec. 15-Jan. 6.
- Fishers, trapping, WMUs 1B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E: Dec. 15-26.
- River otters, trapping, WMUs 3C and 3D: Feb. 16-23, 2019.
A full look of the proposed seasons and bag limits can be found on the commission website.