Expanded Sunday hunting is likely coming to Pennsylvania.
UPDATE: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 147 into law on Nov. 27. It goes into effect 90 days later.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature, that’s the only thing left standing between hunters and expanded Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania.
That’s because the state Senate approved House Bill 147 by a 38-11 vote on Nov. 18.
That was, essentially, the last hurdle to making the bill law.
The bill passed the Senate by an almost identical margin back in spring.
That sent it to the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee. That group approved it in mid-October, adding one amendment in the process.
It requires hunters to get written permission to be on private property on Sundays.
With that added, the full House approved the bill on Oct. 30 by a 144-54 vote.
But that, too, came with amendments.
Namely, lawmakers tacked on three more. One allows hunters to go on private property to retrieve a wayward dog. A second says the Game Commission’s executive director can request help from local police departments in enforcing trespass laws. And the third says the law goes into effect 90 days from Wolf’s signature, rather than immediately upon his signing.
Because Representatives added those amendments, the bill had to go back to the Senate one more time. That’s what Monday night’s vote was about.
Senators proved OK with those changes.
And now, Wolf is expected to sign Senate Bill 147 into law within the next few weeks. He expressed no opposition to the notion all along.
Senate Bill 147 permits hunting on three Sundays each year. One would be in the statewide archery deer season, another in the statewide firearms deer season. Pennsylvania Game Commissioners get to pick the third.
It also strengthens trespass law and increases fines for those caught violating it.
Sen. Dan Laughlin, an Erie County Republican, sponsored the bill late last year. He said then the goal was to make it easier for people – from those working with limited vacation time to former residents forced to leave the state for work to college students – to get into the woods.
The bill’s passage brings to an end a 20-year battle to expand Sunday hunting in the state.
Over the past year, national organizations ranging from the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation to the Quality Deer Management Association and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers lobbied for it. So, too, did statewide sportsmen’s groups.
The main opponents were the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Keystone Trails Association, a hiking organization.
But the Farm Bureau agreed to quit its opposition and adopt a neutral stance once certain conditions – like the written permission rule – were adopted. And that paved the way for lawmakers to pass the bill.
Game Commissioners said that even if Wolf signs the bill as expected, it’s too late to add any Sundays to this hunting season. Instead, Sundays will become a part of the hunting calendar for the 2020-21 seasons.
Commissioners meet next in January. They’ll preliminarily approve those seasons then. Final approval will follow in April.
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