STATE—Legislation which would allow hunters to hunt legally on up to three Sundays during hunting season, and which aims to strengthen trespassing penalties cleared the Pennsylvania Senate earlier this week by a vote of 36-14.
As earlier reported, Senate Bill (SB) 147 cleared the Game and Fisheries Committee in February after its introduction in December of 2018.
It now moves on to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for consideration.
“Weekends are the only free time for many hunters,” said Senator Daniel Laughlin (R-49), one of two primary sponsors for the bill, in a press release. “Those two days are essentially the only time that most working men and women can get out into the woods. The same could be said for many young people, the ones who represent the future of the sport. Lifting the ban will give them increased opportunities to pursue the activity that they love.”
In speaking to the Senate floor before Wednesday's vote, Laughlin noted the bill, “...does not allow hunting on every Sunday, nor does it allow hunting on 14 Sundays that the bill originally included.”
According to the legislation's text, of the three Sunday hunts permitted, one will take place during deer rifle season, another during deer archery season and the final one will be determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
When the legislation cleared committee back in February, authorized hunting license issuer Brian Field, Wayne County Treasurer, reported there were mixed feelings from the hunting community about hunting on Sundays.
In a recent interview, Field noted this is still the case with local hunters.
“There are a lot of people asking about Sunday hunting,” said Field. “Some are for it with the expanded opportunity and getting the youth involved, but some still view it as a day for rest and going to church.”
As Laughlin stated, one of the hopes for allowing Sunday hunting is an uptick in license sales.
Field explained it's yet too early to tell if sales have been affected by the buzz.
“For me, sales are right on schedule,” said Field.
The Sunday hunting ban is one of only two remaining Blue Laws in Pennsylvania.
Dating back to 1800s, Blue Laws prohibited Pennsylvanians from participating in certain activities on Sundays.
It used to be that stores were not permitted to open on Sundays, nor was alcohol to be sold.
Both of these regulations have since been lifted.
Alongside hunting, buying a car is the only other Blue Law still active.
As part of SB 147, trespassing would be cited as a primary offense and its penalties would be increased.
This means Game Wardens would be able to cite individuals for trespassing without the offender having committed other violations.
According to the legislation, those caught trespassing on land which is posted, fenced in, or otherwise marked to be private property would be charged with a summary offense of the third degree.
Those who trespass and refuse to leave when explicitly told by the landowner would be charged with a misdemeanor.
A second violation within seven years would also be graded as a misdemeanor and any further trespasses, “shall result in forfeiture of the privilege to hunt or take game or wildlife anywhere within this Commonwealth for a period of one year,” states the legislation.
—Information from a release was used in this story.