Except for pursuing foxes, coyotes or crows, opportunities to hunt in Pennsylvania on a Sunday have long been virtually nonexistent. Now, however, a new nonprofit is launching a grassroots effort to try and overturn the decades-long ban that prohibits sportsmen and women from heading afield on the second day of the weekend.
Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, which launched in May, is a volunteer-run, hunter-funded organization that's hoping to overturn the Sunday hunting ban by challenging its legality in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The organization says Constitutional scholars have reviewed the state law that banned Sunday hunting and have determined that in light of past court rulings, the law would most likely be overturned if challenged.
"One of the things that we found that we think is critically important is our founding Constitution says we have the right to hunt in Pennsylvania," says HUSH director
Kathy Davis, a former Quality Deer Management Association state board director and current associate director. "There have been several Constitutions since that particular Constitution; however, every Constitution says we've never lost the right.
"So if we've never lost the right then we still have the right to hunt in Pennsylvania, and surely they wouldn't say you have the right to bear arms except on Sundays or you have freedom of the press except on Sundays. Rights are subject to reasonable restrictions and a day of the week is not a reasonable restriction."
The most recent effort to overturn the Commonwealth's Sunday hunting ban took place last year when State Rep. John Evans, a Republican serving Erie and Crawford counties, introduced a bill that would have given the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to permit Sunday hunting. Legislators subsequently held a series of hearings across the state to gauge public interest in overturning the ban, but opposition from various groups including the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has resulted in no movement on the bill.
One of the primary reasons advocates give for legalizing Sunday hunting is that it will provide a new opportunity for recruitment and retention of new hunters, something that has become increasingly important as the number of hunters overall continues to decline. Davis says HUSH feels the extra day afield will help attract young hunters who have school, sports and extra-curricular activities Mondays through Saturdays, as well as benefit those hunters who have left the sport because of work and family commitments the other six days of the week.
"The Legislature's been dealing with (this issue) for over 20 years," she says. "They had ample opportunity to pass this law and make Sunday hunting lawful and they haven't even voted on it."
According to HUSH, it's estimated that challenging the Sunday hunting ban in court will cost anywhere $70,000 and $150,000. In order to help offset the legal costs, the nonprofit is reaching out to sportsmen throughout Pennsylvania and in other states, primarily through social media such as Facebook, encouraging them to support the cause. In the first six weeks of its existence, the organization has already received more than $12,500 in donations.
"We've had donations as small as $5 and as large as $500," Davis says. "Each of those is equally important in this because it doesn't matter how much the individual gave. The fact that they gave means they have a voice in this case."
In addition to Davis, longtime National Wild Turkey Federation State Chapter Director and former board of directors member Don Heckman serves as a HUSH director. The organization is currently in the process of choosing a third director. It also recently hired its attorney, and Davis says it hopes to file the case in court soon.
"We already wrote a legal brief that we took to the attorney," she says. "We know what the upside is and we know what the downside is, and we believe we have enough information to win."
Sportsmen interested in learning more about HUSH's efforts to overturn Pennsylvania's Sunday hunting ban, or donate to the effort, can visit the organization's website, www.huntsunday.com, for more information.