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SB 147 – Sunday hunting bill inches forward

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    When hunters, and the non-hunting general public, think about Sunday hunting, they usually focus on the Sundays during deer season. The Sunday hunting bill has been revised to limit the change to three Sundays, which would be chosen by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Some feel Sundays could be applied during small game and pheasant hunting seasons during October. From left, the author, her German shorthaired pointer Viv, an Irish Setter named Margaux and Margaux’s owner Mike Germann. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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    Mike German waits for a retrieve from his English setter, Harry. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS

Published June 28. 2019 11:50PM

Supporters of Sunday hunting know that there’s only one thing worse than having the legislation for it sluggishly moving forward through the approval process – and that would be not having any progress at all.

SB 147 would appeal the restrictions on Sunday hunting. It was passed by the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee and referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Appropriations Committee held several meetings, but SB 147 wasn’t scheduled.

Something had to give. SB was amended to allow Sunday hunting on three Sundays, with those dates to be chosen by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. After that change, the Appropriations Committee held a vote, with the bill approved by a 20-4 margin.

What does that mean for Pennsylvania’s hunters? The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs sees it as “a small win” but it is a win.

“We could look at this compromise and focus on what we’re not getting, but I’m choosing to focus on the positive in this,” said PFSC executive director Dan Daub. ”The prohibition on Sunday hunting in PA has been limiting wildlife management for over 300 years.”

What happens next? SB 147 must pass the Senate, House and be signed by the Governor. Proponents of the bill say the priority will be to allow hunting on the first Sunday of rifle deer season and say that would create the highest amount of participation. It is still possible – if all goes perfectly in the progress of the bill – for Sundays to be included in the schedule this fall.

“SB147 still has a journey to take before arriving at Governor Wolf’s desk – when it arrives I’m confident that he will sign it,” Daub said. “We must continue to remind our legislators that we expect them to support SB147 – call and write, often.”

Kevin B. Askew, Executive Director, Hunters United for Sunday Hunting noted that although SB147 has been changed to stipulate only three Sundays available for hunting, the bill still allows the PGC to implement their hunting conservation plans with full regulatory control. Trespass while hunting will become a primary offense, enforceable by both game wardens and law enforcement – none of the language regarding the change to trespass law was changed.

“There are several more hurdles and steps that SB147 must go through before it becomes law,” Askew said. “The legislative process is cumbersome.”

“The three-day stipulation is disappointing and that decision is definitely not based on any scientific evidence, nor what hunting conservation in Pennsylvania deserves,” Askew added. “The full complement of Sundays is truly what is needed without question.”

Askew reminded hunters that although progress seems slow, it’s a good start. He said that the challenge is a marathon, and not a spring.

“At this time last year there appeared to be no hope of Sunday hunting opportunities coming to Pennsylvania,” he said. “But here we are today with another step forward in making hunting on Sundays a reality.”

“That is a direct cause from the dedication, passion, and effort that everyone has in removing the 337-year-old blue law that prohibits hunting on Sunday,” he added. “We truly are making history.”

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