PA: Farm Bureau to PGC: No Sunday hunting!

Harrisburg – It wasn’t ugly, but it was tense.

That’s perhaps how best to describe the back-and-forth that went on
between Pennsylvania Game commissioners and a representative of the
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau on April 11.

Jeff Grove, local affairs representative for the bureau, testified
before commissioners at their quarterly meeting in Harrisburg, most
notably on farmers’ desire to see deer managed on science and not
politics.

But before he sat down, Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Luzerne
County, had a question for him. What, he asked, is the bureau’s
latest stance on the idea of allowing Sunday hunting in
Pennsylvania?

That did it.

Delaney, Grove and other commissioners spent the next 10 minutes
like so many fencers, engaging, advancing, parrying, lunging,
thrusting and – far less often – retreating.

A coalition of national and state sportsmen’s groups – including
the Quality Deer Management Association, United Bowhunters of
Pennsylvania, Pheasants Forever and Pennsylvania Federation of
Sportsmen’s Clubs – has set its sights on eliminating the last bans
on Sunday hunting in the nation.

Pennsylvania is one of fewer than a dozen states with such a
prohibition. The goal of the groups is to convince lawmakers to let
the commission decide when – if at all – to include Sundays in
hunting seasons.

Delaney said he is considering putting forward a resolution,
perhaps by June, in support of that effort. The commission has
always been neutral on the issue before.

Grove told him that the Farm Bureau remains opposed. Members made
that clear when the subject came up at their most recent convention
in the fall.

“Eighty percent of landowners do not want Sunday hunting,” Grove
said.

Not all of the commissioners like the idea either. Dave Schreffler,
of Bedford County, said he worries it will lead farmers to post
their land, as did Tom Boop, of Northumberland County.

“I’m telling you, and I’m telling this board, if the NRA and other
organizations cram this down the throat of Pennsylvania landowners,
there are going to be consequences,” Boop said.

Others were more agreeable. Commissioner Greg Isabella, of
Philadelphia, said there’s room for compromise. Landowners could
post their property against hunting on Sundays, he said.

Commissioner Bob Schlemmer of Westmoreland County, said Sunday
hunting doesn’t necessarily mean all Sundays for all species.

“Everybody thinks this means deer. It could be hunting groundhogs
on the game lands only,” Schlemmer said.

Where things got really interesting, though, was with Commissioner
Ralph Martone. The New Castle resident said he hasn’t made up his
mind on Sunday hunting. He was hoping the Farm Bureau would help
him get the information he needed to make a sound decision, but
that’s not going to happen.

Martone said he asked the Farm Bureau in writing things like how
many farms and acres it represents, how many of those farms and
acres are open to public hunting and how many farms there are in
the state and what percentage the bureau represents.

“Sunday hunting is here. It’s only going to get debated in a bigger
forum,” Martone said. “The more actual information we have, the
better decisions we can make on an individual level and on a board
level. The more specific information we have, the more comfortable
I feel.”

He told Grove he’s gotten no answers from the Farm Bureau, though.
He called the lack of cooperation “troublesome.”

Undeterred, Grove told him he won’t be getting any answers, now or
later.

Martone’s questions were turned over to the Farm Bureau’s attorneys
and they’ve decided not to share. That’s partly because finding
those details would be very difficult to do, but also because the
bureau doesn’t know how the information might be used, Grove
said.

It’s enough to know that a majority of Farm Bureau members hate the
idea of Sunday hunting, he said.

“This is a very emotional issue,” Grove said.

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