Harrisburg – The Pennsylvania Game Commission has, for the first
time ever, come out in support of expanded Sunday hunting.
But it was not a decision made without controversy.
The idea passed by the narrowest of margins. Acting at their June
meeting in Harrisburg, game commissioners voted 4-3 – with
Commissioner Greg Isabella of Philadelphia abstaining – to adopt a
resolution that urges the General Assembly to repeal the state’s
long-standing prohibition on Sunday hunting.
Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Luzerne County, put the resolution
forward. It cites a litany of potential benefits from expanding
Sunday hunting: a doubling of the number of days school children
and camp owners can hunt, economic benefits for rural communities
and business owners, new revenues for the commission through
increased in- and out-of-state license sales, and the addition of
another tool for biologists to use in managing game.
Commissioner Ralph Martone, of Lawrence County, – who helped craft
the resolution – seconded it and championed its adoption.
“I am dismayed we are even talking about this issue in 2011,”
Martone said. “I think it’s 30 years later than we should be doing
it. Society has changed and we haven’t and I think it’s time we
move forward on this issue.”
Commissioners Dave Putnam, of Centre County, and Bob Schlemmer, of
Westmoreland County, also supported the resolution.
“I think we have to be forward looking here,” Schlemmer said.
Some commissioners were not convinced. Tom Boop, of Northumberland
County, moved to table the resolution. That takes a majority of the
board, though, and when the eight-man group split evenly, Boop’s
That brought it to a vote, and it passed 4-3, with Isabella – one
of those who had supported the idea of tabling the resolution –
deciding not to cast a vote.
He did so because – while he does support Sunday hunting in general
– he thinks this is the wrong time for the commission to be acting,
“I thought the resolution was way premature,” he said.
That’s because state lawmakers are still debating the issue. Two
representatives, Republican John Evans, R-Crawford, and Democrat Ed
Staback, D-Lackawanna, are circulating for sponsors a bill that
would remove the state’s ban on hunting on Sundays.
That ban dates to 1873 and makes Pennsylvania one of just seven
states nationally that ban Sunday hunting.
Their bill would not mandate Sunday hunting. Rather, it would
simply give the Game Commission the authority to include Sundays in
hunting seasons if and where it saw fit.
Commissioner Dave Schreffler, of Bedford County, and Ron Weaner, of
Adams County, joined Boop in voting against the resolution.
“This is an issue that I think is extremely controversial,” Weaner
said. “I think the Game Commission has nothing to be gained by
Boop – like Weaner – said he doubts the advent of Sunday hunting
would solve the problems with recruiting new, young hunters to the
He also cited concerns that many farmers and other private
landowners – who provide about 80 percent of all the huntable land
in Pennsylvania – don’t want it.
He added what he sees as another potential problem, too. The people
pushing this idea want Sunday hunting for deer, and that will bring
consequences, he said, namely shorter seasons.