All Pa. farmers don’t oppose Sunday hunting

If you have been closely following the debate over expanded
Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania, you may think that all the farmers
in Pennsylvania oppose lifting the ban.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which claims to represent 50,000
farm and rural families across the state, is staunchly opposed to
any expansion of Sunday hunting here.

According to the Farm Bureau, the overwhelming majority of
Keystone State farmers oppose allowing more Sunday hunting. But
increasingly we have been hearing from farmers across the state who
are quietly saying that is not true.

“Why should the state tell me what I can do on my own land on
any given day of the week,” said one agricultural producer. “It’s
my land, and I should control it. I don’t need the state to forbid
hunting on Sunday on my property. I can handle that myself, if that
is my choice.

“As a member of the Farm Bureau, I will not hesitate to tell you
that the group is not representing my best interest as a
landowner,” he added. “I could not be more opposed to the Farm
Bureau.”

I asked a successful, hard-working and honest farmer I know what
he thinks about the situation, and his opinions are revealing. Zeke
Summerhill, of Ford City, owns six farms in southern Armstrong
County, in three different townships.

On a total of about 480 acres he primarily grows the cash crops
corn and soybeans, and also operates a hardwood lumber company fed
by the woodlands around his fields. When he finds time (which is
not too often these days), he is a serious and skilled hunter and
fisherman. And he is a former Farm Bureau board member in Armstrong
County.

“The Farm Bureau certainly doesn’t speak for me,” he said. “When
the group’s spokesman says 85 percent of farmers are against Sunday
hunting, I take issue with their statistics. I don’t know any
farmers in my county who have been interviewed – and I know quite a
few.”

Summerhill thinks the threat the Farm Bureau has been promoting
– that most farmers who allow public hunting now will post their
land against all hunting if Sunday hunting is expanded – is an
exaggerated scare tactic.

“I personally don’t know a single farmer who will post their
land against all hunting,” he said. “Now there may be a few who
won’t allow Sunday hunting.”

Summerhill’s biggest problem is trespassing and he thinks the
state should extend an olive branch to farmers by tying increased
enforcement of trespassing laws to allowing expanded Sunday
hunting, to get the ban lifted. “The Game Commission should start
enforcing trespassing laws,” he said.

“In Ohio, hunters must possess a form signed by the landowner to
hunt on private property. If the hunter can’t produce the signed
form, he is charged with trespassing. Ohio Department of Natural
Resources officers help enforce trespassing. We should go to that
system here.”

In past columns I have observed that the Sunday hunting issue
has become entangled in the deer-management debate, undermining
support for Sunday hunting among sportsmen. Summerhill sees it that
way, too, but his take on that may surprise you.

“My land is overrun by deer,” he said. “I lost more than $17,000
in crop depredation last year, and I look at Sunday hunting as one
more tool to manage deer. We need it.”

 

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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