Sunday hunt suit headed to court?

The battle to legalize Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania may go to the courts in the next few weeks.

The group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting is putting the finishing touches on a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s 100-plus-year-old “blue law” banning the practice. It’s expected to be filed in federal court by early summer.

“I believe the merits of our case are strong,” said Josh First, a board member for the organization from Harrisburg. “It is an unconstitutional denial of people’s right to be treated equally.”

Pennsylvania is not the only state dealing with this issue. A larger effort supported by a number of national sportsmen’s organizations more than a year ago launched an effort to remove bans on Sunday hunting on the 11 states – almost exclusively in the Northeast – where such bans remain.

Those efforts continue elsewhere.

In Connecticut, for example, the House of Representatives in late May approved a bill that would allow archery deer hunting on Sundays on private land. It must still be approved by the state Senate.

Here, Hunters United for Sunday Hunting are taking their case to the courts rather than the Legislature because elected officials have repeatedly failed to act.

There are no indications that’s going to change, First said.

“The Legislature is paralyzed on this issue,” First said. “So we have no other way to achieve our goal. We’re stuck. And we have been for decades.”

The group’s case has several facets, and will try to make its point on several fronts, said Kathy Davis, of Washington County, another board member. Ultimately, it could make hunting a guaranteed right under the Second Amendment, Davis said.

“That is hugely watershed. Wouldn’t that be great?” she said. “It’s very exciting.”

First said he’s optimistic. Blue laws are “patently unconstitutional” and courts typically do not like them, he said. He expects the court might ultimately “fast track” this case.

A likely outcome is that the courts will direct the Pennsyl­vania Game Commission to come up with some plan for hunting on Sundays, at which case the Legislature may get involved, much as is going on now with rules regarding feral hogs or wild boars, he said.

The Hunters United for Sunday Hunting group is now asking sportsmen to get involved by donating to the cause.

First said he did not know how much the group has raised so far. It’s been enough to get the lawsuit off the ground, though, he said.

Additional donations – which can be made at www.huntsunday.com – will contribute to the “sustainability” of the effort, he added.

“We want the average hunter to be able to say that he played a role in this,” Davis agreed. “It doesn’t matter if they donate $5 or $500. We just want hunters to take ownership of this because it’s for them.

“It’s for every kid who needs a day to hunt or for every adult who’s strapped for time and needs opportunity.”

In time, they’ll get that, First said. The ban on Sunday hunting will ultimately fall, and that’s important, he said.

“This is about having enough people who hunt, shoot and trap in the future so that we have a political presence,” First said.

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