Will Saturday deer opener lead to Sunday hunt?
Some believe, after Pennsylvania game commissioners voted to move the opening of deer season from the traditional Monday after Thanksgiving to the Saturday in between, that it was done as a tactic to help usher in Sunday hunting.
The hope of many is that it will, in short order, result in Pennsylvania hunters, like those in most other states, being able to enjoy full weekends of deer hunting.
Maybe. But if that’s the plan, it looks to us like work remains to be done.
The bill to remove the prohibition on Sunday hunting, sponsored by Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, that was voted out of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee early this year, shows no sign of movement. And the jury is out on whether the Saturday-opener-for-deer-season decision will give the measure momentum among lawmakers.
If you read, like we did, recent rumors online that the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has announced that it has dropped its opposition to Sunday hunting and won’t contest Laughlin’s bill, you should know that they aren’t true.
And the Farm Bureau’s opposition to Sunday hunting — despite the inclusion of trespass-enforcement by game wardens in Laughlin’s bill — seems unwavering. You may have heard, as we have, that negotiations are ongoing between key lawmakers and the Farm Bureau. But if that’s even true, there’s no hint of any compromise yet.
However, Laughlin did testify in January at the Game Commission meeting that the Farm Bureau lobbyist came to him “offering to be OK with hunting three or four Sundays a year in return for his legislation not pushing to remove the prohibition in full.” Laughlin said then that he rejected the idea, but we’ll see if he compromises to get the bill moving.
Sources tell us the Sunday-hunting bill is a hot potato Republican lawmakers don’t want to carry. “They are afraid of it,” one said.
Here’s the problem for them, we’re told:
The NRA has become a strong supporter of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania, and the gun-rights organization has announced it will score the vote on the legislation. Hence, no GOP lawmaker wants to be recorded as voting against the bill or the NRA.
But if lawmakers vote for the Sunday-hunting bill and anger the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, they worry the group won’t endorse them in their next election, and they could lose their seats. They are in a tough spot, but that’s the way things work at the Capitol. The result of the predicament Republicans find themselves in, sources explain, is that Laughlin’s bill hasn’t moved, and it won’t until some accommodation is reached.
Word is that GOP caucus leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, Huntingdon, Juniata and Mifflin, will be meeting with Farm Bureau leaders soon to find common ground on Sunday hunting. “Corman is likely to ask Farm Bureau leaders what they want to make this happen,” one source speculated.
And Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, must be convinced that he should allow the bill to come up for a vote in the Senate. We have been told there is adequate support for Laughlin’s bill, but Browne wants to see more Republicans get behind it.
Our guess is there really might not be enough support for it yet. So this is not a done deal. But stay tuned.