Sunday hunting ban headed to court

Sunday hunting passed a key House committee, moving it closer to becoming legal on three Sundays each year. (P.J. Reilly/Sunday News)

HARRISBURG -- It’s a “carryover from the Red Coats.” It’s one of the state’s longest running points of contention. And it might become legal for three Sundays a year.

The state House Game and Fisheries Committee voted 21-4 on a bill that would legalize hunting on one Sunday during archery season, one during deer rifle season and one to-be-determined Sunday.

The bill passed out of committee and will move to the House for a full chamber vote. After a lot of compromise and an additional amendment that requires written permission from landowners, the bill is moving closer to the finish line. If the House approves of the bill, it will go back to the Senate for final consideration.

Pennsylvania does allow some hunting on Sundays for crows, foxes and coyotes. But all other hunting activities have been banned on Sundays for 337 years, which Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, noted dates back to when English colonists were still in power.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau previously opposed the legislation because it did not have this written permission requirement, but has now moved to a neutral position, said Mark O'Neill, its director of media and strategic communications. Sportsmens’ organizations like the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists were in favor of the bill, but said they found it wasn’t enough to address declines in hunting.

Rep. Mindy Fee, R-Manheim, voted in favor of the bill -- something she said was a tough decision for her. She kept tallies in her district office about if constituents supported the bill, Fee previously told LNP.

“It’s close in my district, there’s no lie,” Fee said after the committee meeting. “I hear from both sides of it.”

The bill didn’t pass without some more disagreement. Another amendment was introduced at Monday’s committee meeting by Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks, which was withdrawn after opposition from the National Rifle Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. 

This amendment would have added to the hunting bill to expand local law enforcement powers on trespassing in regard to hunting. Local police can enforce trespassing laws anytime, but are not tasked with enforcing game laws.

“We’ve made monumental compromises,” said David Weber, the state director of the NRA.

“We look at it as just another amendment to hold this bill down, which has great potential of passing at this point,” Weber added.