deer hunting

Pennsylvania's firearms deer season opens Monday and runs through Dec. 13. Opening day is a tradition revered by many.

“It’s time, Pennsylvania.”

That’s the mantra of a revived, grassroots organization that’s aimed at making Sunday like any other day of the week for hunting.

“In Pennsylvania, we are surrounded by states that offer more Sunday hunting than we do,” said Harold Daub, one of the new leaders of the group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (HUSH). “It’s time we get in the game of seven-day wildlife management.”

HUSH is seeking to end Pennsylvania’s general ban on Sunday hunting by pushing for legislation that would take governance of Sunday hunting out of the hands of state lawmakers, and give it to the Pennsylvania Game Commission – the agency charged with managing hunting and the state’s wildlife.

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Currently, state law prohibits all Sunday hunting, except for coyotes, foxes and crows. Pennsylvania is one of only eight states that restrict Sunday hunting in some fashion.

The change HUSH is proposing wouldn’t guarantee any more Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania, but it would give the Game Commission the authority to incorporate Sundays into any and all hunting seasons – a power it currently does not have.

“Right not, the state agency that manages all 480 wildlife species in Pennsylvania – 62 of which we hunt - has no say on managing those animals on one day of the week,” Daub said. “That just makes no sense.”

History

The drive to expand Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania has been a long one. Many bills have been introduced over the past decade to change current state law.

All met the same fate. They died in committee without ever being brought up for debate.

HUSH is not a new group. In 2014, previous organization leaders tried suing the Pennsylvania Game Commission over the state’s Sunday hunting restrictions. A federal judge ultimately dismissed the case, essentially saying it was baseless.

After the court failure, HUSH basically went dormant, until Daub, a hunter education instructor from Dauphin County, revived it earlier this year.

He said the group has about 18,000 people across the state working together to try to bring change to the Sunday hunting rules in Pennsylvania. HUSH has a main Facebook page – which is followed by about 30,000 people - as well as several county-specific pages, aimed at drumming up support at the county level.

The page for the Lancaster County Chapter of HUSH currently has 356 members.

Kevin Askew, HUSH’s communications director, said much of the group’s current work is focused on educating state lawmakers and the public at large.

“I think a lot of people in this state aren’t aware that hunters are the only people paying for wildlife management in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Everyone enjoys wildlife, but hunters are the only ones paying the bills.”

As an independent state agency, the Game Commission does not receive any tax revenues from the state’s General Fund. It is funded primarily by the sale of hunting licenses.

Sinking Participation

The number of Pennsylvania hunters has been steadily declining since the late 1980s. The decline in hunter numbers has had a ripple effect, since the main way kids learn to hunt is from their families.

“There’s nowhere near the number of kids replacing the older hunters we’re losing,” Askew said.

Studies have shown there are a number of reasons hunters have quit hunting, but a primary reason many have cited is a lack of time.

“Most hunting is done on the weekend, and we can only hunt 50 percent of the weekend,” Daub said.

HUSH is attempting to spread the word that, if you love Pennsylvania’s wildlife, then you need to be concerned about the drop in hunting license sales, since that’s the primary funding source for wildlife management in the state.

“This could become a crisis for all wildlife, if we keep losing hunters,” he said.

A skeptic

Longtime readers of this page probably know my position on Sunday hunting. I’m in favor of it, but I’m skeptical about changing the status quo.

For whatever reason, expanding Sunday hunting in this state seems to be an immovable rock.

There is no logical reason we can’t hunt anything but crows, foxes and coyotes on Sundays here. But the fact is, we can’t. And every attempt to change that for over a decade has failed.

And “failure,” in my opinion, doesn’t adequately describe the fate of the bills associated with those attempts.

They were introduced and then never heard from again. No discussions. No debates. And certainly, no votes.

It’s like a team showing up to the gym for a basketball game, and the other team is declared the winner without either side so much as dribbling a ball one time.

I’ve heard the arguments in favor of Sunday hunting that Daub and Askew are preaching many times before.

They say, “It’s different this time.” I’ve heard that before, too.

I guess time will tell.

After voting in our poll, post a comment below on why you feel the way you do about Sunday hunting, or email me your comments at preilly@LNPnews.com.